When Reputation is at Stake: Honour, Masculinity and Militarism in the Courts Martial Records of the Marine Corps, 1755 – 1779
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This dissertation examines how the Marine Corps, as a newly formed permanent force, understood and embodied key social ideals such as honour and trustworthiness, respect and deference alongside martial behaviours. It uncovers and analyses the self-sanctioning nature of the marines’ officer corps to impose conforming behaviours during this key period in the Marine Corps’ development. However, this dissertation is equally interested in the non-commissioned and enlisted ranks, and their responses to the imposed conformity to these values. These early cases, linked to ideal behaviour, show a form of self-fashioning as the men of the Corps sought to form their identity and situate themselves as a corporate and military body; caught as the Marine Corps was between the Royal Navy and the Army. By using court martial records, official letters, and contemporary literature, this thesis examines officers’ and other ranks’ concepts of honour, duty, brotherhood, and masculinity in the British Marine Corps in the mid-eighteenth century. Sociability, camaraderie, public affirmation, and honourable reputation overlapped and informed one another in the Marines Corps. By analysing how these aspects converged, this study reveals a picture of how individuals across all ranks negotiated socio-cultural stereotypes, positioned themselves against hegemonic and dominant group and institutional ideologies, and accepted or pushed against normative expectations during the mid-eighteenth century. This thesis also examined how responses to reputation, desertion and criminality helped fashion the Marine Corps into a reputable and professional body, which highlights how these men accepted and defined themselves and each other in relation to the environment and social situations they lived in during that period. By investigating these aspects of social and cultural military life, this study contributes to the historiography of honour and masculinity in a hitherto neglected branch of the British armed forces in the eighteenth century.
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