In common with its companion volume - Soldiers as Workers – Class, employment, conflict and the nineteenth century military (2016), this study argues that class is the primary means of understanding the topic. Focusing on rank and file soldiers it concludes that they were not a separate caste. Instead, soldiering was often just a phase in civilian working lives. The nineteenth century was overshadowed by the mass mobilisation required for the generation-long French Wars and concurrent Industrial Revolution, with emerging working-class popular politics. The chapter reviews developing working class literacy and subsequent growth of rank and file memoirs, which are an important source for this study. The chapter stresses the importance of the new barrack system in the UK and the growth of British Empire, both of which had profound consequences for British society.
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