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Fighting for a Living

Fighting for a Living: A Comparative Study of Military Labour 1500-2000

Edited by Erik-Jan Zürcher
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  • Book Info
    Fighting for a Living
    Book Description:

    Though fighting is clearly hard work, historians have not paid much attention to warfare and military service as forms of labor. This collection does just that, bringing together the usually disparate fields of military and labor history. The contributors-including Robert Johnson, Frank Tallett, and Gilles Veinstein-undertake the first systematic comparative analysis of military labor across Europe, Africa, America, the Middle East, and Asia. In doing so, they explore the circumstances that have produced starkly different systems of recruiting and employing soldiers in different parts of the globe over the last five hundred years.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1725-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 9-10)
    Marcel van der Linden
  4. Introduction Understanding changes in military recruitment and employment worldwide
    (pp. 11-42)
    Erik-Jan Zürcher

    For a long time, labour historians have not regarded the activities of soldiers as work. Work was defined as an activity yielding surplus value and the efforts of soldiers were seen as being essentially destructive rather than productive. This assumption that military work is necessarily destructive and does not produce surplus value is debatable for at least two reasons. The first is that soldiers everywhere spend far more time in barracks than on campaign and, while they are garrisoned, they have very often been employed as cheap labour in agriculture or in building works and road repair. Many of the...

  5. Military labor in China, c. 1500
    (pp. 43-80)
    David M. Robinson

    Military labor markets have a long history in China. In fact, as Mark Lewis has shown, policy debates over such issues as conscription, professional standing armies, recruitment, and rewards predated the emergence of the first imperial dynasty, the Qin, in 221 BC.¹ Given this background, modern scholars’ relative indifference to this cluster of issues is striking. This chapter briefly reviews a few key works and debates related to military labor in China c. 1500, most especially recruitment, then moves to consideration of the Chinese example in the light of our common comparative axes and taxonomies, and finally concludes with an...

  6. From the mamluks to the mansabdars A social history of military service in South Asia, c. 1500 to c. 1650
    (pp. 81-114)
    Kaushik Roy

    By the first decade of the sixteenth century, the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526), the dominant power in north India, was breaking up. Several autonomous states emerged to challenge the political supremacy of the Delhi Sultanate in the Ganga-Jamuna doab (the fertile tract of land between the rivers Ganga and Jamuna in north India). Deccan (the region between the rivers Godavari and Krishna) and south India had become independent of the Delhi Sultanate’s control earlier during the mid-fourteenth century. The invasion of India by the Turkish warlord Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur in 1526 resulted in the replacement of the Lodi dynasty ruling the...

  7. On the Ottoman janissaries (fourteenth-nineteenth centuries)
    (pp. 115-134)
    Gilles Veinstein

    The janissaries are probably one of the most famous military corps in world history. Nevertheless, they were only a part of the Ottoman army and not even the most numerous one. At any period in the Ottoman history, they coexisted with a series of other military units, some of them created earlier (hence the name ofyeni çeri,meaning “new troops”), others emerging in later times. All of these corps were of different natures as regards their modes of recruitment, the status of their members, their specific role in war, their method of remuneration, and so on. I shall concentrate...

  8. Soldiers in Western Europe, c. 1500-1790
    (pp. 135-168)
    Frank Tallett

    Particularly after the second half of the seventeenth century, when armed forces grew exponentially, armies typically ranked as the largest single employers within states. Thus, soldiers constituted the most numerous unified labour force within Europe. A consideration of troops within the framework of labour history is accordingly both appropriate and also long overdue, especially since in certain circumstances soldiers acted very much like modern workers. For example, it would not be out of line to regard military mutinies as among the largest and most effective strikes in European history before the emergence of labour militancy associated with the Industrial Revolution....

  9. The Scottish mercenary as a migrant labourer in Europe, 1550-1650
    (pp. 169-200)
    James Miller

    Between 1550 and 1650 the government in Scotland, whether as the monarch or as the Privy Council acting in the royal name, permitted more than sixty levies of troops to fight in continental Europe. This occurred throughout the period of study but with peaks in the 1570s and the 1620s-1640s, corresponding with periods of fighting in the Low Countries and later in the Germanic lands in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). This is summarized in Table 6.1. As the raising of soldiers to fight overseas also took place before and after these dates and as there were unofficial levies, despite...

  10. Change and continuity in mercenary armies: Central Europe, 1650-1750
    (pp. 201-242)
    Michael Sikora

    The second half of the seventeenth century saw significant changes in the structures of the most important military organizations on the European continent. Collectively, these changes are commonly labelled as the introduction of standing armies. These changes certainly had a deep impact on the terms as well as the conditions of military labour. However, it needs to be discussed whether these developments should be understood as a categorical transformation, putting military labour in a typological framework of its own, or whether it would be more appropriate to stress the aspects of continuity and to embed these aspects of change in...

  11. Peasants fighting for a living in early modern North India
    (pp. 243-266)
    Dirk H.A. Kolff

    It is several years since historians have abandoned the idea of medieval and early modern India as a huge but static collection of economically self-sufficient and politically autonomous village units. With respect to large parts of India, another image has taken its place, that of a dual world, composed on the one hand of a sedentarized segment of settled, rain-fed agriculture and, on the other, one of mobile pastoralism in the arid half of the Indian subcontinent. The frontier between these worlds ran right across the subcontinent, though, rather than one frontier, the phenomenon consisted of a complex set of...

  12. “True to their salt” Mechanisms for recruiting and managing military labour in the army of the East India Company during the Carnatic Wars in India
    (pp. 267-290)
    Robert Johnson

    South Asian personnel were critically important to the British military effort in the Carnatic Wars (1746-1748, 1749-1754, 1757-1763). Since European personnel were relatively few in number, they were compelled to augment their strength with a trained cadre of indigenous men.¹ As in other theatres of war in the period 1746-1763, the recruitment of military labour into armies from beyond the parent state was common. In North America, Europe, and South Asia, native or mercenary forces were employed with an emphasis on the steady improvement of their efficiency and cost-effectiveness although quality was linked to the tasks they were to perform....

  13. “The scum of every county, the refuse of mankind” Recruiting the British Army in the eighteenth century
    (pp. 291-330)
    Peter Way

    “There are two ways of recruiting the British army”, wrote Campbell Dalrymple in his 1761 military manual,

    the first and most eligible [best] by volunteers, the last and worst by a press. By the first method, numbers of good men are enrolled, but the army is greatly obliged to levity, accident, and the dexterity of recruiting officers for them; by the second plan, the country gets clear of their banditti, and the ranks are filled up with the scum of every county, the refuse of mankind. They are marched loaded with vice, villainy, and chains, to their destined corps, where,...

  14. Mobilization of warrior populations in the Ottoman context, 1750-1850
    (pp. 331-352)
    Virginia H. Aksan

    Mustafa Vasfi Efendi of Kabud, a native of a village near Tokat, in Anatolia, Turkey, spent the years from 1801 to 1833 in Ottoman military service, first in Erzurum, as part of the troops under Dramah Mahmud Pasha, then in Ağriboz (Euboia, Greece), where he signed on with Çarhaci (Chief Skirmisher) Ali Pasha, and then Ömer Vyroni Pasha, during the Greek Revolution. His simplistic, semi-literate description of battles, sieges, looting, and pillaging is one of the few pre-World War I Ottoman military memoirs we possess. The following passage is typical of the work, and is evocative of the life of...

  15. Military employment in Qing dynasty China
    (pp. 353-392)
    Christine Moll-Murata and Ulrich Theobald

    This chapter explores the military structures in China between 1650 and 1900 from the perspective of labour history as devised by the Global Collaboratory on the History of Labour Relations 1500-2000. It will first present the basic structures of the Qing armies. There follows a discussion of the state of the art in research and the major issues and debates in this field. Finally, the authors assess trends and tendencies in the framework of the matrix of hypotheses developed within the research group Fighting for a Living.

    The Manchu Qing dynasty ruled China between 1644 and 1911. It originated from...

  16. Military service and the Russian social order, 1649-1861
    (pp. 393-418)
    Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter

    From roughly the mid-fifteenth century, a centralized monarchy developed in the Moscow region of the Russian lands, and the building of the Russian service state got underway. Critical to the monarchy’s accumulation of powers was the linking of noble status, including the possession of land and serfs, with service to the prince. Although a core of great noble families held patrimonial lands in hereditary tenure, the majority of nobles possessed landed estates on condition of service. By the mid-sixteenth century, all nobles, including holders of patrimony, performed obligatory service and, following the conquest of the khanates of Kazan, Astrakhan, and...

  17. The French army, 1789-1914 Volunteers, pressed soldiers, and conscripts
    (pp. 419-446)
    Thomas Hippler

    According to a common belief, modern military conscription was invented during the French Revolution. Subsequently it became a cornerstone of republicanism in the French understanding. Without any doubt, there is some truth in this view; however, there is also much confusion about the terms of the debate. If we have a closer look at actual recruitment practices in France in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and if we compare these to practices in other historical periods or geographical contexts the distinctions quickly become less clear. The first question to be addressed is thus how to distinguish in a historically...

  18. The Dutch army in transition From all-volunteer force to cadre-militia army, 1795-1830
    (pp. 447-478)
    Herman Amersfoort

    In 1748, the last year of the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), the army of the United Provinces had a strength on paper of 126,000 men, the actual strength being approximately 90,000.¹ This was an impressive number and by and large the equivalent of the complement during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714).² Over the peacetime years after 1748 numbers declined to just over 40,000. This still constituted a considerable force. As a rule of a thumb eighteenth-century political-military leadership considered an army equivalent to 1 or 1.5 per cent of the population acceptable to secure the safety...

  19. The draft and draftees in Italy, 1861-1914
    (pp. 479-518)
    Marco Rovinello

    According to theOxford English Dictionary,conscription is “compulsory enlistment for state service, typically into the armed forces”, while a conscript and a volunteer are respectively “a person enlisted compulsorily” and “a person who freely enrolls for military service rather than being conscripted”.¹ Seemingly straightforward terms like these become, however, much trickier in the eye of the historian, who is always striving to historicize and compare apparently ubiquitous taxonomies and phenomena.

    This chapter faces both challenges starting from the nineteenth-century Italian conscription experience. It will briefly analyze the draft system of pre-unification states, and then will reconstruct the evolution of...

  20. Nation-building, war experiences, and European models The rejection of conscription in Britain
    (pp. 519-546)
    Jörn Leonhard

    The evolution of nations and nation-states was linked with experiences of war.¹ The long process of external and internal state-building was a history of warfare and its revolutionary impacts. Most of the numerous territorial states of the early modern period did not survive this violent restructuring of Europe. Between the last third of the eighteenth century and the end of the nineteenth century the number decreased from about 500 states around 1500 to about 20 around 1900. State-building, so much intensified between 1794 and 1815, was directly linked to the experience of wars, and the British war-state of the eighteenth...

  21. Mobilizing military labor in the age of total war Ottoman conscription before and during the Great War
    (pp. 547-580)
    Mehmet Beşikçi

    As warfare became more industrialized and total from the mid-nineteenth century onward, conscript labor became increasingly necessary to meet the manpower needs of modern mass armies. As a multifront and prolonged war of attrition, the Great War represents the apogee of this process. Military employment in the form of obligatory service, required of every male citizen as a patriotic duty, also defined a new interaction (both inclusive and exclusive) between the state and society, providing the centralizing state with a new mechanism of control at the local level. As a result, conscription was on the agenda not only of nation-states,...

  22. Soldiering as work The all-volunteer force in the United States
    (pp. 581-612)
    Beth Bailey

    On 30 June 1973 Dwight Elliot Stone, the last man to be conscripted into the US military, reported for basic training. The following day the United States began its experiment with an all-volunteer force.¹

    Most Americans understood this move as a major and unprecedented transformation – even as a radical experiment – even though the longstanding draft was, in fact, the aberration. Until Cold War pressures convinced Americans that a large standing army was justified, the nation had relied on a volunteer force, turning to conscription only in time of war. But memories were short. Even though the draft had been in...

  23. Private contractors in war from the 1990s to the present A review essay
    (pp. 613-638)
    S. Yelda Kaya

    The single most important change in military affairs in recent history is the unprecedented role private contractors have come to play in modern warfare. This has been a trend in the making from the 1990s on. Quite a number of things have changed since then, though, and this is not just about sheer numbers. Equally important is the fact that today the biggest clients of private military services are the world’s richest, most advanced states. So employment of contractors in combat is no longer about “state failure” as it was in the 1990s when African states lacking any sort of...

  24. Collective bibliography
    (pp. 639-686)
  25. Notes on contributors
    (pp. 687-688)
  26. Back Matter
    (pp. 689-689)