Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others. The second term applies particularly to military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 personnel and to members of sports teams, but is also applicable in business and in any other organizational context, particularly in times of stress or controversy. While the term is often used by authority figures as a generic value judgment
Value judgment
A value judgment is a judgment of the rightness or wrongness of something, or of the usefulness of something, based on a comparison or other relativity. As a generalization, a value judgment can refer to a judgment based upon a particular set of values or on a particular value system...

 of the willpower
Willpower may refer to:*Self discipline, training and control of oneself and one's conduct, usually for personal improvement*Self control, the ability of a person to exert his/her will over the inhibitions of their body or self...

, obedience
The term obedience can refer to:* Obedience ** The educational film Obedience about the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority figures* Vow of obedience as an evangelical counsel* Obedience training for dogs...

 and self-discipline of a group tasked with performing duties
Duty is a term that conveys a sense of moral commitment to someone or something. The moral commitment is the sort that results in action and it is not a matter of passive feeling or mere recognition...

 assigned by a superior
Superior (hierarchy)
In a hierarchy or tree structure of any kind, a superior is an individual or position at a higher level in the hierarchy than another , and thus closer to the apex. It is often used in business terminology to refer to people who are supervisors and in the military to people who are higher in the...

, more accurately it refers to the level of individual faith
Faith is confidence or trust in a person or thing, or a belief that is not based on proof. In religion, faith is a belief in a transcendent reality, a religious teacher, a set of teachings or a Supreme Being. Generally speaking, it is offered as a means by which the truth of the proposition,...

 in the collective benefit gained by such performance.

According to Alexander H. Leighton
Alexander H. Leighton
Alexander "Alec" H. Leighton was a sociologist and psychiatrist of dual citizenship . He is best known for his work on the Stirling County Study and his contributions to the field of psychiatric epidemiology...

, "morale is the capacity of a group of people to pull together persistently and consistently in pursuit of a common purpose".


In military science
Military science
Military science is the process of translating national defence policy to produce military capability by employing military scientists, including theorists, researchers, experimental scientists, applied scientists, designers, engineers, test technicians, and military personnel responsible for...

, there are two meanings to morale. Primarily it means the cohesion of a unit, task force, or other military group. An army with good supply lines
Military Supply Chain Management
Military supply chain management is a cross-functional approach to procuring, producing and delivering products and services. The broad management scope includes sub-suppliers, suppliers, internal information and funds flow.-Supply:...

, sound air cover and a clear objective can be said to possess, as a whole, "good morale" or "high morale." Historically, elite military units such as special operations forces have "high morale" due to both their training and pride in their unit. When a unit's morale is said to be "depleted", it means it is close to "crack and surrender", as was the case with Italian units in North Africa during World War II. It is well worth noting that generally speaking, most commanders do not look at the morale of specific individuals but rather the "fighting spirit" of squadrons, divisions, battalions, ships, etc.


Despite the intangible nature of morale, improvements in material factors (such as remuneration
Remuneration is the total compensation that an employee receives in exchange for the service they perform for their employer. Typically, this consists of monetary rewards, also referred to as wage or salary...

, food and shelter) can improve morale. However, history is filled with stories of the self-will and determination of a poorly supplied army maintaining morale to the very end, such as the Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Northern Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, as well as the primary command structure of the Department of Northern Virginia. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac...

 in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 or the German Army
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...



  • Adequate quantity, and quality of food, water, and shelter.
  • The quality of military leadership.
  • The quality of military training (primarily drilling), enabling members of the unit to reach the collective identity
    Collective identity
    The term collective identity may refer to a variety of concepts. In general however, these concepts generally pertain to phenomena where an individuals' perceived membership in a social group impacts upon their own identity in some way. The idea of a collective identity has received attention in a...

     during the combat.
  • Having a volunteer military ("Standing Army"), as opposed to a force made up of potentially less motivated draftees or conscripts ("Drafted Army").
  • A belief in the values the military represents, and fights for.
  • A belief in, and loyalty towards the nation and culture the military fights on behalf of.
  • How often the army wins or loses a confrontation with the enemy.
  • A sense of pride, belonging and inheritance by its members of the traditions
    Military tradition
    Military tradition is the specific set of practices associated with the military or soldiers in general. The concept may describe the styles of military uniform, drill, or even the music of a military unit.-In the United States:...

     and honour of a military unit or corps and a determination to live up to those traditions.
  • Distinctive uniforms
    Facing colour
    A Facing Colour is a common European uniform military tailoring technique where the lining of the standard military jacket visible to the observer is of a different colour to that of the jacket. The jacket lining evolved to be of different coloured material, then of specific hues...

    , badges, insignias or any exclusive regimental emblem
    An emblem is a pictorial image, abstract or representational, that epitomizes a concept — e.g., a moral truth, or an allegory — or that represents a person, such as a king or saint.-Distinction: emblem and symbol:...

    s contribute to built a strong esprit de corps.
  • Creating a sense of camaraderie
    Comrade means "friend", "colleague", or "ally". The word comes from French camarade. The term is frequently used by left-wing organizations around the globe. "Comrade" has often become a stock phrase and form of address. This word has its regional equivalents available in many...

     between the members of a unit. In the past this has been done by recruiting units locally, for example the Pals battalion
    Pals battalion
    The Pals battalions of World War I were specially constituted units of the British Army comprising men who had enlisted together in local recruiting drives, with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbours and work colleagues , rather than being arbitrarily...

    s of World War I with brothers and friends fighting in the same unit, or other selection criteria for example the Sacred Band of Thebes
    Sacred Band of Thebes
    The Sacred Band of Thebes was a troop of picked soldiers, consisting of 150 male couples which formed the elite force of the Theban army in the 4th century BC. It was organised by the Theban commander Gorgidas in 378 BC and played a crucial role in the Battle of Leuctra...

    . The advantage of such units is that since cowardice or desertion would mean the abandoning of friends, loved ones, and family to die, such units would continue fighting long after the call of prudence. The disadvantage of such units is that any disaster will have disproportionate effect on a community. In modern militaries camaraderie is fostered through shared experiences, hardships and deprivations in training.

Home Front

A nation's population is likely to retain high wartime morale when:
  • The objectives
    A goal is an objective, or a projected computation of affairs, that a person or a system plans or intends to achieve.Goal, GOAL or G.O.A.L may also refer to:Sport...

     of a war are clearly understood by the public.
  • The objectives of a war are valued by the public.
  • A public believes the war can be won.
  • A public believes the war is worth winning.
  • A public fears the consequences of losing the war.
  • Clear signs of success in the war show.

The morale of a civilian
A civilian under international humanitarian law is a person who is not a member of his or her country's armed forces or other militia. Civilians are distinct from combatants. They are afforded a degree of legal protection from the effects of war and military occupation...

 population can also increase or decrease due to exposure to propaganda
Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 from their government or opposition
Opposition (politics)
In politics, the opposition comprises one or more political parties or other organized groups that are opposed to the government , party or group in political control of a city, region, state or country...

 forces, respectively. Psychological warfare
Psychological warfare
Psychological warfare , or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations , have been known by many other names or terms, including Psy Ops, Political Warfare, “Hearts and Minds,” and Propaganda...

 is a major part of modern warfare. Nation states, politically motivated individuals, religious activists, and secular pressure groups employ psychological warfare to target the minds of citizens in nations and cultures they are opposed to.

Since at least the time of Carl von Clausewitz
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

's On War
On War
Vom Kriege is a book on war and military strategy by Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz , written mostly after the Napoleonic wars, between 1816 and 1830, and published posthumously by his wife in 1832. It has been translated into English several times as On War...

, maintenance of morale has been considered one of the fundamental "Principles of War". Sir Basil Liddell Hart regarded morale even more fundamentally:
"The aim of a nation in war is to subdue the enemy's will to resist,..."

Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu
Sun Wu , style name Changqing , better known as Sun Tzu or Sunzi , was an ancient Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher who is traditionally believed, and who is most likely, to have authored The Art of War, an influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy...

, in his book The Art of War
The Art of War
The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise that is attributed to Sun Tzu , a high ranking military general and strategist during the late Spring and Autumn period...

, also mentions morale of nations and of armies.
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