The Culture of War in Europe, 1750-1815

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines the development of the 'culture of war' in Europe, focusing on France, from the Old Regime through the First Empire. It argues that before the Revolution, French aristocratic elites saw warfare as an ordinary part of human existence - and indeed, if kept under proper control, a positive and desirable one. It then shows how this idea was challenged during the Enlightenment, by critics who saw warfare as extraordinary and aberrant, with some deeming it extraordinarily horrible, and others depicting it, at least potentially, as extraordinarily sublime and regenerative. The chapter discusses how these conflicting ideas helped to shape the actual practice and course of the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, looking particularly at the question of why these wars proved so terribly difficult to control, restrain, and bring to an end.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Crisis of the Absolute Monarchy
Subtitle of host publicationFrance from Old Regime to Revolution
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191760433
ISBN (Print)9780197265383
StatePublished - Jan 30 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Aristocracy
  • Army
  • Enlightenment
  • Militarism
  • National assembly
  • Pacifism
  • Peace
  • Regeneration
  • War


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