Friday, March 25, 2011

Army Sizes

I became interested in the relationship between army size and population and did a quick survey - sadly I found it quite hard to get 18th century data on the Web, but Napoleonic data was ready to hand, so here is a comparison between the major states and some small states I looked at for comparison.

As you can see, major states were running at about 1 - 1.5% pre the Wars. Austria and Russia both increased army sizes in the region of c 1/2  - 2/3rds at peak. France had to find a lot of men to fight all the others, so is running at 2-3x the other big players. Britain is a bit misleading owing to the size of its Navy (not considered), and Prussia has a small population even in Napoleonic times. I recall reading once that if the population in arms of a country goes above c 5% it really suffers economically (if you consider that all the soldiers are fit and active males, who are about 1/6th of the population, then 5% of a population is pretty much 1/3rd of all active males in a country) so France and Prussia after the wars must have been pretty unpleasant.  

I also did some analysis of smaller states, as you can see they - on average - at their height are less militarised than the major powers. I counted the men in the units and multiplied by 1.5 for the "tail". Westphalia is possibly too high, I assumed 3 battalions per regiment for all their regiments but it may not have been uniform, and one cavalry regiment was paid for by Wurttemburg. Also, both of these states were ruled by Bonaparte family members so may have bean "leaned on" more than the others to provide men and material more in keeping with French style ratios.

As to why the small nations have a smaller % in arms, I don't know.

To estimate sizes in the18th century, I assume they are similar to pre-Napoleonic mass army times, then if we assume "Height Of" numbers for the smaller states had about the same increase as for Russia and Austria in the period, then a "Normal Situation " is c .75 - 1.5%, which the bits of 1801 data I have seems to agree with.

(Clarification from the comments below - I think the "peacetime" army is about 1% safely, but a fully mobilised manpower of 2% (trainees, reservists etc) is probably an achievable level that is "safe" economically without putting a country on a war footing.

So as a rule of thumb, your Imagi-Nation should be running at about 1% of  population for the army, unless you are totally militarised like a tinpot Prussia. Incidentally, the ratio of  Horse to Foot of the small countries I looked at is about  0.3 : 1 Horse:Foot, so about a quarter are cavalry.

For what its worth  European Turkey is c 8m souls at this time, so to field a peacetime army of about 20,000 (what I had initially designed x 1.5, as above) my Imagi-Nation (New Byzantium) needs to appropriate about 2m people - or 1/4 of it. That seems unrealistic, 1/10th was more what I was thinking, so clearly I need a lot of mercenaries (check) and a major trading city seaport to afford them!  


pp said...

Interestingly I have read something of this lately regarding SYW. Hesse had 7% of the population under arms due to the popularity of hiring out battalions, use the AWI for example.


Jiminho said...

Thanks, that is quite an interesting little study. For Syldavia, I had presumed a population in the order of 450000 people, perhaps less (Hergé imagined 620000 for the early 20th century). 1.5% of population in arms is a pretty robust ratio by your measure, so 1.5% of 450000 (= 6750) gives an idea of what Syldavia's maximum number of men under arms might be.

I had planned nine or so regiments of foot and lights (each with one real field battalion of about 600 men) and five or six of cavalry of all kinds. That adds up to in excess of 7400 men, ignoring artillery etc. I suspect that Syldavia's muster is a bit too heavy. I'l keep my list of regiments as it is but drawn the line there... The Syldavian khor (its money) went further back then, you know. I suspect that I'll beef up the population stats a bit as well, just to have a training cadre in the regimental depots as well!


freecloud said...

I think Hesse was able to keep so many men under arms as they were effectively beingg paid for by money from elsewhere, ie Hese had a productive "mercenary" industry sector going.

JIM - re Syldavia, I had the same problem so I have invented the Byzantion-Klow road which takes merchant traffic overland between the Ionian and Adriatic withou the need to go around Greece, so is very profitable to both of us, allowinga larger military tan otherwise:

Jiminho said...


Yes, I saw the reference to the trade route. Surely a good idea, not doubt it follows an excellent Roman road. A complication, the road will have to run through the officially hostile but practically neutral Pashaluk of Skoder on the way or, worse yet, Borduria. Overland trade could be complicated; best keep the Skoderi well paid.


Baz said...

Thanks for the work on this and it means I need to scale the Rechburg army down a little as I have it at 6% of the population.
Thats not all bad news as my fledging model army was destroyed in a recent earthquake, so at least now I dont have as many models to repaint.
Again thanks for time and effort you have put into this.

MurdocK said...

An excellent little treatise on the concept of how big our 'imagi-nation' armies might be.

According to Bruce Quarrie in his "Napoleons Campaigns in Miniature" essentially 1 man in 60 (or 2%) was available for service.

Further he covers an annual recruitment rate of about .3% (or population times 0.003) based on the troops France raised from 1804-1815.

Good further reading:

freecloud said...

Jim - the road definitely passes through the Pashaluk, and (on our side) a shifting number of small Duchies in Trans-Syldavia as well as a part of Herzovakia. Borduria desires to get its hands on a part of the road, but its claims are still being resisted by these tinpot states as far as we know. However, our special agents believe that the trouble we are seeing in Trans-Syldavia from "Don" Dharko's bandits may be Bordurian sponsored

freecloud said...

@Murdock - yes, I think c 2% is what you can get your hands on in a time of war without damaging the state - it's approximately douling the standing army using the trainees plus the guys who have served but are in the reserves. The French had exactly this in the beginning of the WAS and 7 Years War.

I think that is where the small states I looked at about got to, ie mobilising everything possible without fully going into a "war" mode (which the major powers clearly had to).

Soldadets said...

An excellent review, I'd say. I'll be bookmarking it for future checkings.

I've been permanently concerned by this population/military rate issues too. As for my own Imagi-Nation (the Galatan Confederation), I learned that the Principality of Catalonia was about 750,000 in 1700-1715, which os the period I'm playing. If checking the number of units I'm currently raising and sending to battle, we might conclude that this Imagi-Nation is about to reach a worrying militarism level.

However, it shouldn't be neglected the extreme situation my Imagi-Nation is immersed in -no other than a real Total War, so that a so high conscription rate becomes quite easily explainable.

Moreover, if including the Balearic Islands (which were about 250,000) and Sardinia too (some additional 200,000), we can see the Galatan Confederation global population is actually above that one of Bavaria, so that I'm confident that my Imagi-Nation is not becoming any Prussia of South... ;)

Conrad Hawkwood said...

one has to wonder how many Hessians were Hessians,for example..