Military print culture, knowledge and terrain
Knowledge mobility and eighteenth-century military colonialism
in Empire and mobility in the long nineteenth century
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Military officers were an integral part of Britain’s imperial expansion in the eighteenth century. Colonial knowledge was one aspect of a knowledge network that helped drive military innovation and adaptation. In the place of formal education, British military personnel read books broadly related to their profession. Military history was popular in the first half of the century, as officers basked in the reflected glory of Marlborough. Mid-century military defeat, however, brought a new focus on continental military theories and treatises. At the same time, military personnel frequently visited the sites of past military campaigns. In this sense, officers learnt quite literally from the terrain on which battles, campaigns and wars had been fought. In combination, military print culture, colonial knowledge and terrain were the components of a military web, a collection of knowledge networks which catalysed the transmission and exchange of military knowledge throughout the empire. These were the means by which knowledge about war was generated and transmitted, and it is to these that we must look in order to understand British military success and failure in the eighteenth-century empire.

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