McCormack, M. (2012) Army versus Militia in Georgian England: honour, status and rivalry. Paper presented to: British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (BSECS) Annual Conference, St Hugh's College, Oxford, 04-06 January 2012.
Anyone who has worked on the military history of the eighteenth century will be familiar with officers’ acute sensitivity to questions of precedence and decorum. Christopher Duffy has noted their ‘rancorous and touchy’ nature, and nowhere was this truer than in Britain’s militia. Reformed in 1757 as a parallel establishment to the regular army but officered by civilians who qualified by virtue of their social rank and landed property, militia officers were at once sensitive to accusations of military inferiority and conscious of their social superiority. To date, historians have underestimated the rivalry between army and militia, whereas in fact there were numerous petty disputes that could result in brawls, public insults, courts martial and lengthy correspondences with the Secretary at War. By focusing on one such incident in Lincoln in 1761, this paper will explore the relations between regulars and militia in this period, and in doing so will think about interpersonal conduct in the military more widely. It will show how military discourse and honour codes were indebted to civilian codes such as politeness, gentility and manliness – and how their slightly different inflections on the parts of the army and militia could lead to conflict between these two branches of the service