Gentlemen of the Blade is a scholarly yet highly readable work, recognized as a standard source for research historians, students of history, and general readers alike. In tracing the history of the "modern" British army
from its commonly accepted beginnings in 1660, this work's central theme is that a tradition of inspired amateurism has distingished British arms from their "professional" counterparts in Continental Europe.
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Gentlemen of the Blade explores the British Army's ethos and ethics from the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, after the years of Cromwell's Commonwealth Protectorate. Examples of Literature and poetry about war and the soldier are offered as a gauge of the temper of their times, so that through the 18th century and the rise of an embodied militia and the practice of impressing recruits, satirical poetry and picaresque novels reflect the low status of the soldier as either bully or victim. Through the 19th century a shift in mood toward a new romanticism is parallelled by new technology and mass war, imperialism, and the growth of the novel form; and in the 20th century the cataclysmic events of World War 1 produced a genre we may consider a Literature of War, focused primarily on what would come to be know as the Lost Generation. The history continues through World War 2 and the Cold War, its warriors dedicated to deterrence. The history concludes with a prediction that the "gamesmanship" spirit inherited from the institutionalized amateurism of the traditional ethos will be the hallmark of future "bush wars", limited conflicts fought in preference to the nuclear alternative presided over by "endgamesmen." The study's contents are: Introduction; Chapter 1: That Devouring Profession: The Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Regular Army; 2: A Sort of Public Nuisance: The Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Citizen Militias; 3: The Devil's Code: The Regular Army in the Industrial Age; 4: The Shrieking Pyre: The Citizen Maryr in theGreat War; 5: A Just Cause: The Institutionalizing of Amateurism Since the Great War; Conclusion, Bibliography, Index.
From Chapter 2 (18th c.): Not only did barracks enhance and emphasize the separateness of military life and culture, but it also signified the state's acceptance of responsibility for everyaspect of the soldier's existence. Barracks also meanta resident commissary who contracted with local suppliers, a practice first instituted for militia training camps in 1778. Company officers withheld a prtion of the soldiers' pay and turned it over to the commissary for purches of rations.... From Chapter 3, The Devil's Code: Unlike ideas of mational and personal honorin continental armies, a uniquely military form ofinstitutional honour emerged in theBritish Army. Certainly, regimental honoras an abstraction received lipservice bythe rank and file of continental armies; but it never became a living reality except to commanders who associated the glorious victories of their regiments with their personal honor....