In Patrick O'Brians epic Albury-Maturin series, they describe the men on the ship as being "pressed from their chosen profession".

My question is: Is there a difference between 18thC 'pressing' and 20thC 'conscription'?


Both are forms of involuntary military service, but impressment has decidedly rougher connotations.

the act of taking men into a navy by force and with or without notice...Impressment was strongly criticized by those who believed it to be contrary to the British constitution; at the time, unlike many of its continental rivals, British subjects were not subject to conscription for any other military service (Wikipedia)

Impressed men were forced into service through violence or coercion ... Royal Navy ships halting U.S. vessels to search for British deserters frequently impressed naturalized U.S. citizens, one cause of the War of 1812. (M-W)

Conscription, on the other hand, is a more organized and (in all cases I'm aware of) legal way for governments to mandate military service.

I have seen 20th century uses of "pressed into service", both as a flowery term for conscription and a more general phrase for getting someone to do something. However, it certainly differs from the 18th century practice.

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