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Soldiers as Workers$
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Nick Mansfield

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781781382783

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781382783.001.0001

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Class Structure and the British Army

Class Structure and the British Army

(p.26) 2 Class Structure and the British Army
Soldiers as Workers

Nick Mansfield

Liverpool University Press

This chapter argues that the army’s structure reflected class distinctions as they were developing in industrialising Britain, with officers, who purchased their commissions, coming from the gentry or upper middle class, and common soldiers, by contrast, nearly all from the poor or destitute. In an analysis of their often harsh and highly disciplined working conditions, it challenges the idea that the rank and file were a separate ‘scum of the earth’ caste and instead locates a cross section of ‘respectable’ working class men with strong ties with their pre-enlistment and post-discharge lives. It examines the particular position of the Non-commissioned officers, the problematic progress of a few into commissioned and class nuances of different regiments within the services. It uncovers rank and file criticism of officers alongside a working class preference to be officered by gentlemen, but concludes that collusion not paternalism was the most likely outcome.

Keywords:   Class structure, Officers, Non-commissioned officers, Rank and file, Paternalism

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