Greetings & Salutations.
In the past week I’ve finally started writing the final of the four process chapters that are at the core of my PhD thesis, and I’ve decided to use this week’s blog to talk about some of the ideas, and the issues that have been particularly thorny or inspirational.
My current chapter’s working title is “Definition of Procedures and Protocols,” and it is the closest that I come to discussing professionalization in the traditional sense of the concept. I’ve mentioned recently on my Twitter that I’m not a fan of the term professionalization. It is clear that over the period that I study in my PhD that the Royal Navy did become a professional organization associated with a mature Royal Navy Officer Profession, but therein lies my problem. Commonly, the term professionalization is used to imply a process by which an organization, community or person becomes competent or efficient at what they do. This is less interesting to me than the study of an who and what an institution was, and how the associated professional community expressed institutional identity through socio-professional behaviours. As I am not interested in the operational results per se, I have developed an approach to the study of professionalization that examines the process, and not the results.
My first issue with the concept of professionalization lies with the inability of the English language to provide terms that adequately describe a state of early professional development. The most obvious options are amateur and unprofessional, and neither of those accurately describe the shared profession of arms that existed prior to and at the Restoration of Charles II. As a result, after some consultation I have selected ‘nascent’ as the most appropriate term. My second issue is that definitions and concepts of both professions and professionalization built around lists of attributes such as those Max Weber and David Trim developed are based on hindsight, that is to say on evaluations of established professions that can be compared such as medicine, law and the church. Third, analysis or description of organizations according to lists of attributes is by necessity static, and unable to portray professions as dynamic entities or constructs. Fourth, that evaluation of a military institution’s professionalization or professionalism using that institution’s successes and failures is an example of post hoc ergo propter hoc (after, and therefore because of) that also encourages the categorization of developments as either correct, or incorrect. In England the Royal Navy was operationally, legally and socio-professionally differentiated from the regiments of the land forces following the Glorious Revolution, and the in the following decades the Royal Navy was relatively successful. In comparison, the 1690 Commonwealth of Massachusetts expedition against the French colony of Quebec did not differentiate between land and sea forces, and was entirely unsuccessful. Conclusions could be drawn on the basis of professionalization and specialization, but would not accurately reflect the events and the different outcomes.
In my work, I define professionalization as the creation of a profession’s internal definitions and structure. That is to say that when a profession is created (through the creation of a label that formally connects a community to a scope of practice) it does not necessarily have to have a complex set of internal definitions. In the case of the Royal Navy, the document that gave the institution a legal permanent existence in 1661 did not provide many definitions for the Royal Navy Officer profession. Those that were defined, such as the Royal Navy’s use of courts-martial as the primary investigative and judicial process had limited definitions. Within the 1661 Articles of War, many articles specified the use of the court-martial, however only the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth articles actually defined the court-martial as a process. In comparison the 1749 Articles of War had a large section of over twenty instructions and articles that addressed the definition, use and nature of the Royal Navy’s courts-martial practices. Of course, the 1749 Articles of War incorporated a number of pieces of legislation which had been passed after 1661, and essentially were bolted on to the 1661 Articles in order to address the development of internal definitions for the Royal Navy’s implementations of private martial law. These internal definitions and the creation of specifically defined protocols for Royal Navy practices can be clearly seen within the documents and the many courts-martial records show the implementation and use of standard forms, oaths and procedures over time.
Michael Lewis’s England’s Sea-Officers (1939) provides an interesting comparison to Weber and Trim’s lists of attributes; where the latter define what is required to be a profession or professional, Lewis denotes the stages of a profession, or what is necessary to maintain a professional organization. Weber and Trim describe a result, and Lewis defines an ongoing process that moves an officer from inclusion in a profession through training and promotion to retirement. It is this kind of process that should be kept in mind when considering professionalization of the Royal Navy and specifically the definition of procedures and protocols.
Legislation such as the Articles of War, and other documents such as the General Instructions and the Fighting Instructions were only one aspect of the expression of expectations for Royal Navy professional practices, and they were complemented by courts-martial. What fascinates me at the moment and is at the core of my current research is the relationship between the expectations laid down in the documentation, and their implementation or enforcement through courts-martial. The issue is that my work is not social history nor legal history, so I am not so much interested in courts-martial for the traditional reasons. Rather, where the Articles and Instructions provided a way for the bureaucracy to define expectations for how the Royal Navy was to express its institutional identity through day to day operations, courts-martial provided an opportunity for the Royal Navy Officer Community to also express and uphold their expectations in the same area. The courts-martial that interest me the most are not the many that examine simple crimes such as murder, theft or mutiny but rather those of officers charged with failing to provide a proper example, or failing to perform their duties to the standard expected by their fellow officers. I have a few examples, but there are many more volumes of records to search and I’m confidant that I will find many more.
Consideration of professionalization not as a process that resulted in an efficient, competent and successful professional Royal Navy Officer community but rather the creation and development of internal definitions for the Royal Navy and Royal Navy Officer Profession is certain to put the Royal Navy into perspective as an organization that developed in response to day-to-day operations that included but was not limited to combat. The Royal Navy’s legal permanence following the restoration of King Charles II led to the experience of phenomena and operational realities that the earlier, temporary, fleets and navies did not encounter due to the nature of the shared profession of arms and essentially medieval English military practices that endured well into the seventeenth century. In addition, the differences between the experience of single entity of the Royal Navy, and the multiple related but independent entities of the regiments of the land forces provide an interesting contrast for institutional development and definitions.
On Saturday, October 12, 2013 I am presenting a talk for the Society for Nautical Research (South) in Portsmouth where I will be expanding on this topic, and relating it my other chapters and analysis. If you’re interested in attending that lecture it will be at 1400 hrs, at the Royal Naval Club & Royal Albert Yacht Club.
My next blog entry will be in two weeks and I will address naval historical fiction and the importance of historically accurate world creation.