widows' men

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Fictitious names entered in the muster-books of British warships during the days of sail so that their notional pay and the value of their rations could be used to swell the fund to provide pensions for the widows of men who died on board. Originally, money for such a purpose was raised by the old custom of dead shares, but in 1733 the addition of widows' men to the muster-books was made official at the rate of two men for every 100. The practice lasted until 1829, when the payment of widows' pensions was organized on a more adequate and less haphazard basis.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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