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The British Armed Nation
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J. E. Cookson

Print publication date: 1997

Print ISBN-13: 9780198206583

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198206583.001.0001

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The Rise and Fall of the Volunteers

The Rise and Fall of the Volunteers

(p.66) 3 The Rise and Fall of the Volunteers
The British Armed Nation 1793–1815

J. E. Cookson

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates the tension set up between a huge volunteer force and governments which successively sought a militarily more effective and politically more reliable alternative. Castlereagh's local militia of 1808 is seen to represent the triumph of the militia model, which provided for firmer county and army control, over William Windham's model of an ‘armed peasantry’ and William Pitt's model of a nation-in-arms. The addition of mass to war had the further effect of establishing national manpower as a matter of concern to the state. However, the state's recruitment of military manpower continued to be tightly constrained by pre-bureaucratic localism, social privilege, economic interest, and popular anti-militarism. The failure of the volunteer system, then, does not have an obvious explanation: it was cheap, popular, based on local communities, and appeared to strike the right balance between the military service the state required and that which society was prepared to offer.

Keywords:   volunteer force, governments, Castlereagh, militia, William Windham, William Pitt, military service

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