Describing the British Army’s Chaplaincy between 1796 & 1844

Research Paper Title

An Age of Negligence? British Army Chaplaincy, 1796 – 1844.


British army chaplaincy, until more recent times, is a subject which has been sadly overlooked by historians. This thesis seeks to help fill that gap; it is a study which explores the origins and development of the early Army Chaplains’ Department. The most significant factor in determining the effectiveness, or otherwise, of army chaplaincy in the latter half of the eighteenth century, can be seen in the way that civilian incumbents served in their parishes, or to be more precise, were often absent from their parishes except through the services of a curate, thus before 1796, regimental chaplains were often absent from their duties.

It is clear that the army, especially some of its commanders, valued chaplains as can be demonstrated by the future Duke of Wellington, asking for more quality chaplains. Life for the chaplain deployed on campaign with his troops could be harsh; it is therefore easy to understand why there were so few clergymen who would take up the call. This thesis focuses on those chaplains who served with Wellington and Moore during the Peninsular War.

This thesis draws on numerous primary sources, including some which have not been used in previous studies. Over the fifty years that this thesis covers, it will examine the development of the Department, with the challenges of expansion and post-war reductions. Historical evidence would suggest that the bulk of the Church of England ministers who were available to become army chaplains were poorly trained and motivated. It is from this pool that army chaplains were drawn, and thus they ministered to their troops to the best of their abilities.

An Age of Negligence – British Army Chaplaincy, 1796-1844 (Burley, 2013)


Burley, R.D. (2013) An Age of Negligence? British Army Chaplaincy, 1796 – 1844. Master’s Thesis. University of Birmingham.


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