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Crucibles of Virtue and Vice: The Acculturation of Transatlantic Army Officers, 1815-1945

Morris, John F.

Throughout the long nineteenth century, the European Great Powers and, after 1865, the United States competed for global dominance, and they regularly used their armies to do so. While many historians have commented on the culture of these armies’ officer corps, few have looked to the acculturation process itself that occurred at secondary schools and academies for future officers, and even fewer have compared different formative systems. In this study, I home in on three distinct models of officer acculturation—the British public schools, the monarchical cadet schools in Imperial Germany, Austria, and Russia, and the US Military Academy—which instilled the shared and recursive sets of values and behaviors that constituted European and American officer cultures. Specifically, I examine not the curricula, policies, and structures of the schools but the subterranean practices, rituals, and codes therein. What were they, how and why did they develop and change over time, which values did they transmit and which behaviors did they perpetuate, how do these relate to nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century social and cultural phenomena, and what sort of ethos did they produce among transatlantic army officers? Drawing on a wide array of sources in three languages, including archival material, official publications, letters and memoirs, and contemporary nonfiction and fiction, I have painted a highly detailed picture of subterranean life at the institutions in this study. The reader will find that although practices, rituals, and codes varied from one type of school to the next, the values and behaviors they inculcated were quite similar . . . and quite anachronistic for the liberalizing societies that the products of the schools were meant to serve.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
History
Thesis Advisors
Chauncey, George A.
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 19, 2020