The principle of total war was established in the course of these conflicts. “Total war”, certainly in the sense of “absolute enmity”, had entered the European psyche, but by the side doors of society, not through the corridors of power. “Absolute enmity” found its real havens on the extremes of elite political culture and among peasant communities that had been traumatized by the wars, either directly or through conscription, or both. During the wars, themselves, two things postponed the reality of “total war”. One was the lack of effective technology. The second was the survival of rulers still imbued with enough of the political ethos of the old order, and even of the Enlightenment, to hold in check the temptation to unleash all the forces they had. The mentality of the future can be seen clearly in these conflicts – it can be more than glimpsed – but true “total war” would have to await not only a new technology, but a new political culture. The wars had spawned fanatics; the educated among them honed their discourses. “Total war” was in the mind, and even on the drawing board, but not yet on the battlefield. That this was so, was ultimately a combination of the slow progress of the industrial revolution and the residual influence of the conservative Enlightenment in the corridors of power.
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