You are not currently logged in.

Login through your institution for access.


Log in through your institution.

Britain's Soldiers

Britain's Soldiers: Rethinking War and Society, 1715–1815

Kevin Linch
Matthew McCormack
Volume: 5
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition, 1, 1
Pages: 225
Stable URL:
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Britain's Soldiers
    Book Description:

    The British soldier was a fascinating and complex figure in the century between the Hanoverian accession and the Battle of Waterloo. The ‘war and society’ approach has shed much light on Britain’s frequent experience of conflict in this period, but Britain’s Soldiers argues that it is time to refocus our attention on the humble redcoat himself, and rethink historical approaches to soldiers’ relationship with the society and culture of their day. Using approaches drawn from the histories of the military, gender, art, society, culture and medicine, this volume presents a more rounded picture of the men who served in the various branches of the British armed forces. This period witnessed an unprecedented level of mass mobilisation, yet this was largely achieved through novel forms of military service outside of the regular army. Taking a wide definition of soldiering, this collection examines the part-time and auxiliary forces of the period, as well as looking at the men of the British Army both during their service and once they had been discharged from the army. Chapters here explore the national identity of the soldier, his sense of his rights within systems of military discipline, and his relationships with military hierarchies and honour codes. They also explore the welfare systems available to old and wounded soldiers, and the ways in which soldiers were represented in art and literature. In so doing, this book sheds new light on the processes through which soldiers were ‘made’ during this crucial period of conflict.

    eISBN: 978-1-78138-554-8
    Subjects: History
    × Close Overlay

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of tables and figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
    Kevin Linch and Matthew McCormack
  5. Notes on the contributors
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Kevin Linch and Matthew McCormack

    Britain had a complex relationship with its soldiers in the eighteenth century. On the one hand, Georgians celebrated their victories, championed military heroes and sympathised with the plight of the injured soldier or the bereaved family. This response is comprehensible today. The wars in which Britain has been engaged since 2001 have been far less popular than those of the eighteenth century were at the time, but the soldiers who have been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq have enjoyed almost universal public esteem. For example, the charity ‘Help for Heroes’ has achieved a high media profile and has raised millions...

  7. Part 1: Nationhood
    • 1 The Eighteenth-Century British Army as a European Institution
      (pp. 17-38)
      Stephen Conway

      The most difficult ideas to challenge are often those that are not explicitly articulated, but operate at the subterranean level of deep-rooted assumption. For all the recent emphasis on the need to free ourselves from the distortions of the narrowly national narrative, and recognise the intertwined, entangled, transnational, or even plain old-fashioned international dimensions of every society’s past, the default setting for most historians seems to be the national perspective. Armies are perhaps particularly prone to this national approach. We tend to associate them with the nation state, national sentiment, and national identity. They act, especially in wartime, as a...

    • 2 Soldiering Abroad: The Experience of Living and Fighting among Aliens during the Napoleonic Wars
      (pp. 39-54)
      Graciela Iglesias Rogers

      Britannia, proverbial land of freedom, tolerance and safe-haven for political refugees, has long found it difficult to deal with strangers. It is no accident that the English language has a word for foreigners that in modern parlance has become associated with everything that is weird and even extra-terrestrial: aliens. As early as 1712, Joseph Addison noticed that the conviction that Britons could stand proud and alone among nations, disdainful of and impervious to foreign influences was among the many ‘honest prejudices which naturally cleave to the heart of a trueEnglishman’.¹ Keeping this conceit among the military could not have...

  8. Part 2: Hierarchy
    • 3 Effectiveness and the British Officer Corps, 1793–1815
      (pp. 57-76)
      Bruce Collins

      It has long been argued that the British officer corps was typically ineffective or at best unscientific during the protracted wars against France. At the beginnings of his scholarly history of the British Army, John Fortescue accounted for the failings of the British campaign in the Netherlands by deploring the amateurism of the battalion officers, as well as many on the staff.¹ Among modern historians, David Gates has argued that the army ‘sank into dereliction’ between 1783 and 1793, characterised by poor organisation and inadequate training. When wartime expansion followed, the officer corps increased in size too quickly to improve...

    • 4 Stamford Standoff: Honour, Status and Rivalry in the Georgian Military
      (pp. 77-92)
      Matthew McCormack

      Anyone who has studied military history will be familiar with soldiers’ acute sensitivity to questions of precedence and honour. Most military historians take this for granted, although there is a growing appreciation that this type of phenomenon in the military is worthy of study, since institutional cultures can have a crucial operational significance.¹ Armies are hierarchical organisations wherein formal rank is only achieved at great personal cost – be it by purchase, qualification or service – and where individual reputations are hard won and easily lost. These organisations have usually been all-male, and questions of status in the military have commonly been...

  9. Part 3: Discipline
    • 5 ‘The Soldiers Murmured Much on Account of this Usage’: Military Justice and Negotiated Authority in the Eighteenth-Century British Army
      (pp. 95-113)
      William P. Tatum III

      Authority in the eighteenth-century British Army was far from absolute. Instead, the practical bounds of military authority were the result of give-and-take interactions between officers and enlisted men. For example, amongst the many complaints of ill-treatment levelled against Lieutenant William Catherwood of the 66th, was that he had shortened the men’s rations unfairly, to which the men of his company ‘murmured much on account of this usage’. In response, Major William Coates, who commanded the regiment at the time, swiftly removed Catherwood from his post and installed a replacement, who restored the company’s rations, ending the murmuring in the ranks....

    • 6 Discipline and Control in Eighteenth-Century Gibraltar
      (pp. 114-130)
      Ilya Berkovich

      One of the more colourful portrayals of the power of discipline in old-regime armies comes from the pen of Sir Michael Howard:

      It might be suggested that it was not the least achievement of European civilization to have reduced the wolf packs which had preyed on the defenceless peoples of Europe for so many centuries to the condition of trained and obedient gun dogs – almost, in some cases, performing poodles.¹

      The significance of such views, presenting the eighteenth-century soldiery as a closely controlled and obedient lot, extends beyond the remit of old-regime military history. Social and cultural historians often see...

  10. Part 4: Gender
    • 7 Conflicts of Conduct: British Masculinity and Military Painting in the Wake of the Siege of Gibraltar
      (pp. 133-154)
      Cicely Robinson

      British victory at the Siege of Gibraltar (1779–83) was achieved in the midst of overwhelming British defeat in the American Revolutionary War. This victory was subsequently represented in several large-scale pictures, painted by leading contemporary artists. John Trumbull’sThe Sortie of the Garrison at Gibraltar(painted 1789, Fig. 1) depicts a successful British attack upon the invading Spanish forces at the Rock on 26–27 November 1781. John Singleton Copley’sThe Defeat of the Spanish Batteries at Gibraltar(painted 1783–91, Fig. 2) recounts a later British victory over the Franco-Spanish allied attack which took place on 13–14...

    • 8 Scarlet Fever: Female Enthusiasm for Men in Uniform, 1780–1815
      (pp. 155-180)
      Louise Carter

      In 1804Sporting Magazinecarried a letter to the editor alerting readers to a ‘dangerous disorder prevalent in wartime’, principally afflicting women. The main symptoms of the malady were listed as an excessive regard for clothing of a deep red hue, a remarkable attachment to military music, sighing, listlessness and an inattention to all topics and company unconnected with the military. The author cautioned that particular attention needed to be paid to sufferers when the disease was at its crisis because they became ‘uncommonly desirous of a jaunt in a post chaise, a passage through the back door or window,...

  11. Part 5: Soldiers in Society
    • 9 Disability, Fraud and Medical Experience at the Royal Hospital of Chelsea in the Long Eighteenth Century
      (pp. 183-201)
      Caroline Louise Nielsen

      The promise of a ‘Chelsea Pension’ for those who became debilitated while serving their king was an attractive prospect for the recruits and soldiers of the later eighteenth-century army and militia.¹ Recruiters and promoters of these services used it to full advantage. It is easy to imagine charismatic recruiting sergeants using ‘the Pension’ as a prop in their carefully stage-managed performances outside taverns. The promise would have had added resonance as recruiting sergeants were often recently pensioned veterans themselves. However, for many it was only ever a promise. In spite of its prominent position in the many discussions of the...

    • 10 Making New Soldiers: Legitimacy, Identity and Attitudes, c. 1740–1815
      (pp. 202-219)
      Kevin Linch

      Between 1740 and 1815, hundreds of thousands of men in Britain took part in some form of auxiliary military service for home defence, in the militia, limited service regiments and part-time formations. The history of these formations has received increasing scholarly attention in recent years, focused on the role as patriotic citizens (or not), their particularism and idiosyncrasies, the extent of mobilisation and the politics of their formation.¹ There is, however, relatively little about them as soldiers, and in particular how these forms of soldiering came into being and were understood by contemporaries. Although there were huge varieties in the...

  12. Index
    (pp. 220-225)