Gentlemen Of The Blade: A Social And Literary History Of The British Army Since 1660

Hardcover | March 1, 1988

byG. W. Stephen Brodsky

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Brodsky contends that three factors--constitutional, commercial, and technological--in turn, have caused Britain to raise large citizen forces. Because Britain traditionally has been an unmilitary state which has not maintained large standing armies, this ethos of "amateurism" merged with the "professionalism" of the Regular Army. He argues that it is this unique influence of "amateurism" which historically has been central to the British profession of arms and vital to its spirit of service. A wide range of prose and poetry illustrates that spirit and the military cultural experience in which it evolved in Great Britain from the Restoration through World War II. In an overview of later developments, including the Falklands War, Brodsky enunciates the challenge facing the traditional ethos in the nuclear age. Analyzing the effect of the literary idiom, he questions the future direction of representative literature.

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Brodsky contends that three factors--constitutional, commercial, and technological--in turn, have caused Britain to raise large citizen forces. Because Britain traditionally has been an unmilitary state which has not maintained large standing armies, this ethos of "amateurism" merged with the "professionalism" of the Regular Army. He a...

Format:HardcoverDimensions:220 pages, 9.41 × 7.24 × 0.98 inPublished:March 1, 1988Publisher:GREENWOOD PRESS INC.

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0313260672

ISBN - 13:9780313260674

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Customer Reviews of Gentlemen Of The Blade: A Social And Literary History Of The British Army Since 1660

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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Full Circle The book was a bit tedious to start, primarily because the early era of the British Army was probably the least understood by me and partially because I believe the author may have been treading in unfamiliar territory as well. As Brodsky warmed to his subject so did I. At times I suspected he was not quite sure if he had the balance right with regards to what he called the social and what I believe was more precisely the political history of the army and the literary history. While I was more comfortable with the 19th and 20th century political history and had some familiarity with the 20th century literary works dealing with the army, I was less aware of the other material. Brodsky, I believe, has the analysis right insofar as it goes. He makes the distinction between soldiering and war in the political sense. He also reinforces my own prejudices on the British class system both in terms of what it contributed regarding courage and sacrifice but more importantly in what it contributed to in terms of British military disaster. He does an excellent job of analyzing the Regimental system as it applies to the British Army - indeed he romanticizes its virtues to a lesser extent than many and points to its unique features that very much shows it as a class and a family system that gave purpose and strength to an organization that served on the frontiers of the Empire. With justification he makes much of the amateurism and I would say the dilittantism of the British army officer. Fortunate it was, that England's 19th century army served mostly in the outer reaches of the Empire where discipline, superior fire power, and to some extent superior minor tactics against the natives could make up for in an army short on doctrine, strategy and a professional officer corps. Crimea was the first indication of the shortfalls in the British officer corps, WWI bought the shortcomings home with devastating consequences. WWI was in many ways the turning point - it is interesting to read the accounts (not in this book) of the battle for Vimy Ridge and the Canadian approach to soldiering. While we certainly carried some of the English baggage regarding the officer class, it was clear that we were much more in tune with the soldier and less stricken with class failings, both officers and men. As a result we were more pragmatic, creative and responsible in the sense that we really thought there must be a better way. The bitter price paid by the English did much to strip away many of the 19th century attitudes towards non-professionalism. It seemed to ensure that WW 2 would not repeat the same mistakes. Perhaps Brodsky should do a short prologue to the book. He attempts to bring the system into the 21st century and the advent of nuclear war. While WW 3 is not out of the question , it is certainly less likely to-day than it was 15 years ago. I believe we have almost come full circle and that now we have returned to the 19th century with small limited wars whether of the Falkland,Balkan or Afghanistan variety. To some extent we have again become imperial (UN) mercenaries toiling on the frontiers of so-called civilization
Date published: 2003-11-09

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Editorial Reviews

?Gentlemen of the Blade is the work of a fine soldier and a superb teacher. A combination of military knowledge and academic excellence shines throughout this masterful work. In the Preface the author says of his book, May it be worthy of the profession it has been written to serve'. This reviewer feels it is truly worthy. This work contains five chapters covering the period from 1660 to the Falklands. The careful treatment of British Army history and the literature of the various periods is cleverly done, and the book therefore gives a double bonus of history and the wealth of literature concerning the military. Gentlemen of the Blade should be required reading for every cadet at our three military colleges, for reservists and regulars who worry about the future, and for all those who have never truly understood the regimental system'.?-Canadian Defence Quarterly