Definition of conscription noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



BrE BrE//kənˈskrɪpʃn//
; NAmE NAmE//kənˈskrɪpʃn//
[uncountable] (especially British English) (usually US English the draft)
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the practice of ordering people by law to serve in the armed forces synonym call-up Word Originearly 19th cent.: via French (conscription was introduced in France in 1798), from late Latin conscriptio(n-) ‘levying of troops’, from Latin conscribere ‘write down together, enrol’, from con- ‘together’ + scribere ‘write’. Culturenational serviceConscription (= compulsory service in the armed forces) was introduced in Britain in World War I and again in 1939. It continued long after the end of World War II under the name national service. During wartime, all men between the ages of 18 and 41 were likely to be called up to join the armed forces, unless they were medically unfit or were working in a reserved occupation (= an important job). Many women were called up to serve in industry or work on farms as ‘land girls’. Conscientious objectors (= people who did not want to join the armed forces for moral or religious reasons) were at first the target of public insults, but later established a role for themselves in caring for the wounded.After 1948 men between the ages of 19 and 25 were expected to serve 21 months (later increased to two years) in the services, and were often based outside Britain. This was very unpopular with most young men, and national service was ended in 1960. Since then, Britain has depended on volunteers to join the services. Some young people join an Officers' Training Corps while at school or university, or become members of the Territorial Army. From time to time politicians and others call for national service to be introduced again, believing that military life is a good way to encourage discipline among young people.In the US national service is called selective service or conscription, but its popular name is the draft. It was first introduced during the Civil War by both the North and the Confederate States, and was very unpopular. One reason for this was that anyone could avoid service if he paid money ($300 in the North), or hired somebody to replace him. This led to draft riots by poor people in New York City, and almost 1 000 African Americans and others were killed.The US next used conscription during World War I. Some called it 'another name for slavery', but 10 million men put their names on the draft list. America's first conscription in peacetime began in 1940 when Europe was at war. A man could receive an exemption (= avoidance of service) if he was in the '4–F' group for physical or mental reasons, or had an important job. There were also some conscientious objectors who had to take jobs provided by the government.The draft was stopped in 1947 but begun again a year later, and men aged 18–25 had to serve 21 months. This supplied soldiers for the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Many young men were unwilling to fight in Vietnam and some tried to stay in college and university where they could have a '2–S deferment' from the war. Draft dodgers (= people who avoided the draft) sometimes burned their draft cards or went abroad. Conscription was finally ended in 1973, and two years later President Ford offered to forgive draft dodgers, but only 22 000 of the 125 000 accepted. In 1977 President Carter officially forgave all of them, provided that they had not committed acts of violence. Although the draft has ended, all men must put their names on the draft list when they become 18 in case there is a national emergency.Extra examples He injured himself to avoid conscription. his decision to institute military conscription the forced conscription of boys into the army
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: conscription