Back to WHKMLA Main Index . WHKMLA, Students' Papers Main Page . WHKMLA, Students' Papers, 13th Wave Index Page



History of Military Academies (until 1800)


Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Kim, Jisoo
Term Paper, AP European History Class, October 2008



Table of Contents


I. Introduction
II. Background : Why Military Academies Emerged ?
II.1 The Greeks and the Romans : The Lack Respectively Failure of an Officer Training System
II.2 Knighthood : Weakness of Knighthood Education and Influence on Later Military Academies
II.3 Mercenary Troops and their Inefficiency
II.4 The Need for Military Academies
III. Predecessors of Military Academies : Before the Mid-18th Century
III.1 The Late 16th and the Early 17th German Military Academies
III.2 The 17th French Military Training Institutes
III.3 Facts on the Predecessors of Military Academies
IV. Emergence of Earliest Military Academies : the Mid-18th Century
IV.1 Identification of the Earliest Military Academies
IV.2 Common Aspects of the Earliest Military Academies
V. Development of Military Academies until 1800
V.1 Prussian Military Academies and Military Professionalism
V.1.1 Prussian Military Academies and Military Professionalism
V.1.2 Prussian Military Academies and Military Professionalism
V.1.3 Prussian Military Academies and Military Professionalism
V.2 French Military Academies and Napoleon Bonaparte
V.2.1 Foundation of Ecole Royale Militaire
V.2.2 Closure of Ecole Royale Militaire
V.2.3 Reopening of Ecole Royale Militaire and Napoleon Bonaparte
V.2.4 The Establishment of Ecole Speciale Militaire by Napoleon Bonaparte
V.2.5 Ecole Polytechnique after the Revolution
V.2.6 French Military Academies Only for the Noble and Wealthy Families
V.3 British Military Academies and Their Curriculum
V.3.1 Foundation of Royal Military Academy (RMA)
V.3.2 Royal Military College (RMC) and Its Curriculum
V.3.3 British Military Curriculum: A Barrier to Military Professionalism
VI. Conclusion
Notes
Bbliography



I. Introduction
            A military academy is an educational institution which prepares candidates for service in the officer corps of the Army, the Navy, or Coast Guard. (1) The first European military academies came into existence in the 18th century to provide future officers of the highly specialized scientific branches, the artillery and engineers, (2) although military schools or cadet houses have a far longer history.
            This paper starts with the background information on why military academies emerged in Europe. Then the paper deals with the predecessors of the military academies, the earliest European military academies, and the developmental characteristics of military academies until 1800.

II. Background : Why Military Academies Emerged ?
            In order to show why military academy emerged in Europe, some aspects of officer development prior to the nineteenth century should be traced shortly

II.1 The Greeks and the Romans : The Lack Respectively Failure of an Officer Training System
            European military schools have a very long history. Xenophon tells us that Socrates quizzed a man who had attended a military school and found that his course had been limited to drill.(3) Socrates noted the need for instruction and insisted that intelligence was more important for military leadership than long experience. (4) However, neither the Greeks nor the Romans succeeded in creating an effective system for training officers. The reason was that they had little need of officer training. Most Greek armies were led by elected officials and early Roman legions were commanded by aristocrats.

II.2 Knighthood : Weakness of Knighthood Education and Influence on Later Military Academies
            In medieval Europe, the sons of nobles were squired to other noble families to be given private training in knighthood and battle. Another tradition at that time was for noblemen to purchase commissions from the king and become high-ranking officers without any special training or schooling. Royalty supported this system because it ensures them a supply of officers who would support their regimes at no cost to the crown.
            Feudal armies of the Middle Ages were very different from those of the modern period, yet some aspects of their military leadership have great influence on education of the modern military academies. The most important concept was "knighthood." The idea that an officer must have the qualities of a gentleman came from this period. Still feudal military structure, based on the service of the knight, had innate weaknesses as a command system.

II.3 Mercenary Troops and their Inefficiency
            After the rise of a money economy and cities, mercenary troops and city-state militias appeared.(5) Mercenary leaders were taught by a kind of apprenticeship system. However, as Machiavelli had noted, the independent mercenary troops were militarily inefficient.(6) Feudal monarchs, and also the bourgeoisie, wanted a more reliable military force and system of command.

II.4 The Need for Military Academies
            Already in the fifteenth century, Jacques Coeur, the merchant financier, suggested a means of overcoming the unreliability of mercenaries by the creation of a standing army to take some of them into permanent royal service.(7) In order to serve for a royal standing army, officers needed to be trained professionally. However, several centuries were to pass before military academies were created in the middle of the 18th century to meet this need.(8).

III. Predecessors of Military Academies : Before the Mid-18th Century
            The founding of modern military academies did not begin until the mid-18th century and later. However, there were predecessors prior to the emergence of the military academies. In the late 16th century, European countries began developing permanent national armies and navies and found the need for trained officers for them. They developed some military training systems.
            There are a few scant records of predecessors of the military academies in the 16th and the 17th centuries and some records in the 18th century. This paper analyzed the records and found some facts.

III.1 The Late 16th and the Early 17th German Military Academies
            Ritter-Akademies, and 'Cadet Houses' such as Liegnitz Ritter-Akademie (9) and Wolfenbüttel Ritter-Akademie (10) existed in Germany and the Habsburg dominions from the late 16th century or early 17th century onwards, though these were really preparatory schools with a military ethos rather than colleges producing trained officers. (11)

III.2 The 17th French Military Training Institutes
            In 1604, Henry IV found a military school at La Fleche for the sons of penurious nobles and the orphans of officers. It stressed general education and moral instruction for boys. It was more likely a preparatory school or junior college than a modern military academy. (12)
            Right before the emergence of military academy, military skills were acquired by actual practice and performance under supervision. Companies of cadets (a term originally meaning the younger scions of noble houses) were first formed in France in 1682, to teach young noblemen the duties of an officer. Cadets were very young-in their early teens - and general education played a large part in the syllabus. The standard, particularly in relevant modern subjects such as geography, mathematics, and science, was often higher than in the most prestigious civilian institutions

III.3 Facts on the Predecessors of Military Academies
            Most of those predecessors of military academies trained the sons of noble families. Mostly, training emphasized the handling of weapons, the drilling and management of men, tactics and strategy, and ceremonial. To accommodate the increasing part played by science, technology, and organization in warfare, the content of the training started to include scientific, technical, and general subjects, too. (13)

IV. Emergence of Earliest Military Academies : the Mid-18th Century
            Earliest military academies were established during the middle of the eighteenth century in Europe.

IV.1 Identification of the Earliest Military Academies
            The British army's Royal Military Academy was the earliest military academy in Britain. It was established in 1741 at Woolwich, where it remained as a separate establishment, training gentlemen cadets for the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers. (14)
            In Austria, the first military college, known by the name of its founders, the Empress Maria Theresia, was formed at Wiener Neustadt in 1748.
            A growing need for mathematical expertise in warfare and the emerging science of sea navigation prompted the appearance of technical academies at the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries in France. The Ecole du Corps Royal du Geme at Mezieres gave the most advanced technical education in France beginning in 1748-49. Another famous artillery academy was established at La Fere in 1756. The first non-technical military academy appeared almost concurrently in 1751 when Louis XV founded the Ecole Royale Militaire in Paris.(11) The Ecole Royale Militaire offered a general military education, primarily to the sons of aristocrats.
            Germany established Kadetten-Adademien, which instructed artillery officers in mathematics. In 1717, the Prussian Cadet Corps opened in Berlin to instruct officers.
            Turin's oldest Millitary Academy, the Scuola di Applicazione Militare, orginates from the Royal School of Artillery and Fortifications founded by Carlo Emanuele II King of Sardinia in 1739.(15) This institute's influence on Italy's history was enormous. Many famous people in the history of Turin and Italy were trained here.
            The first Norwegian Military Academy, Krigsskolen , was established in 1750. It is the oldest university-level military academy in Norway. Kirggsskolen primarily educated officers for the army and there were separate academies for the navy and the airforce. (16)

IV.2 Common Aspects of the Earliest Military Academies in Europe
            First, most of the earliest military academies emerged in the middle of the 18th century. Second, the students of the military academies were still from the noble families. Third, the earliest military academies taught general military education as well as the advanced technical education.

V. Development of Military Academies until 1800
            After the establishment of earliest military academies in the eighteenth century, military and naval academies proliferated in Europe. Each country has developed its own distinct military academies. Here are some representative examples of them in Prussia, France and Britain.

V.1 Prussian Military Academies and Military Professionalism

V.1.1 Kriegsakademie and Famous Attendees
            The Prussian Military Academy (Kriegsakademie) was founded by Gerhard von Scharnhorst in Berlin. Carl von Clausewitz was one of its first students in 1801, while other attendees included Field Marshals von Steinmetz, von Moltke, and von Blumenthal. (17)

V.1.2 Prussian Initiative of Military Professionalism
            When Frederick the Great set up a military academy in Berlin, he did not attempt to raise the intellectual level of the vast majority of army officers who came from country districts where a preliminary education was not available.(18) However, after the great defeat at the hands of Napoleon, a Prussian cabinet order declared that the selection of officers in peacetime and their further promotion, should be based on professional knowledge and education.(19) This was an initiative case for military professionalism. Huntington credits Prussia with having originated the military professionalism. (20)
            Prussian military professionalism was not maintained by the system of selection or by the quality of the divisional professional schools, but rather by the competitive selection for the high level War College and the General Staff.

V.1.3 Practical Curricular of the Prussian Military Academies
            In Prussia, pre-selected prospective officers passed from the cadet houses to conscript service in the regiment before going on to divisional schools for professional education. In the divisional schools, military authorities exercised strict control over the quality of instruction. Classes were small and were said to cultivate powers of reasoning rather than the accumulation of factual knowledge. Curricular were practical rather than theoretical. Mathematics and languages were excluded. Instruction was limited to military law and administration, drill, fencing, riding, and gymnastics.(21)

V.2 French Military Academies and Napoleon Bonaparte

V.2.1 Foundation of Ecole Royale Militaire
            In 1751, Louis XV founded the first non-technical military academy, Ecole Royale Militaire, in Paris. It was founded with the aim of creating an academic college for cadet officers from poor families. (22)
            At first, the Ecole Royale Militaire admitted boys from eight to eleven years old whose four grandparents were all of noble birth to give them an eight-year course leading to commissions as lieutenants. There were scholarships for the sons of impoverished nobles, but the wealthy nobility gained a monopoly of the schoolĄ¯s advantage

V.2.2 Closure of Ecole Royale Militaire
            In 1776, Ecole Royale Militaire, for which the admission age had been raised to fourteen, was closed down for a year when the problem of cadet insubordination broke out. Louis was worried about the disorders of the Ecole Royale Militaire, and he was persuaded by D'Argenson and the royal mistress, Madame Pompadour, to open the new Academy.

V.2.3 Reopening of Ecole Royale Militaire and Napoleon Bonaparte
            After the Ecole Royale Militaire reopened, it became the centerpiece in a reorganized officer training system, preparing only the best graduates from ten colleges in the provinces. The top Ecole Royale Militaire mathematical graduates joined the artillery; others went to the non-technical corps. The most famous graduate of this system was Napoleon Bonaparte, who started his preparation to be an officer at the regional college in Brienne and graduated from the Ecole Royale Militaire in 1785.(23) The curriculum strongly stressed mathematics to train military men.

V.2.4 The Establishment of Ecole Speciale Militaire by Napoleon Bonaparte
            Later, Napoleon Bonaparte founded a military school of his own, Ecole Speciale Militaire. Ecole Speciale Militaire is the foremost French military academy, which later is often referred to as Saint-Cyr. The school trained a large number of young officers who served during the Napoleonic Wars. It remained stationed in Saint-Cyr-L'Ecole after Napoleon's deposition. (24)

V.2.5 Ecole Polytechnique after the Revolution
            The Revolution had brought the closure of Mezieres as well as of the Ecole Royale Militaire. Robespierre opened a training school called Ecole de Mars. In 1794, a civilian engineering school, Ecole Centrale des Travauz Publics, was established. A year later, it became the Ecole Polytechnique which produced qualified technical men for the Army as well as for public service. This soon became, and remains, the most prestigious scientific academy in France, producing not only officers for artillery and engineers, but also for the technical branches of the navy, and other government departments. (25)

V.2.6 French Military Academies only for the Noble and Wealthy Families
            French military education in the late 18th century was not exactly a model of democracy. The opportunity to be an officer was reserved almost exclusively for the nobility and almost exclusively for native Frenchmen. Moreover, at least half the young students attended military academy on expense accounts provided by their wealthy families. (26)

V.3 British Military Academies and Their Curriculum

V.3.1 Foundation of Royal Military Academy (RMA)
            The first British military academy was the Royal Military Academy (RMA) at Woolwich in 1741. From 1761 its graduates received commissions in the Royal Engineers without Purchase. But for a half century, academic standards for admission and for progression through its courses were low. The cadets were callow youths, some of whom were admitted when only ten years old. The Royal Military Academy had only one redeeming feature, the prestige of its faculty, which included Michael Faraday, the distinguished pioneer in electromagnetism.(27)
            The curriculum included mathematics, French, German, history, geography, drawing, and fortification, with practical classes in artillery, surveying, field work, and geology.

V.3.2 Royal Military College (RMC) and Its Curriculum
            The introduction of academy training for non-technical officers in the British Army was the work of Col. Gespard Le Merchant, who had seen the incompetence of British staff work in 1794. Le Merchant proposed the establishment of a "college" to train boys, cadets, and officers. Therefore, the Royal Military College (RMC) was established. It has Senior Department at Marlow to train staff officers and Junior Department at High Wycombe to educate cadets for commissions.(28)
            The academy had a curriculum similar to the English "public" schools (English, grammar, arithmetic, algebra, geometry, languages, and geography) with the addition of a little military instruction and without the public schoolĄ¯s instruction in the classics. Cadets who successfully passed an oral examinations after completing six "steps" in the curriculum were given direct free commissions. Those who did not complete the course could still enter the Army by buying the commissions, and many did so.(29)

V.3.3 British Military Curriculum : A Barrier to Military Professionalism
            British military academies had to improve the true military professionalism. However, one of the distinct characteristics of the British military academies was the British belief that military leadership could only be found in the public schools which lasted until after the Second World War. Thus, the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, was criticized to produce officers of the old type because of its curriculum similar to public school curriculum. The British military academies had difficulties to produce an adequate system to use general public education as a foundation for military professionalism. (30)

VI. Conclusion
            From this historical research, common aspects of European military academies until 1800 could be drawn as follows.
            First, early military academies were for noblemen who regarded military leadership as their natural gift and right. Most students of the academies were from wealthy and noble families. Second, most military academies received government funding. They were run in conjunction with national armies
            Third, the academic standard of the early military academies was low because the purchase system of commissions was popular for a long time in Europe. The purchase system had been a deterrent to the efficiency of military academies.
            Fourth, the military academies have met whatever social and technological developments require. The past history of officer producing academies shows the changes of curriculum. However, military training, general education, personal qualities and leadership, and professional education were commonly emphasized in most military academies
            Fifth, the military academies contributed to the development of military professionalism. Through experiencing many wars during the eighteenth century, European countries had confronted the need for professional officer training. Thus, military academies impeded the military professionalism, although they did not succeed in completely until 1800.
            Although military academies slightly differed from country to country, throughout history, military academies had greatly influenced the extent of European wars and national security. Moreover, there were many influential military leaders, for example, Napoleon, who attended to military academies


IX. Notes

(1)      Article : Military Academy, in Wikipedia
(2)      Article: Military Academes, in Answers.com
(3)      Preston 1980.
(4)      Oliver Lyman Spaulding, Pen and Sword in Greece and Rome (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1937), pp. 14-15
(5)      John Beeler, Warfare in Feudal Europe, 730-1200 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1971), pp. 246-248, 253-254.
(6)      Michael Mallett, Mercenaries and Their Masters: Warfare in Renaissance Italy (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1974), pp. 257-260.
(7)      Preston 1980.
(8)      ibid..
(9)      Wikipedia : Liegnitz Ritter-Akademie
(10)      Wikipedia : Wolfenbüttel Ritter-Akademie
(11)      Article : Military Academies, in Answers.com
(12)      Preston 1980.
(13)      Article : Military, Naval, and Air Academies, Encyclopaedia Britannica
(14)      Preston 1980.
(15)      Article : The Military Academy, in Torinoturistica
(16)      Article : Norwegian Military Academy in Wikipedia
(17)      Article : Kriegs Academie in Wikipedia
(18)      Karl Demeter, The German Officer Corps in Society and State, 1656-1945 (New York: Praeger, 1965), pp. 66-70' 380
(19)      Preston 1980..
(20)      Samuel P. Huntington, The Soldier and the State; The Theory and Politics of Civil- Military Relations (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1957), p.31.
(21)      Preston 1980.
(22)      Article : Ecole Royale Militaire , in Wikipedia
(23)      Preston 1980.
(24)      Guggisberg, pp. 2-78; Capt. F. Eardley Wilmot, ed., Records of the Royal Military Academy, 1741-1840 (Woolwich: Royal Military Academy, 1851), p. 120; Bowyer-Bower, pp. 14-19.
(25)      Article : Military Academies, in Answers.com
(26)      ibid.
(27)      Guggisberg, pp. 2-78; Capt. F. Eardley Wilmot, ed., Records of the Royal Military Academy, 1741-1840 (Woolwich: Royal Military Academy, 1851), p. 120; Bowyer-Bower, pp. 14-19.
(28)      R. H. Thoumine, Scientific Soldier: A Life of General Le Merchant, 1766-1812 (London: Oxford University Press, 1969), pp. 61-79
(29)      Preston 1980..
(30)      ibid..


X. Bibliography

Note : websites quoted below were visited in October and November 2008.
1.      Article : Military Academies, from Answers.com http://www.answers.com/topic/military-academy-2
2.      Article : Military, Naval, and Air Academies, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Micropaedia, 15th ed. 1998.
3      Article :The Military Academy, from Torinoturistica www.comune.torino.it/canaleturismo/en/curiosity/military.htm
4.      Article : Kriegs Academie , from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriegsakademie
5.      Article: Accademia Militare, from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accademia_Militare
6.      Article: Military Academy , from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_academy
7.      Article :Hellenic Arm, from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellenic_Army
8.      Educating a Genius, from Napoleon for Dummies
9.      Article : Napoleon I , from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon
10.      History of Military Academy, from Military School Alternatives, http://www.militaryschoolalternatives.com/history-of-military-schools.html
11.      Article : Ecole speciale militaire de Saint-Cyr, from Wikipedia , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89cole_Sp%C3%A9ciale_Militaire_de_Saint-Cyr
12.      Article : Wolfenbüttel Ritter-Akademie, from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfenb%C3%BCttel_Ritter-Akademie
13.      Article : Liegnitz Ritter-Akademie, from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liegnitz_Ritter-Akademie
14.      Richard A. Preston, Prespectives in the History of Military Education and Professionalism, USAFA Harmon Memorial Lecture # 22, 1980., http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED223823&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED223823
15.      Article : Norwegian Military Academy, from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian_Military_Academy

Back to WHKMLA Main Index . WHKMLA, Students' Papers Main Page . WHKMLA, Students' Papers, 12th Wave Index Page