Citizen Soldiers

The Liverpool Territorials in the First World War

Citizen Soldiers

The popular image of the British soldier in the First World War is of a passive victim, caught up in events beyond his control, and isolated from civilian society. This book offers a different vision of the soldier's experience of war. Using letters and official sources relating to Liverpool units, Helen McCartney shows how ordinary men were able to retain their civilian outlook and use it to influence their experience in the trenches. These citizen soldiers came to rely on local, civilian loyalties and strong links with home to bolster their morale and challenge those in command.


"Military historians will no doubt find Citizen Solders a significant contribution to World War I studies. It is very engaged in important historiographical debates, foremost among them whether World War I transformed British civilians into disciplined soldiers who assimilated the values and ideals of the Regular army or if they were able to retain individual qualities enabling them to challenge their officers and question their purpose."
-Stephen M. Miller, University of Maine

"McCartney has written an intriguingly revisionist work...this local study of willing soldiers enriches and changes our sense of the story of World War I and its significance."
-Peter Stansky, Stanford University, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"For scholars and students of the Great War in British history, this volume is an important addition to any bookshelf. The book is engagingly written, with clear supporting evidence for the author's claims and a wide range of source materials. Most importantly, the emphasis on returning again and again to the historiographical context makes this a doubly useful study for scholars of World War I because it outlines many of the revisionist arguments of the last ten years about the nature of trench warfare, the impact on the 'common' soldier, and the homogeneity of the war experience."
-Tammy M. Proctor, Wittenberg University, American Historical Review

Review of the hardback: 'This is not just another rehash of the exploits of the dehumanised, oppressed, passive British Tommy slogging through the mud of Flanders, that field, like the trenches, is full almost to overcrowding. Instead McCartney considers how the ordinary men involved retained their civilian outlook, their local connections, their social status throughout those terrible years and, in the vast majority of cases, if they were lucky enough to escape unscathed, picked up the threads of their pre-war life … Helen B. McCartney has produced a first class work using not only official sources, as would be expected, but also the letters and diaries of the men involved … The book benefits from page by page footnotes and comprehensive bibliography, whilst the photographs, tables and maps only add to our pleasure and understanding. …For anyone wishing to study the social and cultural history of the British soldier in the first World War this book opens up a new dimension in our understanding and is required reading, chapter 9 The Aftermath of War especially so.' Open History: The Journal of the Open University History Society

Review of the hardback: 'Citizen Soldiers is one of the rare publications to breach this divide, combining detailed knowledge of military organization and structure with a careful consideration of the impact of the war on society and class and regional identity … It is … the job of good historical studies to ask as many questions as they answer. McCartney's careful, detailed and fascinating study of the experiences and identities of the Liverpool battalions in the war years deserves to be accompanied by further regional studies, in order that we may build a more detailed understanding of the lives of those who experienced the Great War.' Reviews in History

Review of the hardback: ' … this is a subject which deserves a wider readership and Citizen Soldiers is an excellent start; may it inspire urban and local historians to re-examine the relationship between the city and its citizens …' Urban History