The eighteenth-century Admiralty had almost no control over the recruitment of its officers. It had no means of telling who were the young gentlemen who aspired to commissioned rank, nor how many of them there were. When and how they joined the Navy, how their careers advanced thereafter, and what they learned (or did not learn) in the process, were matters entirely outside its knowledge. Only when they presented themselves for their first, and sole, professional examination to qualify for the rank of lieutenant, after at least six years at sea, did the young men officially come to the Admiralty’s attention, and even then it did not directly control the examination, which was conducted by the Navy Board at home, and by panels of captains on foreign stations. The Admiralty was obliged to accept whatever officers the system threw up: it had hardly any means of knowing who they were, where they came from, or how much they had learnt ( 1 ).