Nicholas Nourse – Music as an adjunct to punishment in the armed forces and the people of Britain and the Empire

Writing the Empire: Scribblings from Below

An international & interdisciplinary conference

Phillipe de Vigors, ‘Convicts letter writing at Cockatoo Island, New South Wales, 1849’
Reproduced by kind permission of the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney


Event Dates: 26 June 2010
Bristol, UK

Nicholas Nourse (University of Bristol)
Music as an adjunct to punishment in the armed forces and the people of Britain and the Empire

The inspiration for this paper came from the various erroneous comments that wrongly attribute the tune, ‘The Rogues March’, in its application as an accompaniment to the naval punishment ‘flogging around the fleet’, to the popular song- and opera-writer, Charles Dibdin. This paper will examine the true source of the tune, and the symbolic features it brings to instances of punishment and mockery across the armed services and in the general population too.  This tune, and the symbolisms attached to it, seem to address the ‘from below’ aspect of this conference particularly well. I will also examine two other songs with established associations with punishment, even death: the ‘Dead March’ from Saul, and the oft-quoted doleful song, ‘Fortune my Foe’.

This paper is offered as part of a three-way panel with Dr. Kate Bowan and Prof. Paul Pickering. Our papers will meet with instances of rituals and punishments, and public theatre and spectacle, which were repeated across the expanding Anglophone world and were not exclusive to Britain’s shores.

Nicholas Nourse, University of Bristol, email

Nicholas Nourse originally trained as a violin maker and graduated from the Open University as a mature student in 2007. He moved into full-time postgraduate study at the University of Bristol studying their MA in Music: British Music pathway. He is continuing to work with Prof. Stephen Banfield as his supervisor on his doctoral thesis, ‘Who took the singing out of popular song? Britain and the Empire, 1800-1863’.








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