Britain's relationship with its soldiers during the eighteenth century was a complex one.
Georgians branded these men a danger to liberty, victims of oppression, and 'bloody backs', whilst also celebrating their victories and championing their generals, such as General Wolfe at Quebec in 1759. Britain's soldiers were both heroes and the 'scum of the earth'. This fraught relationship became more complicated with the increasing mobilisation of the male population into novel forms of military service beyond the full-time soldiering of the British Army.
At its peak in the Napoleonic Wars, some 680,000 men were involved in some form of military service, yet the experiences of these men remains largely forgotten. There were many ways men could serve too:
Studying all these different types of soldiers over a seventy-year period of almost continous war means we'll be thinking about how to do this.
We'll explore the language, broadly defined, in which the soldier was described by others and written about by themselves. We'll work from the premise that a 'soldier' was a particular category within society that was defined by contemporaries and by soldiers themselves, and therefore relational and contextual rather than being fixed.
The project will be able to utilise methodological techniques more commonly seen in the social sciences and gender history when studying identity to create new knowledge on the topic. These will include regional differences, questions of citizenship and manliness, and the changes wrought by the almost permanent state of war against France between 1754 and 1815.
The 'Soldiers and Soldiering in Britain' project is sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Each year the AHRC provides funding from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities. Only applications of the highest quality are funded and the range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. For further information on the AHRC, please go to: www.ahrc.ac.uk