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The Crisis of the Absolute MonarchyFrance from Old Regime to Revolution$
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Julian Swann and Joël Félix

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265383

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265383.001.0001

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The Culture of War in Europe, 1750–1815

The Culture of War in Europe, 1750–1815

(p.147) 8 The Culture of War in Europe, 1750–1815
The Crisis of the Absolute Monarchy

David A. Bell

British Academy

This chapter examines the development of the ‘culture of war’ in Europe, focusing on France, from the Old Regime through the First Empire. It argues that before the Revolution, French aristocratic elites saw warfare as an ordinary part of human existence — and indeed, if kept under proper control, a positive and desirable one. It then shows how this idea was challenged during the Enlightenment, by critics who saw warfare as extraordinary and aberrant, with some deeming it extraordinarily horrible, and others depicting it, at least potentially, as extraordinarily sublime and regenerative. The chapter discusses how these conflicting ideas helped to shape the actual practice and course of the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, looking particularly at the question of why these wars proved so terribly difficult to control, restrain, and bring to an end.

Keywords:   war, peace, pacifism, militarism, regeneration, aristocracy, national assembly, enlightenment, army

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