Militia (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
An armed force raised from a civilian population. The first militiamen were the hoplites of the ancient Greek city-states, citizen-soldiers who served in politics as well as in battle. During the Middle Ages, it was not uncommon to muster civilians into service during times of emergency. The same practice was followed in many parts of the world, including China and Japan before 1603. Although militia performed well in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), particularly in its American phase; the French and Indian War (1754-1763); and the American Revolution (1775-1783), it was becoming increasingly apparent that their lack of formal military training made them a liability. In the nineteenth century, Britain and the United States instituted militia forces whose members agreed to regular training on their own time. These ultimately became the U.S. National Guard and the British Territorial Force/Army. At the turn of the twenty-first century, no nation, save Switzerland, fully depended on militia for its security.
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Militia (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
A group of private citizens who train for military duty in order to be ready to defend their state or country in times of emergency. A militia is distinct from regular military forces, which are units of professional soldiers maintained both in war and peace by the federal government.
In the United States, as of the early 2000s, the NATIONAL GUARD serves as the nation's militia. Made up of volunteers, the National Guard acts under the dual authority of both the federal and state governments. According to the Constitution, Congress can call the National Guard into federal service for three purposes: to enforce federal laws, to suppress insurrections, and to defend against invasions. State governors can call upon the National Guard for emergencies that are prescribed by state law.
The American militia system has its roots in ancient English tradition, dating back to the Anglo-Saxon militia that existed centuries before the Norman Conquest in 1066. This militia, known as the fyrd, consisted of every able-bodied male of military age. It was traditionally used for defense only, and the sovereign could call upon the fyrd to fight if the men would be able to return to their homes by nightfall. Fyrd members were required to supply their own weapons, which they could use only in the service of the king.
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