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As a mechanism for mobilizing manpower for military service, conscription has been in continual use since antiquity. The heyday of compulsory military recruitment, however, came in the 19th and 20th centuries, when, inspired by the precedents of the French Revolutionary era, modern nation-states adopted systematic forms of conscription as an integral extension of state power. By the middle of the 1900s, conscription had emerged as one of the most conspicuous manifestations of the administrative capabilities and coercive powers of the nation-state. While conscription’s effectiveness as an instrument of procuring and organizing recruits in wartime has traditionally functioned as its chief practical rationale, its utility in that sphere alone does not fully explain its prevalence, well into the second half of the 20th century, as ...

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