Image: The Devizes Loyal Volunteers receiving their colours on Roundway Hill, 16 September 1799 (© Eamonn O’Keeffe)

The long eighteenth century was in many respects defined by war. Britain and Ireland were involved in major armed conflicts for nearly half the era; a preponderance of state spending was devoted to preparing for and prosecuting hostilities. This event brings together leading historians to consider the impact of armed conflict and military service on politics, government, and society in light of the latest research. How were the lives of soldiers and civilians altered and disrupted by conflict? What role did the army play in political debates and social change? Did soldiering and the demands of war forge a sense of shared patriotism or exacerbate tensions between disparate communities? Encompassing the Revolution of 1688 to the Napoleonic Wars, the discussion will consider the deployment and duties of soldiers across Britain and Ireland and examine differing attitudes to their presence. The panelists will also examine whether the nature of war and the army’s reputation evolved over time and reflect on the legacies of eighteenth-century wars in the present.


Professor Stephen Conway (University College London) is a historian of eighteenth-century war and society. His books include The British Isles and the War of American Independence (Oxford, 2000) and War, State and Society in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland (Oxford, 2006).

Dr Catriona Kennedy, a senior lecturer at the University of York, researches the cultural history of war, politics, gender and national identity. Her publications include Narratives of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars: Military and Civilian Experience in Britain and Ireland (Basingstoke, 2013).

Dr Hannah Smith, an associate professor at the University of Oxford, works on the history of political culture and gender. She has recently published Armies and Political Change in Britain, 1660-1750 (Oxford University Press, 2021).

Chair: Eamonn O’Keeffe, the National Army Museum Junior Research Fellow at Queens’ College, Cambridge.


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