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A Voyage to the South Sea

Those whose only knowledge of William Bligh comes from watching Charles Laughton or Trevor Howard's screen portrayals may be in for a bit of a surprise when reading Bligh's own account of the breadfruit expedition to Tahiti and the mutiny that followed. The tyranical monster is quite absent from this narrative, and not only because it was Bligh who wrote the book. The tyrant is missing simply because Bligh, while undoubtedly possessed of a temper and a thoroughly salty vocabulary, was not a tyrant.

In reality, for the period in which he served, Bligh was one of the more enlightened captains, rarely resorting to the lash, and then more often than not because duty compelled him to uphold a subordinate. Bligh himself preferred to curse the miscreant up one side and down the other and stop his rum ration for a few days, considering it not only more effective in maintaining discipline, but also better for the ship (if he had a man flogged, the ship would lose his services until he healed).

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