The British Soldier and his Libraries, c. 1822-1901 (War, by Sharon Murphy

By Sharon Murphy

The British Soldier and his Libraries, c. 1822-1901 considers the background of the libraries that the East India corporation and general military respectively proven for infantrymen through the 19th century. Drawing upon a variety of fabric, together with archival resources, legitimate reviews, and squaddies’ memoirs and letters, this booklet explores the motivations of these who have been chargeable for the developing and/or operation of the libraries, and examines what they exhibit approximately attitudes to army readers specifically and, extra widely, to working-class readers – and relaxation – at this era. Murphy’s examine additionally considers the contents of the libraries, choosing what sorts of works have been supplied for infantrymen and the place and the way they learn them. In so doing, The British Soldier and his Libraries, c. 1822-1901 affords otherwise of wondering a few of the key debates that mark booklet historical past this day, and illuminates parts of curiosity to the overall reader in addition to to literary critics and army and cultural historians. 

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Extra resources for The British Soldier and his Libraries, c. 1822-1901 (War, Culture and Society, 1750-1850)

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22 S. MURPHY There is, of course, another issue that must be acknowledged here, and this is that literacy rates for nineteenth-century soldiers—however arrived at—probably provide only a partial picture of the number of men who enjoyed the libraries that the East India Company and Regular Army respectively provided. ”65 One result of this circumstance was that many of these individuals inevitably encountered books—or other types of reading material—by listening to them being read aloud by the more literate members of their communities; another was that those who could read (and write) were accustomed to sharing the benefits of their superior level of education with those less fortunate than themselves.

94–95. According to Marshall, 52 % of the individuals in this category were able to read and write “imperfectly” in 1836 and 1837, while the figure rose slightly to 53 % for each of the following two years. The percentage of those able to read and write “well” also varied slightly across the four years: 10 % in 1836, 9 % for both 1837 and 1838, and back to 10 % again in 1839.  60. INTRODUCTION 21 of the men. 62 The 60 % figure that Stanley suggests, then, may be erring on the side of caution, but is clearly informed by recognition of the dangers of accepting the army’s own assessment of its achievements.

154.  Kent & Co.  Porter, 1856), pp. vii-viii. 58 20 S. MURPHY Stanley predicates his argument in relation to the functional literacy of the men in the Regular Army upon his consideration of, firstly, Henry Marshall’s Military Miscellany (1846), which gives him his basis for the earlier period, and, secondly, Alan Ramsay Skelley’s analysis of the army’s own figures, which brings him up until 1875. Again, Marshall’s observation that he was “disposed to believe that from 30 to 50 %. of the men who enlist[ed] [were] unable to read with profit and satisfaction, or, at any rate, without much difficulty” was based, in part, on analysis of the Registrar General’s Returns and, as such, may not have taken account of those who had limited reading skills but were unable to sign their names in marriage registers.

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