How the Army Made Britain a Global Power


Jeremy Black

An examination of the British Army during the long 18th century, how it became a world-operating force and its part in imperial expansion and preservation.
Publication date:
June 2021
Publisher :
Casemate Academic
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ISBN : 9781952715082

Dimensions : 228 X 152 mm
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• Examination of how and why the British Army became a world-operating force, able to beat varied enemies
• Offers a new perspective on the crucial part of the British Army in making Britain a global power
• Written by acclaimed historian and commentator Jeremy Black

Between 1760 and 1815, British troops campaigned from Manila to Montreal, Cape Town to Copenhagen, Washington to Waterloo. The naval dimension of Britain's expansion has been superbly covered by a number of excellent studies, but there has not been a single volume that does the same for the army and, in particular, looks at how and why it became a world-operating force, one capable of beating the Marathas as well as the French. This book will both offer a new perspective, one that concentrates on the global role of the army and its central part in imperial expansion and preservation, and as such will be a major book for military history and world history. There will be a focus on what the army brought to power equations and how this made it a world-level force. The multi-purpose character of the army emerges as the key point, one seen in particular in the career of Wellington: while referred to disparagingly by Napoleon as a ‘sepoy general,' Wellington's ability to operate successfully in India and Europe was not only impressive but also reflected synergies in experience and acquired skill that characterised the British army. No other army matched this. The closest capability was that of Russia able, in 1806-14, to defeat both the Turks and Napoleon, but without having the trans-oceanic capability and experience enjoyed by the British army. The experience was a matter in part of debate, including over doctrine, as in the tension between the ‘Americans' and ‘Germans,' a reference to fields of British campaigning concentration during the Seven Years War. This synergy proved best developed in the operations in Iberia in 1809-14, with logistical and combat skills utilised in India employed in a European context in which they were of particular value. The books aims to further to address the question of how this army was achieved despite the strong anti-army ideology/practice derived from the hostile response to Oliver Cromwell and to James II. Thus, perception and politics are both part of the story, as well as the exigencies and practicalities of conflict, including force structure, command issues, and institutional developments. At the same time, there was no inevitability about British success over this period, and it is necessary to consider developments in the context of other states and, in particular, the reasons why British forces did well and that Britain was not dependent alone on naval effectiveness.


...a majestic study of the British Army's evolution from essentially a royal bodyguard in the 17th century to a formal, highly disciplined, well-trained, and militarily effective standing force by the early 19th century. […] Historians and military history enthusiasts will find this book fundamentally important for understanding the rise of the modern British Army.
Stanley D.M. Carpenter, Emeritus Professor of Strategy, U.S. Naval War College

…detailed and illuminating […] in the light of Iraq and Afghanistan, including the recent debacle in Kabul, and the Integrated Review, which has favoured the Navy and RAF at the expense of the Army, this section of the book becomes immediately pertinent for defence planners and senior officers today.
Chair of War Studies, Warwick University

One strength is a focus on the experiences of individual officers, demonstrating just how varied the experiences of individual army officers could be. This often comes across in histories of the Royal Navy, but not so often in accounts of the army. […] a useful account of the role of the British army, with a deliberate effort to focus on how the army, and the individuals within in, found themselves operating all around the world, and fighting in very different wars.
History of War

First-class, stimulating and provocative, I really do think this book is a significant addition to the literature.
Professor Emeritus Charles J. Esdaile, FRHistS