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A study in obsolete patriotism
Author: W.J. Reader

The Victorian private solider was a despised figure. Yet in the first sixteen months of the Great War two and a half million men from the UK and many more from the empire, flocked to the colours without any form of legal compulsion. This book is the result of reflection on one of the most extraordinary mass movements in history: the surge of volunteers into the British army during the first sixteen months of the Great War. The notion that compulsory service in arms was repugnant to British tradition was mistaken. The nation's general state of mind, system of values and set of attitudes derived largely from the upper middle class, which had emerged and become dominant during the nineteenth century. The book examines the phenomenon of 1914 and the views held by people of that class, since it was under their leadership that the country went to war. It discusses the general theoretical notions of the nature of war of two nineteenth-century thinkers: Karl von Clausewitz and Charles Darwin. By 1914 patriotism and imperialism were interdependent. The early Victorians directed their abundant political energies chiefly towards free trade and parliamentary reform. It was the Germans' own policy which jolted the British into unity, for the Cabinet and the nation were far from unanimously in favour of war until the Germans attacked Belgium. Upper-class intellectual culture was founded on the tradition of 'liberal education' at the greater public schools and at Oxford and Cambridge.