New Approaches under the Old Regime

TitleNew Approaches under the Old Regime
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsWilson, Peter H.
EditorMortimer, Geoff
Book TitleEarly Modern Military History, 1450-1815
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
CityNew York

The term ‘old regime’ (ancien régime) was invented by the French revolutionaries to distinguish their brave new world from the monarchies they hoped to displace. Thanks to the convention that their revolution was a major turning point in world history and the birth of ‘modernity’, it has stuck as a general label for the period from 1648 to 1789. This time is generally defined, in contrast to the preceding and subsequent eras, as a time of relative stability under ‘absolute’ monarchies. Just as the period after 1789 is associated with ‘revolutionary warfare’, so the old regime is related to its own distinct form of ‘limited war’. This reflects a general assumption in historical writing and in social and political science that military and political organization are directly interrelated and that armies display the characteristics of the societies they serve. 

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