Napoleon Series Discussion Forum

Crime and the Soldier

Crime and the Soldier: Identifying a Soldier-Specific Experience of Crime in the British Army, 1740-1830
Danielle Sarah Eleana Coombs
The University of Leeds, School of History, January 2015


Using the extensive military justice records held at the National Archives, in Kew, this thesis offers a survey of soldier offending and identifies and delineates a soldier-specific experience of crime in the British Army, both as perpetrator and victim, during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Through a detailed statistical analysis of records from three levels of military court martial, and drawing on a wide range of supporting materials, this thesis will demonstrate the ways in which the soldier experience of crime both overlapped with and differed from that of his civilian counterpart, how it was shaped and contextualised by military service and regimental life, as well as how that soldier-specific experience was itself differentiated and transformed by rank, for those soldiers who achieved non-commissioned officer status. In considering this experience, this thesis will explore what crime can tell us about soldiers’ sense of identity as soldiers, and their relationships with authority, their service, each other and the wider civilian world. It will also show that at the meeting point between military and civilian worlds, as well as within regimental communities, there operated a thriving black market in stolen and military goods.