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White slaves: Irish rebel prisoners and the British army in the West Indies, 1799-1804

Durey, M. (2001) White slaves: Irish rebel prisoners and the British army in the West Indies, 1799-1804. Journal of the Society of Army Historical Research, 80 . pp. 296-312.

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The significant role played by Irishmen in the military and naval campaigns of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars has not gone unnoticed. As many as 150,000 may have been recruited by the Army in this era. Tapping the mainly Catholic manpower of lreland was a complex political issue in the 1790s, requiring among both government ministers and military staff confidence in the ordinary Irishman's ultimate allegiance to the Crown, which in the event was usually justified. Despite this Irish presence, however, recruiting sufficient numbers for the Army remained a persistent problem, not least because of low pay, poor service conditions and harsh discipline. Moreover, most line regiments could expect at one time or another to serve in the West Indies, where during the Revolutionary Wars virulent epidemic diseases turned the islands into charnel houses for unseasoned white troops. Between 1793 and 1801 more than 45,000 British soldiers died in the Caribbean, a mortality rate of about fifty per cent...

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Society for Army Historical Research
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