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History of the British Army, 1714–1783 (Hardback)

An Institutional History

British History Military 18th Century

By Prof Stephen Conway, Edited by Prof Ian F W Beckett
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 16 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526711403
Published: 12th April 2021

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Much has been written about the British army’s campaigns during the many wars it fought in the eighteenth century, but for over 150 years no one has attempted to produce a history of the army as an institution during this period. That is why Stephen Conway’s perceptive and detailed study is so timely and important. Taking into account the latest scholarship, he considers the army’s legal status, political control and administration, its system of recruitment, the relationships between officers and men, and the social and economic as well as constitutional interactions of the army with British and other societies.

Throughout the book a key theme is order and control. How did a small number of officers exercise authority over large numbers of common soldiers? Traditionally the answer has focused on the role of a draconian system of corporal and capital punishment – by extensive use of the lash and the rope. Yet no institution can function through fear alone and he shows that the obedience of its common soldiers had to be negotiated by their officers who were very aware of their men’s sense of their entitlements, and their conception of military service as contractual.

By uncovering the mental world of both officers and common soldiers, Stephen Conway offers a very different view of how the British army operated between the Hanoverian succession and the end of the War of American Independence. His work will be fascinating reading for all students of British military history.

This book on the British army in the 18th Century is quite short at 151 pages, but it touches all the bases to give a full picture of service life. Conway also adds an outstanding annotated Further Reading section for deeper study. While he takes a thematic approach to his subject, Conway rarely strays into dry and dusty territory, keeping his text flowing with clear exposition and engaging anecdotes. The result is an informative and enjoyable read, perfect for anyone interested in this period and the place of the army in it.

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Beating Tsundoku

“This is an essential read for anyone studying the Revolutionary War and for anyone with an interest in Eighteenth century military practice.”

The NYMAS Review

This is part of Pen & Sword's 'History of the British Army' series and packs a lot into under 200 pages. Professor Stephen Conway has extensively researched the army during this period and there are thirty pages of notes and a good bibliography.

Setting the scene with a chapter on the Political and Social Background, the reader is then treated to a background of life in the military before moving on to look at how and why soldiers entered the service, the life they led and what faced them - spoiler alert: uncertainty and hardship, then as now - when they they left the army.

This is a very useful book to have at arm's length and whilst not particularly a period of history that I was familiar with, I now know more than enough to be interested, and I am sure I shall be quoting from it in future. I look forward to more in this series from Pen & Sword.

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Paul Nixon

Seventy years of history - of the British Army in this magnificent and fascinating history by Stephen Conway.

Books Monthly

About Prof Stephen Conway

Professor Stephen Conway is based in the history department at University College London. His research has focused on eighteenth-century Britain and Ireland, and in particular on their place in the wider world. His publications include The British Isles and the War of American Independence; War, State and Society in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland; Britain, Ireland, and Continental Europe in the Eighteenth Century: Similarities, Connections, Identities and Britannia's Auxiliaries: Continental Europeans and the British Empire, 1740-1800.


Prof Ian F W Beckett

About Prof Ian F W Beckett

Professor Ian F W Beckett is Professor of Military History at the University of Kent. He has previously held chairs at the University of Northampton, the US Marine Corps University, Quantico, Virginia, the University of Luton and the US Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, was Chairman of the Army Records Society and is a Vice-President of the John Hampden Society. His publications include The Great War 1914-18, A Nation in Arms: A Social Study of the British Army in the First World War (co-editor), Ypres: The First Battle 1914 and Britain's Part-time Soldiers.

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