MILITIA (Fr. milice, Ger. Miliz, from Lat. miles, soldier, militia, military service), a term used generally for organized military forces which are not professional in character and not permanently embodied. All ancient armies, with the exception of the personal guards of their leaders, were militias or national levies, remaining under arms for the war or the campaign and returning to their ordinary occupations at the close of each military episode. Militias such as those of the Greek city-states and that of Rome were of course highly trained to the use of arms; so were the barbarian " nations in arms "; which overcame the professionalized Roman armies of the Empire; and although i the Eastern Empire these new fighting elements were absorbed into a fully organized regular arm, in the West the tribal militia system gradually developed into feudalism. The noble and be knight indeed spent the greater part of their lives in the field and devoted themselves from their youth to the cult of arms, but the feudal tenantry, who were bound to give forty days' war service and no more, and the burghers who, somewhat later the history of civilization, formed the efficient garrisons of the walled towns were true militias. The English Yeomanry adeed almost ruled the battlefield.
In the 15th century the introduction of firearms began to veigh down the balance in favour of the professional soldier. Vrtillery was always the arm of the specialist. The developnent of infantry, " fire-power," with the early arquebus and nusket, called for the highest skill and steadiness in the individual oldier, and cavalry too adopted the new weapon in the form af long and expensive wheel-lock pistols. In the new military Drganization there was no place for the unprofessional soldier. The r61e of the unprofessional combatant, generally speaking, vas that of an insurgent harassing small detachments of the enemy, cutting off stragglers, and plundering convoys. Towards be end of the first civil war in England (1645) the country-folk Danded themselves together to impose a peace on the two varring armies, but their menace was without effect, and they vere easily disarmed by Fairfax and Cromwell, who did not even trouble to hold them as prisoners. The calling out of the mere ban of Franche-Comte in 1675 displayed its ludicrous aefficiency, and thereafter in France, which set the fashion to 44-9 Europe in all military matters, the " provincial militia," which Louvois and Barbezieux raised in place of the discredited arriere ban, was employed partly to find drafts for and partly to augment the regular army.
When a first line army was large enough to absorb the fighting strength of the country there was neither room nor need for a true militia force. This was the case with France under Napoleon's regime, but things were different elsewhere. In Great Britain the county militia (whose special history is briefly sketched below) was permanently embodied during the greater part of the Napoleonic Wars. Destitute as it was of technical and administrative services, of higher staffs and organization, and even of cavalry, this militia was a regular army in all but name. Combining continuous service with territorial recruiting as it did, it consisted of men of a better stamp than the casually recruited regular forces. In those days, the militia was a county force commanded by the lordslieutenant and officered by men of influence; it was not administered by the War Office.
In other countries, Napoleon's invading armies had only to deal with regular or professional troops. Once these were crushed, nothing remained for the beaten side but to make peace with the conqueror on such terms as could be obtained. Militias existed in name as organizations, for the production of more or less unwilling drafts for the line, but the fundamental militia obligation of defending the fatherland as distinct from defending the state, produced only local and occasional outbursts of guerrilla warfare. In the Crimean War, the 1859 war in Italy, the 1866 war in Germany, and other wars (the Hungarian War of 1848-49 excepted) the forces, other than the regular troops, engaged in first line were guerrilleros, insurgents, Garibaldians, etc., and behind the forces in first line there were draft-supplying agencies, but no true militia. Only the British militia and the Prussian landwehr represented the self-contained army of second line, and of these the former was never put to the test, while the latter, responding feebly to a political call to arms in 1850, was in consequence so entirely reorganized that it formed a mere rear rank to the line troops. This latter system, consecrated by the German successes of 1870, became the universal model for the continent of Europe, and organized and self-contained militias to-day are only to be found in states maintaining first line armies of " general service " professionals, or in states which maintain no first line troops whatever. In the first class are the auxiliary forces of the British Empire and the United States, in the second the Swiss, Norwegian, Dutch and Swedish forces.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)