Controlling Paris: Armed Forces and Counter-Revolution, 1789-1848

Controlling Paris: Armed Forces and Counter-Revolution, 1789-1848

Controlling Paris: Armed Forces and Counter-Revolution, 1789-1848

Controlling Paris: Armed Forces and Counter-Revolution, 1789-1848

Synopsis

When not at war, armies are often used to control civil disorders, especially in eras of rapid social change and unrest. But in nineteenth century Europe, without the technological advances of modern armies and police forces, an army's only advantages were discipline and organization--and in the face of popular opposition to the regime in power, both could rapidly deteriorate. Such was the case in France after the Napoleonic Wars, where a cumulative recent history of failure weakened an already fragile army's ability to keep the peace. After the February 1848 overthrow of the last king of France, the new republican government proved remarkably resilient, retaining power while pursuing moderate social policies despite the concerted efforts of a variety of radical and socialist groups. These efforts took numerous forms, ranging from demonstrations to attempted coups to full-scale urban combat, and culminated in the crisis of the June Days. At stake was the future of French government and the social and economic policy of France at large. In Controlling Paris, Jonathan M. House offers us a study of revolution from the viewpoint of the government rather than the revolutionary. It is not focused on military tactics so much as on the broader issues involved in controlling civil disorders: relations between the government and its military leaders, causes and social issues of public disorder, political loyalty of troops in crisis, and excessive use of force to control civil disorders. Yet somehow, despite all these disadvantages, the French police and armed forces prevented regime change far more often than they failed to do so. Jonathan M. House is the William A. Stofft Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College. His previous books include Combined Arms Warfare in the 20th Century; A Military History of the Cold War, 1944-1962; and, with David M. Glantz, When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler.

Excerpt

For four decades after 1815, civil disorders occupied an unusually prominent place in the political and military history of Europe. Colonial campaigns abounded, but war between nation-states was overshadowed by constant internal strife and political conspiracies. Rapid social and economic changes combined with crowded urban conditions that gave a tactical advantage to insurgents. the standing armies of Europe notably failed to control the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, but once the troops recovered from their initial surprise, they proved remarkably successful in preserving the political status quo in a changing society. This work seeks to identify the patterns of this entire period in France before providing an extended case study of the events of 1848.

One might argue, of course, that the European armies and police forces were doomed to fail, and that in the long run there was a positive trend in favor of a more representative government and social change; therefore, all that the forces of order accomplished was to increase casualties without changing the historical outcome. Such an argument might make sense with the benefit of hindsight, but few contemporaries would have discounted the advantages of disciplined armed forces. in fact, the defenders of order had a remarkably successful record of repressing and limiting the forces of change.

Despite the frequency and magnitude of social and political unrest in France, unrest magnified by the powerful precedent of the French Revolution, the French Army and paramilitary forces had considerable success in controlling insurrections and other disorders. Not only did the French Army help the Spanish monarchy suppress liberalism in 1823– 1828, but that same army, in cooperation with the police and militia, thwarted numerous attempts to overthrow the post-Napoleonic monarchy in Paris. Until 1848, the rulers and generals of France regarded the . . .

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