Русский | English

The concept of “total war” in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period

Broers Michael

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.

Keywords: history, France, French Revolution, Napoleon's empire, total war
Link: Broers M. The concept of “total war” in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period // Annual of French Studies 2021: Epidemics in the history of France.М. P. 213-226.

Bell D. The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It. Boston, 2007.

Blanning T.C.W. The French Revolutionary Wars, 1787-1802. London, 1996.

Gates D. The Napoleonic Wars, 1803-1815. London, 1997.

Grab A. State Power, Brigandage and Rural Resistance in Napoleonic Italy // European History Quarterly. 1995. № 25.

Guiomar Y. L’invention de la guerre totale: XVIIIe‑XXe siècle. Paris, 2004.

Lacour-Gayet M. Joachim et Caroline Murat. Paris, 1996.

Langsam W.C. The Napoleonic Wars and German Nationalism in Austria. New York, 1930.

Morvan J. Le soldat imperial. Paris, 1904. 2 vol.

Muir R. Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon. New Haven, 1998.

Palmer R.R. The Year of the Terror. Twelve who Ruled France, 1793-1794. Princeton, 1989. 3rd edn.

Pillepich A. Milan, capitale napoléonienne. 1800-1814. Paris, 2001.

Ramm А. Europe in the Nineteenth Century, 1789-1905. London, 1984. 7th ed.

Reis A. do Carmo. Invasões Francesas: as revoltas do Porto contra Junot. Lisbon, 1992.

Schmidt C. Le Grand Duché de Berg (1806-1813). Paris, 1905.

Shaw S.J., Shaw E.K. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Cambridge, 1977.

Sugar P.F. South Eastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 1354-1804. Seattle, London, 1977.

The First Serbian Uprising, 1804-1813. / Ed. W.S. Vucinich. New-York, 1982.

Thomson D. Europe Since Napoleon. London, 1981.