Standing army

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In contrast to troops that are only deployed when necessary ( e.g. within the framework of a militia organization ), a standing army is a military that is permanently under arms and therefore ready for action at any time, including reinforcement forces on leave in the reserve system. The standing navy is called the fleet and forms the entirety of the active naval troops and the naval reserve.


Preforms in antiquity

Standing armies have been known since ancient times . The Egyptian pharaohs had standing armies just like the Greeks and the Romans ( legion ).

middle Ages

In the Middle Ages , standing armies were the exception. Either the respective king or liege asked his vassals to fulfill their service obligations, or mercenary armies were used to fight for whoever paid. The Lilienvente , founded in Braunschweig in 1384, is said to have been the first standing army on German soil.

A standing army was raised by the French King Charles VII . Above all, Karl wanted to prevent mercenaries who had no more work after the end of the Hundred Years War from continuing to plunder the country and gave them an opportunity to earn a living. In Italy, mercenaries had shown themselves to be particularly devastating in the late Middle Ages ; nevertheless, mercenary armies fought primarily until the Thirty Years' War . The mercenaries as professional soldiers made their living through military service, but if the warlord failed to make payments or as part of the payment, looting often occurred. At the top were colonels who seldom fully identified with the political justification for their commitment.

Early modern standing armies

Who provided early as the end of the 16th century Netherlands in fighting a standing army on (against the Spaniards Oranische army reform ). Due to this successful example and the negative experience with the difficult to control mercenary armies in the Thirty Years' War, the rulers began in the second half of the 17th century to set up standing armies in their territories if possible. Even Machiavelli had recognized that power that was based on mercenary armies, permanently was worth nothing. In the late 17th and 18th centuries, standing armies increasingly replaced the previously common practice of raising armies if necessary, be it through the compulsory obligation of the civilian population ( land succession ), calling vassals and liege-winners to serve in the army or by recruiting mercenaries .

First, the colonels of the old mercenary regiments were replaced by princely and noble regiment chiefs. The formation of standing troops was not only aimed at improving the reaction to armed conflicts, but also for the representation and organizational thinking of the Baroque era and the accompanying development of the financial system, which enabled regular tax revenue and thus regular payment. The so-called “ soldier play ” is also to be seen as a not inconsiderable reason why even the smallest territories formed standing armies. In the age of absolutism , the standing army was one of the most important pillars of sovereign power, because the soldiers could not only be used against external enemies, but also to suppress insurrections and unrest within. In the late 18th century, during the French Revolution , the military introduced to expand the relatively small peacetime army quickly to a large number of soldiers.

Advantages and disadvantages

An army that is only called up when necessary is much cheaper than a standing army. A standing army causes running costs even in peacetime, as the personnel have to be trained and paid and the equipment has to be constantly maintained and modernized in order to maintain the operational readiness and effectiveness of the army. However, the defense readiness of a standing army is higher, since a mobilization usually takes place faster than with armies on demand. The fitness level is also usually better.

According to Kant's book On Eternal Peace, standing armies are a permanent threat to other states. You are thus one of the causes of the security dilemma . In the debate about the US Constitution , Elbridge Gerry , Governor of Massachusetts compared a standing army to a standing penis : "Excellent for securing domestic peace, but a dangerous temptation for foreign adventures."

See also


  • Gerhard Papke: From the militia to the standing army: Defense in absolutism. In: Military History Research Office Freiburg (Hrsg.): German military history in six volumes 1648–1939. Volume 1, Pawlak, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-88199-112-3 .
  • Ralf Pröve : Standing Army and Urban Society in the 18th Century. Göttingen and its military population 1713–1756 (= contributions to military history, volume 47). Oldenbourg, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-486-56060-3 .


  1. Friedrich von Bülow , Theodor Hagemann , Ernst Peter Johann Spangenberg (ed.): Practical discussions from all parts of legal scholarship. Volume 9, Hanover 1831, p. 133.
  2. ^ Walter Isaacson: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Simon & Schuster, New York 2003, ISBN 0-684-80761-0 (English).