From Yorktown to Valmy: The Transformation of the French Army in an Age of Revolution

By Samuel F. Scott | Go to book overview

PREFACE

THIS BOOK IS THE RESULT of many—perhaps too many—years of research and writing. It has suffered from numerous postponements for various professional and personal reasons. Ideally, it should have been published a decade or two ago, during the bicentennial celebrations of the American and French Revolutions; however, it was not ready then. I hope it is ready now.

I consistently derived pleasure from working on this project. No matter what the causes or duration of the interruptions, I always enjoyed returning to it and savoring the human dramas that emerged from the research. I still do. Some readers might object to the number of examples I use to elucidate certain points in this study. I am unwilling to let these human beings fade into historical generalizations or statistics. I feel this all the more strongly because the great majority of the examples are drawn from the lives of ordinary people—that is, obscure individuals who otherwise seldom or never emerge from historical records. At the same time, I believe that it is ahistorical or excessively ideological to treat the officers and soldiers whose experiences I describe and analyze as either idiosyncratic anecdotes or the passive victims of great historical movements. These men played a direct and immediate—albeit limited—role in the most important developments of their time. For those who still find my examples excessive, I offer one optimistic note: They could have been multiplied many times over!

The primary goal of this work is to improve understanding of the closely related phenomena of revolution and war in the late eighteenth century. Both activities were conducted in the name of the highest principles. Both entailed extensive violence and suffering. And both involved the mass participation of

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