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Redcoats in the Classroom

The British Army's Schools for Soldiers and their Children during the 19th Century

Series : From Musket to Maxim 1815-1914 #9

Author : Howard R Clarke

Redcoats in the Classroom : The British Army's Schools for Soldiers and their Children during the 19th Century


General - Pages : 414 | Images : 22 b/w illustrations, 4 b/w maps, 25 tables

Paperback - Date of Publication : January 2021 | Size : 234mm x 156mm | ISBN : 9781912866472 | Helion Book Code : HEL1138

Redcoats in the Classroom tells the little known story of the British Army’s regimental and garrison schools established in 1812 to provide schooling for soldiers’ children and subsequently for enlisted men, some almost 30 years before public money was first provided for elementary schools in England and Wales.

This is the first published work on the Army’s schools during the 19th century for almost 50 years and the author takes a fresh approach, placing the narrative within the context of contemporary opinion about the need for educated soldiers and the schooling appropriate for the lowers classes (from which the Army predominately drew its recruits), whilst also explaining the hitherto neglected, but crucial part played by the responsible ministers at the War Office in establishing and ensuring the survival of the schools.

This book breaks new ground by drawing on the archives of more than 40 regiments of infantry and cavalry preserved in their regimental museum and county records offices, including standing orders, digests of service and personal diaries, together with other contemporary material from a larger number of regiments in the UK National Archives, in order to construct an unprecedented account of the workings of the schools during the years. The book explains the difficulties faced by COs in securing sufficient literate men from within the ranks suitable for appointment and explains the challenges faced by even the most competent schoolmasters in keeping open the schools as their regiments marched between barracks in the United Kingdom and set out on long journeys by land and sea to stations across the Empire. The author builds on the previous literature in explaining the significance of the reforms in the Army’s schools that were introduced during the 1840s, including establishing the ‘Normal school’ at the Royal Military Asylum Chelsea to train a new class of army schoolmasters to replace the schoolmaster-sergeants, and the appointment of an Inspector to oversee the work of the schools.

By the final decade of the century the schools had become an established part of the life of the regiments in British Army and contributed to the sense of regimental identity that was the essence of the British Army during the period. The schoolmasters and mistresses (both the trained and untrained) who taught in the regimental schools, often in the most difficult conditions, were amongst the unsung pioneers of elementary education in Great Britain and their schools were exceptional and probably unique in providing not only for children, but also for adults, at a time when there was little continuing education for those who wished to improve their literacy after leaving school. The story of regimental and garrison schools has long deserved a place in the history the British Army during the 19th century.

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