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Fact Files

William Cowper
The 18th century poet William Cowper (1731-1800), a clergyman's son, painted an idyllic picture of the English countryside, disfigured by a ploughboy whose life was changed by service in the militia. Such views were not uncommon, but were often changed by the threat posed by France during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.
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William Howard Russell
William Howard Russell was born near Dublin in 1820 and was called to the bar in 1850, but had already begun writing for The Times. He reported on the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, the American Civil War and other campaigns. An affable and courageous man, Russell was knighted in 1895 and died in 1907.
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Militia Lists
Militia Lists are valuable sources of social history, for they tell us a good deal about local populations. For instance, in 1777, the parish constables of Daventry in Northamptonshire listed the adult male population of their town, noting those who were exempt from service: William Mercer, because of his three children; William Coles, baker, 'balloted last time'; Joseph Harrald, 'infirm'; and the Reverend Mr William Denny, spared on account of his calling.

Gentlemen or those who might pass as such are distinguished by the prefix Mr, though we may doubt whether Mr Andrew Mieres, attorney at law, or Mr John Stanton, farmer, felt much in common with Mr Francis Marshall, inn-holder. The county's 13,741 men of military age included 1,332 farmers (though only 224 farmers' sons), 705 shoemakers, 2,481 servants, three dissenting ministers, three woad-men and a single bookseller, jockey and tripe-man.

These examples are from The Northamptonshire Militia Lists, Victor A Hatley (ed), The Northamptonshire Record Society 1973, but there are many similar published examples to be found for other counties, as well as original rolls in County Record Offices.
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Published: 28-01-2005

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