How the Army Made Britain a Global Power


Jeremy Black

An examination of the British Army during the long 18th century, how it became a world-operating force and its part in imperial expansion and preservation.
Date Published :
July 2021
Publisher :
Casemate Academic
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781952715082
Pages : 256
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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Examination of how and why the British Army became a world-operating force, able to beat varied enemies, written by acclaimed historian and commentator Jeremy Black.

Between 1760 and 1815, British troops campaigned from Manila to Montreal, Cape Town to Copenhagen, Washington to Waterloo. The naval dimension of Britain’s expansion has been superbly covered by a number of excellent studies, but there has not been a single volume that does the same for the army and, in particular, looks at how and why it became a world-operating force, one capable of beating the Marathas as well as the French. This book will both offer a new perspective, one that concentrates on the global role of the army and its central part in imperial expansion and preservation, and as such will be a major book for military history and world history. There will be a focus on what the army brought to power equations and how this made it a world-level force.

The multipurpose character of the army emerges as the key point, one seen in particular in the career of Wellington: while referred to disparagingly by Napoleon as a ‘sepoy general,’ Wellington’s ability to operate successfully in India and Europe was not only impressive but also reflected synergies in experience and acquired skill that characterized the British army. No other army matched this. The closest capability was that of Russia able, in 1806-14, to defeat both the Turks and Napoleon, but without having the transoceanic capability and experience enjoyed by the British army. The experience was a matter in part of debate, including over doctrine, as in the tension between the ‘Americans’ and ‘Germans,’ a reference to fields of British campaigning concentration during the Seven Years War. This synergy proved best developed in the operations in Iberia in 1809-14, with logistical and combat skills utilized in India employed in a European context in which they were of particular value.

The book aims to further address the question of how this army was achieved despite the strong anti-army ideology/practice derived from the hostile response to Oliver Cromwell and to James II. Thus, perception and politics are both part of the story, as well as the exigencies and practicalities of conflict, including force structure, command issues, and institutional developments. At the same time, there was no inevitability about British success over this period, and it is necessary to consider developments in the context of other states and, in particular, the reasons why British forces did well and that Britain was not dependent alone on naval effectiveness.

About The Author

Jeremy Black has recently retired as Professor of History at the University of Exeter. Graduating from Cambridge with a starred first, he did postgraduate work at Oxford and then taught at Durham, eventually as professor, before moving to Exeter in 1996. He has lectured extensively in Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, and the United States, where he has held visiting chairs at West Point, Texas Christian University, and Stillman College. He was appointed to the Order of Membership of the British Empire for services to stamp design. His books include The British Seaborne Empire, Contesting History and Rethinking World War Two.


1. Introduction
2. Winning the Home Base, 1688–1746
3. Fighting the French on the Continent, 1689–1748
4. Fighting for Empire, 1689–1753
5. Winning Empire, 1749–63
6. Fighting for America, 1763–83
7. Winning another Empire: India, 1746–1815
8. Fighting in Europe, 1793–1815
9. The Army around the World, 1793–1815
10. A Political Force
11. Culmination, 1815
12. Conclusions
Selected Further Reading


"It is the mark of a successful book that it triggers reflection and further questioning. The synthesis Jeremy Black offers in How the Army Made Britain a Global Power challenges hoary impressions of the British military while encouraging readers to dig more deeply into the origins, meanings, and consequences of Britain's increasingly hybrid army."

- Michigan War Studies Review

"The author studies the various places the army fought, analyzing their performance, the lessons learned, and its role in creating the empire. The book also contains extensive information on the technical, organizational, and tactical innovations that occurred during the period."

- Military Heritage Magazine

"...a brief but insightful survey of the broad historical processes that, by transforming the British Army into a versatile instrument of global reach and global power, allowed it to shape the world."

- The NYMAS Review

"[Black] gives due credit to incremental advances in military administration, weaponry, and battlefield tactics, often through the lens of individual units, campaigns, and battles. Most valuable, however, are Black’s many insights. He stresses how Britain was unique among great powers initially for the small size of its army, which lacked bureaucratic heft, uniform weaponry, joint training, or even a shared military identity. Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty."

- C. Ingrao, emeritus, Purdue University, CHOICE, January 2022 Vol. 59 No. 5

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