Female Enthusiasm for Men in Uniform, 1780–1815
Female enthusiasm for men in red coats was a recurrent topic of interest in late eighteenth-century letters, diaries, newspapers, plays and novels. Propaganda played on it and commentators and satirists often noted it with a mixture of bemusement and envy, characterising it as ‘scarlet fever’. The association of martial service with female admiration offered clear benefits as a recruitment tool for the military, but it also presented significant potential dangers to men and women alike. This chapter explores the allure of men in uniform in this period and considers the potential benefits and risks it posed to men, women and the British state. Rather viewing ‘scarlet fever’ as an ahistorical and ‘natural’ phenomenon, this chapter explores what it reveals about the relationship between war and gender and the position of the military within Georgian society.
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