Article

Early Modern French Armies

Julia Osman

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online April 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0103
Early Modern French Armies

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Historians who study the early modern French army are interested in a variety of different aspects of it in addition to traditional operational histories. Over the past several decades, the historiographical trend has included inquiries that explore the relationships between the French army and French culture, society, state-building, and colonialism, as well as its connections to Europe and the world in general. To accommodate these connections, this article is organized chronologically and thematically. It begins by looking at works that examine warfare in Europe as a whole from the religious wars that rocked all of Europe in the 16th century to the French Revolutionary wars of the late 18th century. This early modern period, situated between these two wars, stands out as a time when monarchs and officers attempted to restrict military activity to professional armies rather than involve civilian combatants whose personal investment in the outcome of a war had led to extreme violence and prolonged conflict. To explore this period of seemingly “limited” warfare, this article first moves chronologically, beginning with works on the more disjointed army that existed in France before the rule of Louis XIV (1562–1653), how the army became centralized during the reign of Louis XIV (1660–1715), and the status of the French army in the North American colonies (1500–1763) as well as during the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), a conflict that proved to be a watershed for the French army. The following section presents information on reform in the French army following the Seven Years’ War (1750–1789), then French activity during the American Revolution (1775–1783), and finally the transition that took place in the army during the French Revolution (1787–1794). Following this roughly chronological account, the article turns to specific elements of the French army: soldiers; the French officer corps, made up almost exclusively of members of the French nobility; artillery, engineering, and French fortifications. Finally, the article considers thematic approaches to the French army that consider its relationship to atrocity, politics, philosophy (and the Enlightenment), and finally protest. Each of these subject areas will likely contain a mixture of operational histories, cultural histories, and social histories as well as “hybrid histories” that combine methodologies, as different French historians approach the same topic using a variety of methods. By looking at the French army from these different angles, the reader will be better able to untangle the many cultural, social, political, and theoretical elements that made up the French army or affected its performance on the battlefield.

Article.  13030 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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