The British soldier in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars

Historian article

By Carole Divall, published 7th July 2015

Scum of the earth – or fine fellows?

Carole Divall asks whether the men of the British Army really were ‘the scum of the earth’, as often asserted, or willing soldiers who earned the respect of the French.

‘Soldiers were regarded as day labourers engaged in unsavoury business; a money grant, and opportunities for adventure and plunder, an occupation where at all events food and clothing equal to that of a labourer were provided, and steady employment...these were regarded as sufficient enticement to draw men on whose devotion and courage every cottage, factory and mansion depended.’

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