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War at a Distance: Court-Martial Narratives in the Eighteenth Century

From: Eighteenth-Century Studies
Volume 41, Number 4, Summer 2008
pp. 525-542 | 10.1353/ecs.0.0006



This article argues that what I call “court-martial narratives,” published British pamphlets purporting to be eye-witness accounts of military trials, provide insights into both the ubiquity of war in the eighteenth century and its distance from the everyday life of the reading public in London. These accounts, sophisticated literary and legal narratives that might well be considered a developed eighteenth-century genre, highlight particular circumstances of courts-martial proceedings at the outposts of empire that conflict with the universalist claim of law’s application. A first-person “editor” often interprets evidence and recounts the fate of the accused officer as well as the sufferings of his family. Thus, court-martial narratives also often preserve records of female roles in war and politics.

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