The recruitment of the British Army 1807-1815
The French Revolution created the first era of mass warfare, and all the major European powers were forced to address the needs of this unprecedented level of mobilisation. Such demands have been recognised by historians and reflected in the work that exists on war and society between 1793 and 1815. Yet Britain has remained aloof from these trends, as it is generally assumed that Britain did not adopt mass warfare, and instead relied on a small, highly trained, professional army, in keeping with the warfare of the eighteenth century. Britain is seen as distinct and insulated from the experiences on the continent. It is undeniable that Britain had peculiar strategic, structural, and political restraints that impacted on its military policy. Within the context of these, Britain was committed to fighting Napoleon, and so came under the same pressures to expand the army and address the means of supplying such a force, although compared to the continent to a more limited extent. However, Britain's army peaked at 250,000 men in 1813, compared to just over 100,000 in the American War of Independence, and a paltry 30,000 during peacetime in the 1780s. Such a significant increase in numbers is likely to have challenged the government, and forced changes in military policy. This thesis explores the demands on Britain during its most intense years of warfare (1807 to 1815), and explores the choices made by the government. It then follows the implementation of its policy, and finally assesses the impact on the army. In doing so, it brings historical understanding of the British army during this period into alignment with studies of continental European states, and examines the response of an eighteenth century political system to the biggest military threat it had faced to its existence.