Civilians and War in Europe, 1618-1815

Civilians and War in Europe, 1618-1815

Civilians and War in Europe, 1618-1815

Civilians and War in Europe, 1618-1815

Excerpt

The experience of civilians in wartime has received new and productive attention in recent years, with scholarship on war and the military being enriched by impulses from social and cultural history. As a result, the penetration of everyday life by the business of war, and the implication of civilians in military action, have become central to the history of warfare. Such approaches have spotlighted the complex situation of the civilian between 1618 and 1815, a period that saw shifting understandings of the treatment that civilians could expect and the rights that they could claim. This concern has also been integral to the recent historical literature that locates the beginnings of the modern phenomenon of ‘total war’ in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods.

A long-standing perception that the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars were the first modern wars has come to be articulated as a statement that they represent the first ‘total war’, anticipating Carl von Clausewitz’s pioneering conceptualisation and its adoption into general use to characterise the great wars of the twentieth century. In the case of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, ‘total war’ refers specifically to their ideological objects and the ways in which wars waged in the name of extirpating error tendentially legitimated hostilities against civilian populations. The term has also been

1 See Best, War and Law, pp. 18–44; Childs, Armies and Warfare; Anderson, War and Society; Corvisier, Armies and Societies; Grimsley and Rogers, eds., Civilians in the Path of War; Tallett, War and Society.

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