chapter  4
A decade of violence
Pages 28

In the years between 1859 and 1870 the armies of all the major states in Europe clashed in four wars which tested the value and flexibility of their military systems, and which forged the nationhood of Italy and Germany. Out of these experiences were to come new ideas about the size, organiza­ tion and structure of armies all of which had at bottom a common intention; a peace-time army ready for war. For as the rivalry between the industrialized nations of Europe mounted, the experience of this decade stood to demonstrate that force, and force alone, could maintain national indepen­ dence. Yet there were compromises which had to be made in the interests of societies which were becoming more complex both in terms of structure and beliefs. All the calculations which had later to be made to balance the interests of defence against the many competing concerns of the modern indus­ trial state were, however, coloured by the experiences of wars which demonstrated all too clearly that small, long-service armies of regular soldiers officered by gentlemanly but unprofessional aristocrats might reflect the internal dynamic of a society, but that they could not preserve that society against the onslaught of mass armies controlled by intelligent professionals who put at their service the instruments of the new military technology — the railway, the rifle and the cannon.