Introduction: Nations in Arms—People at War

TitleIntroduction: Nations in Arms—People at War
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsForrest, Alan, Karen Hagemann, and Jane Rendall
Book TitleSoldiers, Citizens and Civilians: Experiences and Perceptions of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1790–1820
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan

This introduction of the edited volume "Soldiers, Citizens and Civilians: Experiences and Perceptions of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1790-1820" with  essays that discuss the formative experience of the  French Reolutionary and Napoleoinc War (1792-1815)  for men and women, as soldiers, citizens and civilians, discusses the state of research and the conceptualization of the period, which has been described as that of the first "total war."  This war that affected millions of people’s lives, brought a whole continent into contact with armies and bloodshed, and subsumed the economies of most European states to the needs and exigencies of the military. The after-effects of the French Revolution, which permanently influenced European political culture far beyond France’s borders, have, of course, been widely analysed. But the extent to which the constant state of war that existed between 1792 and 1815 shaped the everyday experience of soldiers and civilians has been much less studied. Yet these wars affected nearly every European country as well as large areas of Asia, Africa and North America. They were conducted by mass armies and often mobilized by patriotic and national propaganda, and they led to the circulation of millions of people — soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians — throughout Europe and beyond. The changing nature of warfare had far-reaching consequences for civil society as well as for those directly engaged in fighting. Those who lived through the period between 1792 and 1815 shared formative experiences and memories. 

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