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The Napoleonic 'Dad's Army' (Hardback)

The British Volunteer Movement, 1794-1814

Military > By Century > 18th Century Military > By Century > 19th Century Military > Frontline Books Military > Pre-WWI > Napoleonic P&S History > By Century > 18th Century P&S History > By Century > 19th Century

By Paul L. Dawson
Frontline Books
Pages: 296
Illustrations: 16 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399037723
Published: 14th February 2024



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During the crisis year of 1792 when war against France was at its closest, a variety of societies and associations of ‘Loyal Britons’ were set up throughout Britain. Their aim was to organise patriotic, anti-French forces in defence of king and country, and to help maintain the established order.

The need to provide an internal defence force resulted in the Volunteer Act of 1794. It witnessed the formation of hundreds of volunteer regiments on the upswell in loyalist sentiment following the disorder and instability witnessed across the Channel in Revolutionary France.

By 1798, there were 118,000 volunteers but, faced with the possibility of a French invasion of Southern England, William Pitt’s government aimed to expand this number substantially. By 1804 there were an astonishing 380,000 volunteers under arms and the various Corps made up half to one third of all the home service forces. When we add in those volunteers who agreed to serve overseas, as garrison troops in India for example, the number grows to approximately 800,000 – meaning that around one in every five adult males participated in military activities. This amazing groundswell of patriotic fervour has seldom been investigated before.

Using diaries and archive sources, this book seeks to explore the ‘Dad’s Army’ of the Napoleonic Wars. These men were far more than local bands of volunteers, they represented a militarisation of society not previously seen and which was repeated again when the world was thrown into war in the twentieth century.

In 1792, amidst the threat of war with France, ‘Loyal Briton’ societies emerged across Britain, aiming to defend the established order and form patriotic defense forces. Using diaries and archival sources, this book explores this phenomenon, revealing these volunteers bands as not just local defense forces but a societal militarization reminiscent of later conflicts in the twentieth century.

This interesting and well-researched book is full of detailed information but also provides a fascinating overview of how the organization of men for military purposes led to organizations that pushed for reform.

NetGalley, Andrea Romance

About Paul L. Dawson

Paul L. Dawson BSc Hons MA MIFA FINS, is a historian and author, specialising in the French Army of the Napoleonic War. In addition, as a noted equestrian, this allows him to have a greater understanding of what was and what was not possible for cavalry and other troops which utilised horses. Working as a historical tailor producing museum-quality replica clothing gives him a unique insight into construction techniques of the period, as well the knowledge and ability to decipher documents from the period.

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