This history of the Volunteer Force began as a study of patriotism. At the outset there seemed logic and force in the contrast evoked by the Mayor of Leicester when he administered the oath oath of allegiance to the local Volunteers in 1859: 'In the great majority of cases of voluntary enlistment into the line the parties enlisting enter rather from some pressing uneasiness at home or in a spirit of adventure than from any high or enlightened feeling of patriotism; but in your instance, the motives that have induced you to enlist are of the highest and purest patriotism.' 1 A social history of the Force, it seemed, might be the single best way of coming to an understanding of the strength of patriotism in Victorian Britain. Yet the patriotism of the Volunteers has proved to have the quality of a vapour; it eludes the grasp. The motives which induced men to enrol quickly began to appear more complex than those mentioned by the Mayor of Leicester. At the same time it was obvious that the Force had an interest and significance much wider than had been originally foreseen. The relationships both within the Force and between the Volunteers and society illuminate many aspects of social life.