The British Armed Nation, 1793-1815

By J. E. Cookson | Go to book overview

Preface

OVER twenty years have elapsed since I began work on the 'war and society' history of Britain during the Napoleonic period. Despite notable contributions by Clive Emsley, Linda Colley, and others, it continues to be a relatively neglected subject, a state of affairs which this book can only hope to repair in a small way. Three major concerns have claimed my attention. The first was to do justice to the Scottish and Irish dimensions of the topic, beginning with the fact of Scotland and Ireland's very significant military contribution. The second was to emphasize the distinction between 'loyalism'--the British counter-revolution--and what I have called national defence patriotism. I have long come to the conclusion that the two drew significantly different social responses and that it is patently unsatisfactory to conflate them to the degree historians have accepted. At the very least, national defence far surpassed anti-revolutionism as an organized, nationalized, and popular movement. A third concern, linked to the others, was to treat the demands of war as a topic in itself. The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars imposed a situation on Britain where it became necessary to organize national defence based on mass participation and, generally, to find and deploy military manpower equal to the state's requirements. Much more has been written about the ideological mobilizations of the period than about the strategic, military, and political constraints within which government and society were acting. In the last analysis, war and society history cannot get away from the fact that the events and situations that occur in war create a powerful dynamic of their own.

Much more than is in this book could still be said about the British armed nation. I am very aware of large omissions. Britain's financial mobilization was an aspect that would have forced me into technicalities I was not confident of understanding, and I gladly leave this ground to experts like Patrick O'Brien. Navalists will object that the navy receives only passing mention. My excuse is that the navy does not seem to have impinged on politics, government, and society to nearly the same extent as the land forces, perhaps mainly because of the physical remoteness of seamen in comparison with soldiers and auxiliaries. While Scotland and Ireland are given due attention, Wales is ignored. My defence is that at the level of government England and Wales existed as one, and I could find no evidence that the Welsh themselves came out of the war with a heightened sense of their identity. Doubtless, if I had had space and time to devote to local and regional responses to national defence and the war, differences would have emerged between Wales and other parts of England. On this last point I remain convinced that national defence

-v-

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The British Armed Nation, 1793-1815
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Maps ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Addition of Mass 16
  • 2 - The French Encirclement 38
  • 3 - The Rise and Fall of the Volunteers 66
  • 4 - The Manpower Ceiling 95
  • 5 - Scotland's Fame 126
  • 6 - Ireland's Fate 153
  • 7 - The Problem of Order 182
  • 8 - Armed Nationalism 209
  • 9 - The Legacy of the Armed Nation 246
  • Bibliography 264
  • Index 281
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