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Publisher's Summary

“Believe me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won.” - The Duke of Wellington at Waterloo

Today, the British Army is one of the most powerful fighting forces in the world. Its highly trained professional soldiers are equipped with the most advanced military technology ever made. Its international interventions, while controversial both at home and abroad, are carried out with incredible professionalism and little loss of life among British servicemen and servicewomen. Naturally, the history and traditions behind this army are also impressive. Britain has not been successfully invaded in centuries. Its soldiers once created and defended a global empire, and during the Second World War, it was one of the leading nations standing against the brutal Axis forces, leading the way in the greatest seaborne invasion in military history.

But it was not always like this. For most of its history, Britain was a patchwork of competing nations. England, the largest of its constituent countries, was often relatively weak as a land power compared with its European neighbors. Moreover, Britain’s armies, like those of the other European powers, were neither professional nor standing armies for hundreds of years.

The 18th century was a tumultuous period for the British army, one often overlooked in popular accounts of British history. It began with the formal unification of Britain—a period of great success for the nation's armies—led by one of Britain's greatest generals, the Duke of Marlborough. This was followed by a period of global activity and military reform as the British Empire expanded.

Even as the empire soared to new heights, the 18th century was one that was initially marked by triumph but ended in failure and decline. The late 1770s and early 1780s brought about a disastrous war for control of the American colonies, during which the British Army was ultimately defeated by colonial militiamen allied with French forces. In the aftermath came a period of decline and complacency, leaving the nation ill-prepared for war with Napoleon and France.

Ironically, the army was a victim of its own success. After having proven its strength against Napoleon and emerging as one of the most respected military and political players in Europe, the British Army took a backseat to what its leaders considered more pressing needs, even as the soldiers were relied on to be garrisoned in colonies across the world. As the Industrial Revolution took hold, its factories and mines drove a staggering period of economic and technological growth. A global empire, supported by the might of the Royal Navy, provided the raw materials and markets the economy needed, as well as military bases and political influence in every corner of the globe. 

This book examines the history of the British Army during some of history’s most pivotal eras. You will learn about the British army like never before. 

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

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poorly organized

good information, abysmally organized, raw data without a clear synthesis. Leaves reader feeling dazed and confused in the 19th century