The Real Story Of The Mutiny On The Bounty

By | March 7, 2019

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Marlon Brando as Fletcher Christian, and Trevor Howard as Captain William Bligh, in a scene from the 1962 film 'Mutiny on the Bounty' directed by Lewis Milestone. Source: (MGM Studios/Getty Images)

The story of the famous mutiny on the ship known as the HMS Bounty has been retold in books, movies, and TV. From these sources, we have learned that the Bounty’s captain, Captain Bligh, was so hated by his crew that the men, led by the handsome, swashbuckling Fletcher Christian, staged a coup in 1787 and took over the ship from the evil dictator, sailing off to start a new life on a tropical paradise filled with beautiful native women. This, however, is the Hollywood version of the story. The real story casts both Captain Bligh and Fletcher Christian in different lights and the story itself is more complex than Hollywood’s simple plot line. Here is the real story of the Mutiny on the Bounty.

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Charles Laughton portrayed Captain Bligh in film. Source: (

Was Captain Bligh Really a Tyrant?

William Bligh was an outstanding sailor and navigator, as well as a commanding leader, but he probably wasn’t the evil dictator villain he was made out to be. In fact, he considered himself to be more professional and modern than sea captains that came before him. For one thing, he was a stickler for cleanliness and hygiene—we would probably call him a germaphobe today. However, this was almost one hundred years before the germ theory linked germs to disease. Bligh also believed in fitness and preventative actions to stave off illness. He required his men to do daily exercises and to take a dose of an antiscorbutic to prevent scurvy. Bligh was described as short and pasty white in complexion. Despite his stature, he was prone to angry outbursts. Yet, accounts of his command showed that even while angrily reprimanding a crew member, Bligh was careful to add in words of encouragement to take the sting out of the verbal lashing.