A disparate group of 20 engaging and historically interesting letters to do with the reform of the British Army in the mid-nineteenth century. Most of the letters were written in the 1860s, and many of them are identifiably to Edward Temperley Gourley (1826-1922), a shipowner whose long career in politics focused on improving the interests of the seafaring and soldiering classes. According to a newspaper report after Gourley’s death `he was probably the most persistent questioner in the House of Commons’. The letters highlight that the focus of the agitation was to improve the man in the ranks. Major General Tulloch, for example, wrote in 1858 that army life allowed a soldier to get into habits of idleness and that as a result his pension became insufficient on his retirement. He suggested the soldier learn to build his own barracks, make his own clothes and bread, raise a few vegetables. General William Williams argued in 1866 for `recreation clubs and regimental canteens … whose attractions kept the soldiers from the gin shops and still worse rendezvous’. He envisaged a downward slide where `the British soldier … ends his life on the scaffold for the murder of his officer whom he was sworn to defend’


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