- "Dear to friends and food for powder / soldiers marching on to die."
- — Alfred Edward Housman , 19th century British poet, On the Idle hill of Summer
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Ever since the beginning of human civilization, the need for defense and security from rival human tribes always ensured that there would be occasions where rulers in times of need would need to enlist as much manpower as possible from their subjects in order to carry out the terrible business of war. One way of procuring the manpower required to swell out an army's ranks was through conscription, in which every male citizen fit for armed service would be ordered to serve in the army, either during peacetime as a form of "national service", or in times of pressing military need.
The difference between this form of military recruitment compared to others was that conscription tended to be universal (in comparison to reliance on professional hired men) and was also directly enacted by the state (in contrast with feudal systems where armies were centered around a landowning caste and their followers, thus delegating responsibility for recruitment to the nobility).
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Levy en Masse