The British army in the period of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars was maintained through a system that could trace its roots back to the fifteenth century. It was a system that had been shaped in the preceding periods and was significantly influenced by the administrative revolution of the eighteenth century. This situation had arisen due to events at the end of the seventeenth century and the start of the eighteenth, when the relationship between army and state had been redefined. This relationship was to have significant implications for how the army was maintained as maintaining the army was in many ways central to this relationship.
Traditionally historians have considered how the army was maintained from the perspective of either the fighting arms in the field or how the state maintained the army as an institution. This study focuses upon the intermediate organizations tasked with maintaining the army, departments such as the Commissariat and Royal Wagon Train that bridged the gap between the policies and practices of the state and the fighting elements. They illustrate the impact of the relationship between the state and army on the force, as well as how army had some autonomy within the boundaries and responsibilities imposed on it by its relationship with the state. This study also considers how far the state was willing to alter this important relationship in response to military necessity. Maintaining the army went to the heart of the relationship between the force and the state in the period, but it was the question of how best to maintain the army in the event of invasion that most threatened to fray, if not destroy, this defining relationship.