Authored by: Richard Smith

The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Imperial Histories

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754664154
eBook ISBN: 9781315613277
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042525


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Three primary tasks were demanded of imperial armies: acquiring territory, protecting colonies from incursions by rival powers and policing to subdue or preempt indigenous dissent. Characteristically, these imperatives necessitated the pressed or voluntary enlistment of subject peoples as soldiers, militia, police, auxiliaries, military labourers and provisioners to replenish the ranks and sustain imperial campaigns which otherwise would have soon exhausted the resources of the metropolitan power. The enlistment of colonial subjects thus provides significant insights into the dynamics of imperial government and struggles over identity and status – in particular, the inherent tensions and ambiguities of imperial rule which in many cases led to its ultimate demise. Therefore this chapter focuses principally on military service by the colonised, rather than recruits from the coloniser nations. 1 1

Examples in the latter category include Martin Bossenbroek, ‘The Living Tools of Empire: The Recruitment of European Soldiers for the Dutch Colonial Army, 1814–1909’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 23/1 (1995): pp. 25–53; Roger Norman Buckley, The British Army in the West Indies: Society and the Military in the Revolutionary Age (Gainesville, FL, 1998); Keith Jeffrey, The British Army and the Crisis of Empire, 1918–22 (Manchester, 1984); A.S. Kanya-Forstner, ‘The French Marines and the Conquest of the Western Sudan, 1880–1899’, in Jaap de Moor and H.L. Wesseling (eds), Imperialism and War: Essays on Colonial Wars in Asia and Africa (Leiden, 1989); Brian McAllister Linn, Guardians of Empire: The US Army and the Pacific, 1902–1940 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1997); Stewart Lone, Japan’s First Modern War: Army and Society in the Conflict with China, 1894–95 (London, 1994); Martin Thomas, ‘Order Before Reform: The Spread of French Military Operations in Algeria, 1954–1958’, in David Killingray and David Omissi (eds), Guardians of Empire: The Armed Forces of the Colonial Powers c. 1700–1964 (Manchester, 1999).

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