War in the Revolutionary-Napoleonic Age
The French experience, 1792-1815
in Violence and the state
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This chapter explores the nature of the French Revolutionary-Napoleonic Wars in light of recent historical debates over the question of ‘total war’ and the degree to which these wars constitute ‘old’ or ‘new’ wars within the broad currents of European history. The focus is on France as the epicentre of the wars. Notwithstanding continuities with the past, and regional and time variations, this chapter argues for important quantitative and qualitative changes in the nature of the French experience of war over this period: the ideologisation of war, the extraordinary growth of the state’s claims over its citizens for the purpose of waging war, the nation-in-arms, and the unprecedented impact of war on the lives of civilians.

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