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"The Army of a Dream" is a speculative fiction short story written by Rudyard Kipling, published in the Morning Post in June 1904.[1] It models an alternate way of organizing the military, along lines of responsibility and competence instead of heredity and privilege, as he had seen that the British Military was at that time.

""The Army of a Dream""
The cover of a 1905 print of The Army of a Dream
AuthorRudyard Kipling
PublisherMorning Post
Publication date1904



The story begins with an army officer taking the narrator to show off his military unit, the Tynesiders. It is revealed that in this society, military service for males is voluntary, but almost universal, because only those who have served may vote, along with a number of other incentives. The result is a sort of citizen militia composed of competent men focused on dealing with any threat to their community and nation. In addition to ensuring home defence it does however contain units intended for overseas colonial service and possible intervention in Europe. The complex and idealised military system of Kipling's imagination includes features such as rudimentary training for boys beginning at the age of eight, close integration between army and navy and an Empire-wide sense of assimilation between civilians and soldiers.

On the last page of the novel the unnamed story teller suddenly realises that the officers accompanying him, mostly old friends or acquaintances, died in the mismanaged South African War.[2]


"The Army of a Dream" was criticised as being political propaganda masquerading as a short story. Kipling himself acknowledged that it was not a serious attempt at army reform but simply an effort to put forward a number of ideas for consideration.


Rudyard Kipling was, in general, a major influence on one of the 20th century's most influential writers, Robert A. Heinlein. In his seminal work Starship Troopers, Heinlein models a similar society, where one is not a citizen unless one becomes a veteran of government service. While this does not have to be in combat forces but is actually more like being a civil servant,[3] that novel follows characters in the mobile infantry, and is in fact the origin of the mech trope that has pervaded science fiction since.[4] Also foreshadowed is Heinlein's fondness for the competent hero, a character who — though usually bearing normal human flaws — is rugged and self-responsible, able to do most things at least on a fundamental level and functioning with a high level of confidence and self-actualization.


  1. ^ "The Army of a Dream". Retrieved 3 September 2018.
  2. ^ Carrington, Charles. Rudyard Kipling. p. 377. ISBN 0-333-25456-2.
  3. ^ Booth, Howard J. (1 September 2011). "The Cambridge Companion to Rudyard Kipling". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 3 September 2018 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Sandison, Alan (30 April 2016). "Histories of the Future: Studies in Fact, Fantasy and Science Fiction". Springer. Retrieved 3 September 2018 – via Google Books.