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(Russian, verbovka; from German werben via Polish werbowac), the hiring of people for military service, one method of troop replacement. In antiquity this method was used chiefly in the form of hiring whole detachments of foreigners in wartime. Another form of recruitment was individual hiring of soldiers, primarily citizens of the country concerned, for a long time or for lifelong military service (the hired standing armies of ancient Rome and Byzantium).
In Western Europe in the Middle Ages, hired troops came to be widely used in the 15th century, and from the end of the 15th century the hired army system became the main system of replacing troops (for instance, during the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-48). Recruitment was rarely voluntary: threats, deception, the use of intoxicants, and direct violence were the usual accompaniments of recruitment. These methods were practiced in Western Europe, especially in Prussia, until the end of the 18th century. Among the great powers only Great Britain and the USA maintained the recruitment system until World War I. In Russia recruitment had not been practiced on a wide scale. At present a considerable part of the personnel of the armed forces serve for hire in various countries such as the USA, West Germany, France, and Great Britain.