For the armies of continental Europe, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars constituted a seismic event, provoking a period of introspection and military reform and heralding the Napoleonic military revolution. By contrast, there was not a similar level of reform to the British Army.
This essay first sets out to examine the factors, which prevented reform, or made it undesirable. Britain’s individual situation was obviously important, as being an island with large colonial holdings across the globe the Royal Navy was of utmost importance for British grand strategy. Additionally, the task of colonial warfare and conditions outside Europe also made reform of the Army unnecessary. Additionally, the relationship between Parliament and the Army, and financial pressures reduced the possibility of reform, as did the influences of Horse Guards, the Duke of York and the Duke of Wellington. Finally, victory in the Napoleonic Wars acted to reinforce British bad habits.
With these barriers to reform in mind, the essay then takes the path less trod, and examines the changes that did come out of the Napoleonic Wars, both positive and negative: the bloated pay and pensions list; the growth of the Colonial Office and police forces; alterations to drill and tactics; and the modest growth of military publications.
Finally, the essay goes on to look at how these changes, or lack thereof, contributed to the experience of the Crimean War, and briefly evaluates the influence of this period in the post-Crimean reforms.