I am reading “All Hell Let Loose” by Max Hastings and into the second chapter of The Polish Campaign. The writer mentions that British had a anti-militarist tradition and which was a source of pride to its people. Well, how does one go on to become an imperial power and rule half the world if one practised anti-militarism ?

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    Welcome to History:SE. If I understand your question correctly, I suspect the answer is that anti-militarism is not the same thing as pacifism Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 15:09
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    Max Hastings is full of nonsense.
    – fdb
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 15:16
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    I'm guessing that anti-militarism might mean that UK did not have conscription. Hence its army was small compared to Germany, France or Russia. Maybe you can put a longer citation of the book, in order to understand the context.
    – Santiago
    Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 15:40
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    The claim that Britain "had a anti-militarist tradition ... which was a source of pride to its people" is nonsensical in light of the British Royal Navy tradition stretching from Henry VII to the Falklands conflict, and the evident British pride in it as evidenced by continuing celebrations of Trafalgar Day Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 5:37
  • @Santiago Even if the British had belatedly introduced conscription as the author says, how and why did they become part of the Allied Forces then ?
    – Noeshel
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 15:43

1 Answer 1


British pacifism and anti-militarism was just a fad

When we talk about British pacifist and anti-militarist tradition, it largely revolves around Peace Society and people like Robert Spence Watson, John Scott etc ... People like these were usually well respected and known in their professions (scholars, religious figures, businessmen ...) but they had limited political influence. Sure, there were few MPs among them (like Richard Cobden ) but not nearly enough to influence foreign policy. In fact, although they campaigned against British imperialism, most of these people enjoyed wealth created by it. In that regard, they were similar to latter champagne socialists. Unlike latter hippie movement they didn't have support of masses of youth. In fact, looks like they didn't even want such support. Instead, it was enough for them to preach from moral high ground in their mostly private upper society gatherings. Note that even hippies in 60's didn't achieve much (military spending continued as it was a height of Cold War), and British pacifists were even less successful to this day.

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