Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Carol Herringer (Committee Member), Paul Lockhart (Advisor), Jonathan Winkler (Committee Member)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


The purpose of this thesis is to re-examine the nineteenth century British cavalry as an organization, one which has generally been characterized as deeply conservative and resistant to change in organization, operations and tactics. While the charge of conservatism is true in terms of the command structure of the British cavalry, this research demonstrates that the British cavalry of the nineteenth century typically adapted itself to the conditions in which it found itself, adopting whatever methods, tactics and weapons best suited the campaigns in which it fought. Beginning with the Crimean War's cavalry actions as a baseline for what was generally expected of nineteenth century cavalry in the British Army, the thesis then moves on to demonstrate that in other circumstances the cavalry would neither follow such strict and stringent rules of engagement nor rely on the massed charge as the best or only method of engaging the enemy. Moving chronologically through several campaigns in which cavalry figured prominently, including the Indian Mutiny, Anglo-Zulu War, the war in the Sudan and the Anglo-Boer War, this thesis points out the many and varied ways in which the British cavalry adapted itself to different climates, opponents and tactics around the globe, and makes clear that the British cavalry was capable of a great deal of flexibility and resourcefulness. Thus, institutional intransigence was offset by operational flexibility in the actual theaters of battle, with official doctrine often being changed in the wake of a successful campaign or battle.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of History

Year Degree Awarded


Included in

History Commons