Mechanisms of Knowledge Exchange in the Eighteenth Century British Army



Over the last few months, I have written on a number of occasions about how the British Army learned from its experiences – successful and unsuccessful – during the wars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This is important because accepted historiographical analysis has it that the British Army was anti-intellectual, incapable of sharing ideas, and rooted in an anachronistic purchase system that saw the rich and wealthy able to buy promotion over and above more capable but poorer individuals.

The merits and pitfalls of the purchasing system can be set aside, because it is rather more interesting to question the premise of the assumption. Was the British Army institutionally incapable of learning the lessons of its failures and successes? And if not, how did this learning process occur? More generally, when viewed across a large canvas, the British Army learned from experiences and…

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