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Military occupation and cross-border encounters in the Napoleonic wars

Forrest Alan

For Napoleon military occupation was not an end in itself; rather it was the first stage of a process that involved imposing French imperium on foreign territory and persuading its inhabitants to serve his wider goals. It won him few friends. When they encountered opposition from local people, occupying troops often resorted to violence against civilians, as they imposed administration and justice, conscripted soldiers, exacted requisitions and collected taxes for the benefit of France. Occupation was seldom popular with those whose territory was occupied. People felt bruised and humiliated in war; occupying soldiers had a reputation for theft, rape and violence; and soldiers, often starved of rations and with poor logistical support, had little reason to show restraint. In war the relations between occupier and occupied were often hateful, especially where, as in Spain, the Tyrol or western Russia, troops were subjected to persistent guerrilla attacks. But all depended on the circumstances of the occupation.  Where the local population was passive and adjusted to the demands of empire, occupier and occupied could coexist peaceably.  And once the fighting was over and occupying troops were acting as an army of guarantee for reparations payments, relations with civilians could be almost harmonious.

Keywords: Napoleon I, Napoleonic wars, occupation, Restauration, military history
Link: Forrest A. Military occupation and cross-border encounters in the Napoleonic wars // Annual of French Studies 2019: The era of Napoleon and her memory.М. P. 21-41.