taking our culture forward


The 2024 Quilliam Lecture exploring the surprising story of the press gangs in the Isle of Man.

Rather than being confined to a maritime fringe, a chain of evidence demonstrates that the issue of naval impressment permeated Manx society in the Eighteenth century.

The seafaring island community, dependent on fishing for essential winter supplies, had no choice but to put itself in harm’s way. Impress Officers stationed ashore, meanwhile, trod a narrow path between the demands of the Admiralty, the tolerance of local authorities and the risk of violent reprisals.

This talk presents the Isle of Man as a useful case study in the complicated realities of naval manning. David Kneale argues that the most explosive incidents, such as the press gang that fired into a crowd of civilians in Douglas in 1811, tend to obscure a picture of quietly successful recruitment and negotiation, while dozens of folk tales, unexpectedly captured in the 1950s, hint at the social impact of impressment as seen by the isolated communities which lived in its shadow.


This is the Spring Quilliam Lecture 2024, delivered by David Kneale.
The event took place at Arbory Church, Ballabeg, Isle of Man, on Thursday 2 May 2024, organised by The Quilliam Group.