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Rum, Sodomy, Prayers, and the Lash Revisited – Winston Churchill and Social Reform in the Royal Navy, 1900-1915 | Oxford Scholarship Online
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Rum, Sodomy, Prayers, and the Lash Revisited: Winston Churchill and Social Reform in the Royal Navy, 1900-1915

Matthew S. Seligmann


There is an old story about Winston Churchill, which relates that, during his time as First Lord of the Admiralty, he made a proposal for reform that was strenuously opposed by the naval officers around him. The reason given was that Churchill’s measure was not in accord with naval tradition. Hearing this objection, Churchill immediately retorted, ‘Naval tradition? Naval tradition? Monstrous. Nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers and the lash.’ The quotation is frequently dismissed as apocryphal or a jest, but, interestingly, all four areas of naval life singled out were subject to major reform ini ... More

Keywords: Royal Navy, Winston Churchill, social policy, class, alcohol, sex, religion, corporal punishment

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2018 Print ISBN-13: 9780198759973
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2018 DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198759973.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Matthew S. Seligmann, author
Professor of Naval History and Head of the Division of Politics and History, Brunel University London