Popular allegiance and side-changing among rank-and-file soldiers

Andrew Hopper

in Turncoats and Renegadoes

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199575855
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191744617 | DOI:
Popular allegiance and side-changing among rank-and-file soldiers

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This chapter establishes that many common soldiers changed sides when they were ordered to do so by their officers, or were required to do so when vanquished by the enemy. However, it suggests that this experience was not universal, and that we need to look beyond the usual narratives of deference and necessity to explain the side‐changing of rank‐and‐file soldiers. It examines the relationship between soldiers and their officers, and concludes that some — especially troopers — voluntarily chose to change sides. Many officers feared the fickle loyalty and two‐faced temperament of their men; common soldiers foiled the conspiracies of their own treacherous officers, and even plotted to murder their commanders. Rank‐and‐file side‐changing was more complicated, and embraced a wider variety of motives than once thought, whilst a pre‐existing popular political culture lurked behind the defection of many common soldiers which does not easily map onto the royalist versus parliamentarian divide.

Keywords: military; soldiers; allegiance; loyalties; side‐changing; popular politics; treachery; rank and file

Chapter.  11660 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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