Forging Napoleon's Grande Armee: Motivation, Military Culture, and Masculinity in the French Army

By Fahey, John E. | Military Review, July-August 2014 | Go to article overview

Forging Napoleon's Grande Armee: Motivation, Military Culture, and Masculinity in the French Army


Fahey, John E., Military Review


FORGING NAPOLEON'S GRANDE ARMEE: Motivation, Military Culture, and Masculinity in the French Army, 1800-1808

Michael J. Hughes, New York University Press, New York, 2012, 284 pages, $50.00

Michael Hughes' Forging Napoleon's Grande Armee examines the changes within the French military during the early Napoleonic Wars. Soldiers shifted from being committed supporters of the republic and republican values, to devotees to a monarch with absolute power far beyond anything of the Ancien Regime. Hughes looks at five sources of motivation: honor, patriotism, a martial and virile masculinity, devotion to Napoleon, and coercion. The motivators kept Napoleon's soldiers committed to him and eventually committed to the French nation.

The Army of the Coasts, which eventually formed the core of the Grande Armee, provides an opportunity to study early 19th-century armies. The army remained together as a coherent unit much longer than most 19th-century formations, allowing a more thorough indoctrination and strengthening of unit cohesion. Napoleon created ways to ensure loyalty to himself, including military songs, plays, orders of the day, awards, and honorary associations. Napoleon manipulated the French army from being motivated by revolutionary virtue to a more individualistic honor. Patriotic writers who viewed virtue as alien to the French character deemed this an advisable shift. The army emphasized the search for honor and glory as a reward for military service. …

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