Detail from The March of the Guards to Finchley, William Hogarth, 1750

Throughout the Eighteenth Century, England shared a complex and often contradictory relationship with its army. At once a country that became involved in a series of conflicts in foreign lands--the War of Austrian Succession, the Seven Years War, the American Revolution--and a country that inherently distrusted its own military establishment--Lords always doubting the loyalty of the "Jacobites, Tories and Highlanders" who filled its ranks--the military represented a unique and fairly detached social, political, and cultural entity. As the Parliament was consistently reluctant to sponsor a substantial standing army (they feared such a body would be unduly influenced by the crown,) the British infantry was an elastic collective of uneducated British peasants between 17 and 50, Scots, Irishmen, many thousands of foreign troops (most often Hessian mercenaries), aggressively recruited in times of war, and unsupported and neglected during intervals of peace.

This site seeks to present an introduction to the complex, wide-ranging, and tremendously difficult experience of the common British soldier across the Eighteenth Century. Rather than focus on organizational minutiae or specific experiences, we hope to outline a broader vision of the varied lives of British soldiers across the 1700's, and encourage the reader to identify with the physical and emotional tribulations that the common soldier endured.

From the facts, quotes, and historical anecdotes presented, we hope to suggest a complicated vision of the British army; an organization that both mimicked the brutal inequities of general English society, but revered very separate values of camaraderie across class, tradition, discipline, personal loyalty, and valor. These same contradictions pervade the literature of Swift, Burney, Burns, Goldsmith, Boswell among others. Eighteenth Century literature constantly struggles to reconcile the individual's mind with that of an intimidating and often repressive collective (as in Evelina, Gulliver's Travels, and Burns' To a Mouse), and the experience of the common soldier represents that same conflict. By placing you, the viewer, in the figure of a fresh British recruit, we hope to help you recognize the tensions between the soldier, the regiment, the army, and society that provocatively reflects the central social and artistic tensions of Eighteenth Century England.

Enlist Today!

Salary and Benefits - Learn about Redcoat History - Arms and Equipment
Bibliography - Eighteenth-century England Home

Adi Neuman and Yoni Brenner, 2001
This site has been accessed  times since April 30, 2002