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Self Defense/Peasant Farmers making up most of Armies


I already know how much you hate the cliche of peasant soldiers and civilian militiamen (with little or no training) beating professional armies. However I am confused about one thing.

Recently historians are now changing the once held opinion that knights, Samurai, Roman Legions, Napoleon's Grand Army, and other Warrior Castes and professional soldiers dominated warfare. In fact there is now a narrative that the overwhelming majority of armies throughout history were made up of draftees from the farming and poor peasant class. There is even emphasis that in some periods such as the Dark Ages, most conscripts weren't even properly trained and equipped yet they fought the wars, not the knights or the Roman legions.

So I am confused about the notion that professional army and military infrastructure is needed to win wars. I mean if armies were now made up of peasant conscripts to fight wars and knights and such were the minority, I am confused about the emphasize on professional military you frequently write about in winning warfare? I mean even military publications are now supporting the modern narrative about conscript peasantry.


Ever heard of a thing called 'training?'

There were NO what we think of as 'standing armies.'  

There very much was nobility/ warrior caste/men-at-arms/militias/oathsmen /freeholders/mercenaries etc.

First off what you think of as nobility was a contact sport. As in they were a warrior caste on tap. While a generation might pass without war, there were daily responsibilities. They were expected to patrol, protect the locals from bandits, raiders, vikings, etc., as well as hold their own lands against other nobles. When their king called they were expected to raise a fighting force and go with the king.

These were the ones with the knowledge, equipment, fighting men, experience and duties. In other words, they could raise and train a fighting force. More than that, they themselves were raised in the arts of warfare. Peasants not so much. Unless standing in pig shit some how miraculously instills in someone battlefield tactics.

Were these 'militias' anywhere near as good of fighters as the professional men? Not usually. But they were boots on the ground for your force during war.

Now the more stratified society became, the more the division of knowledge occurred. A norse freeman or karl in the 9th century was expected to both farm AND know how to fight. But even they had to be trained how to work in a shield wall. A 16th Century French peasant? Not so much -- although he could run off and join a mercenary troupe -- who would train him.

You don't apparently get that when you talk about 'peasant armies' you are talking about specific phenomenon of people, untrained in warfare being lead by people untrained in warfare.

Yes peasants were recruited for armies. But they didn't lead them.  There's a huge difference between someone who normally farms an picks up a weapon and someone who's entire upbringing focuses on fighting. Remember, among nobles and military commanders chess wasn't just a passtime. They did it to learn how to think strategically.

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Marc MacYoung


Street self-defense, crime avoidance and personal safety


I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

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