A Student of History

January 8, 2008

Enlistment–not fair?

Filed under: The past that is still with us,Wars — John Maass @ 12:58 pm

It is always interesting to me to read news reports of current events, and to see reporters failing to bring in historical perspective that might go a long way to contextualizing modern concerns and further explaining them.  This makes for many news stories that are skin deep.  One example from the Telegraph is a good story to use to demonstrate this.

According to the report, a study conducted in the UK regarding the British Army’s recruiting methods concluding that said methods were unfair and misleading.  Many soldiers agreed to enlist “without fully understanding their legal obligations” and “recruiting literature failed to mention that unless they left within six months of enlisting, they had no legal right to leave for four years,” says the article.  Here’s the real whopper:

The report – Informed Choice? Armed Forces and Recruitment Practice in the UK – accuses Army recruiters of failing to inform youngsters about the risks of a Forces career. It says the military “curtailed recruits’ rights” to resign and recruiters targeted “the socially and economically vulnerable to enlist for negative reasons”.

This would have been a perfect time to explain to the reader that targeting the socially & economically vulnerable has LONG been a method of filling up the battalions, in many countries.  In the 18th century, for instance, British regiments were typically completed by luring displaced farm workers and landless tenants into the ranks, men who were forced off their rented lands by the enclosure movement, and by the industrial revolution.  This is to say nothing of the convicts placed on the rolls – real social misfits vulnerable to the recruiting sergeants. 

This should come as no surprise to military historians or those of the 18th and 19th century.  Readers would have been well-served to have known this as well.

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