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Stoneman, Robert James (2014)
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: D204, U1
This thesis aims to provide a comprehensive investigation of the reformed British militia between its reconstitution in 1852 and its abolition (and replacement by the Special Reserve) in 1908, addressing one of the major remaining gaps in our understanding of the auxiliary forces of this period. The post-1852 militia has generally been overshadowed by its eighteenth and early nineteenth century predecessor, and of the few major works that do examine the force after its reform, most do so as part of broader studies examining it from the point of view of the regular army, or as an epilogue to a much broader study of the militia of the earlier period, or the wider amateur military tradition as a whole. Therefore, the aim of this thesis is to provide the first dedicated study of the reformed British militia in recent years. It will move beyond the limited ‘top-down’ approach characteristic of many works examining the wider Victorian army and instead tap into a more recent methodological trend which utilises a range of national and local archival material to examine the nuances of what remained a locally organised force. It will examine not just the role of the militia and the way in which it was organised, but also study the nature and composition of its officer corps, its rank and file, and will investigate areas which have been hitherto largely ignored such as the way discipline was maintained in what remained an amateur force. It will conclude with an examination of the militia’s unprecedented service during the South African War before going onto examine the process by which the militia was ultimately abolished and replaced by the Special Reserve (and ask whether or not this represented a moment of continuity, or an outright break with the past.)\ud This study rejects the idea that during this period the militia largely became ‘an anachronistic auxiliary’ to the regular army. There can be no doubt that it became increasingly centralised under the control of the War Office and that it also provided a vital role as a source of both officers and men for the regular army. Yet by looking at a mix of both national and local archival material, a more nuanced picture emerges. Several units managed to retain a degree of organisational independence and a social distinctiveness from the wider army. Furthermore, many of the reforms which altered the organisation of the force had important benefits. Compared to the 1850s and 1860s, during which the newly reconstituted force was forced to yield to the exigencies of the regular army, the militia of the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s was arguably better trained, better equipped and quantitatively stronger than during the preceding decades.
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