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HomeWar Experiences and Identities

War Experiences and Identities

The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in Contemporary Perception

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Published on Sunday, December 11, 2005


The importance of the armed struggles which took place across Europe and far beyond European borders between 1789 and 1815 for the framing of the political and military culture of the nineteenth century has been largely underestimated. The enduring legacy of this period of warfare related not only to the much-analysed after-effects of the French Revolution, which permanently influenced European political culture far beyond France's borders, but also to the constant state of war which existed between 1792 and 1815.


International Research Project, Working Group and Network on Nations, Borders, Identities

German Historical Institute London

Joint Workshop:

War Experiences and Identities: The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in Contemporary Perception

German Historical Institute London, 17 Bloomsbury Square
Friday and Saturday, February 24-25, 2006

PROF. HAGEN SCHULZE (German Historical Institute, London)
PD Dr. ARND BAUERKÄMPER (Berlin School for Comparative European History)
PROF. ALAN FORREST (University of York, Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies)
PROF. KAREN HAGEMANN (Technical University of Berlin / University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of History)

The Workshop is funded by the German Historical Institute London, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the German Research Foundation.

Aims and Agenda:

The importance of the armed struggles which took place across Europe and far beyond European borders between 1789 and 1815 for the framing of the political and military culture of the nineteenth century has been largely underestimated. The enduring legacy of this period of warfare related not only to the much-analysed after-effects of the French Revolution, which permanently influenced European political culture far beyond France's borders, but also to the constant state of war which existed between 1792 and 1815. These wars touched nearly every European country and also parts of Asia and Africa as well as North America. They were for the first time conducted by mass armies mobilised by patriotic and national propaganda, leading to the circulation of millions of people throughout Europe and beyond (soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians). They affected, in different degrees, the everyday lives of women and men of different religions and social strata across European and many non-European regions. The new style of warfare had far reaching consequences for civil society. Those who lived through the period between 1792 and 1815 as children, youths, and adults, shared – albeit from the most varied perspectives and disparate perceptions – formative common experiences and memories.
Though these conflicts were in many respects part of what may be regarded as the first world war they were also the first wars fought by all combatant parties increasingly as ”national wars” with mass armies recruited on the basis of universal mobilisation and provided for by requisition and plundering. The number of soldiers deployed surpassed anything ever seen in Europe. In order to defeat Napoleon, the ancien régime states also appropriated French military strategy, with its general aim of annihilating enemy troops. The changing nature of war had several consequences. Because of mass mobilisation and the spatial extension of these wars even ordinary men came as soldiers to regions they only had heard about before, encountered unknown people, languages and customs, across new borders. Both soldiers and civilians experienced a further brutalisation of warfare, with war casualties rising to previously unheard-of levels. Yet, because of their character as ‘national wars’, these conflicts were closely intertwined with the process of political and cultural nation building in Europe. It was not only France and Britain but also monarchies such as Prussia, Russia and Spain who sought, through appeals to national sentiment the mobilisation not only of men but also of civilian populations – men and women alike. Without the support of civil society the leading war powers would not have been able to go to war. They needed broad civilian support to provide equipment for armies, militias and volunteers, medical services for sick and wounded soldiers and war charities for invalids, widows and orphans. Women's scope of action steadily expanded, since they were not only solely responsible for supporting their families and carrying on the business of their soldier husbands, but were also entrusted in one way or another with wartime nursing and relief work. New gender images were crucial for the necessary patriotic-national mobilisation of both the military and civilian population, and were created in the process of the construction of a new gender order, hierarchical and complementary, that reached its peak in the war period between 1792 and 1815. This was used to legitimise the gender-specific tasks of men and women in the state, the military, society and family.
The new political concepts that emerged at the turn of the nineteenth century were gendered from the beginning, and were of central military importance. In the mobilisation of men for war gender images were extensively deployed, including the construction of men as protectors of family, home, and country, sometimes to demand for or promises of, more political rights. Citizenship and military service were therefore connected, in one way or another, and women excluded from the emerging national community of citizens of the state. These issues were not directly confronted at the Vienna Congress of 1814/15, which was influenced more by the determination to achieve a balance of power than by the principle of national self-determination. The conference will aim to develop the comparative study of the experiences of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars:

It will ask how these wars were experienced by men and women of different ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliation, political Weltanschauung, age and familial status, as soldiers, sailors or civilians, abroad and at home.

It will consider which factors most shaped experiences and perceptions of the wars and how far these became a part of individual and collective identities.

It will examine the role of ‘civilians at war’, alongside the soldiers, sailors and non-combatants who volunteered or were conscripted.
The conference will pay specific attention to the autobiographical source-materials for such experiences, mainly letters, diaries and published eyewitness reports from contemporaries. Inevitably the central social group will be the educated and literate elite (aristocratic and middle class men and women), although others will not be excluded where the sources are available. Many more letters, diaries and memoirs appear to have been published between 1792 and 1815 than during previous eighteenth-century conflicts. Men and women of the upper and middle classes attempted to come to terms with the war experience by reaching for the pen, writing letters to their relatives at the front or in other affected regions, or by keeping diaries. Sometimes, after the war, such letters or diaries were published, to become a part of the mythologising of the period as a ”heroic era” and of the shaping of new national and regional identities. The conference will consider the methodological issues involved in the reading of such source-materials.
Until now the focus of research has mainly been upon the political, diplomatic and military dimensions of the wars, viewed in the main through national historiographies. Comparative studies, including metropolitan-regional differences, are rare, as are studies of the social and everyday histories of these wars. The dimension of gender difference has, as yet, hardly been considered systematically. This conference hopes to encourage work in all these areas, and, especially, to highlight, comparatively, the images and narratives that recur in the experience and perception of the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars across and beyond Europe. We are particularly interested in the construction of ‘the self’ and ‘the other’ through the drawing of boundaries defined in national, regional, social or cultural terms.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Registration and Welcome Coffee
9:30-10:30 a.m.
10:30–10:45 a.m.
PROF. HAGEN SCHULZE (German Historical Institute, London)
PROF. ALAN FORREST (University of York)

Introduction: `Nations in Arms, Nations at War’
10:45–11:30 a.m.
PROF. ALAN FORREST (University of York)

Military Experiences of the Wars I: Ordinary Soldiers
11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
DR. LAURENCE MONTROUSSIER (Université Montpellier 1):
British and French soldiers’ memories between 1799 and 1815
PROF. NATALIE PETITEAU (Université d’Avignon) :
“Les portées d’une expérience de guerre : les soldats des armées napoléoniennes”
Commentator: PROF. ETIENNE FRANÇOIS (TU Berlin)

Lunch: 1:00 –2:00 p.m.

Military Experiences of the Wars II: Officers
2:00–3:30 p.m.
PROF. JOHN E. COOKSON (University of Canterbury)
War experiences of British soldiers and officers. The British armed forces in the Wars against Napoleon
DR. JAROSLAW CZUBATY (University of Warsaw) :
"Tout pour la gloire". The ways of the military career in the Duchy of Warszaw 1806-1815
Commentator: Prof. Beatrice Heuser (Military History Research Institute)

Coffee Break: 3:30–3:45 p.m.

Civilians at War
3:45–5:45 p.m.

Chair: DR. HOLGER HOOCK (Cambridge University)
HD DR. UTE PLANERT (University of Tubingen):
Civilian war experiences: South-West Germany during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
DR. PATRICIA LIN (University of California, Berkeley):
Caring for the Nation's Families: British Soldiers' and Sailors' Families and the State, 1793-1815)
PROF. KATHERINE AASLESTAD (University of West Virginia):
The civilian experiences of the continental blockade in Northern Germany
Commentator: PROF. CLIVE EMSLEY (Open University)

Dinner: 7.00 p.m.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Gender and the Experience of War
9:30 a.m.–11:15 p.m.
Chair: PROF. ALAN FORREST (30 minutes)
Gendered perception and experience of the Anti-Napoleonic Wars: A case study
DAVID HOPKIN M.A. (University of Glasgow) :
Female Soldiers and the Battle of the Sexes in France
Commentator: DR. JANE RENDALL (University of York)

Coffee Break: 11:15–11:30 p.m.

Regional Experiences: Comparative Approaches
11:30 a.m.–1.15 p.m.
Chair: DR. BRENDAN SIMMS (University of Cambridge)
PROF. HORST CARL (University of Gießen) :
War experiences and religion in the Netherlands, Belgium and the Federation of the Rhine, 1792-1815
PROF. REINHARD STAUBER (University of Klagenfurt) :
War experiences in Austria, Tyrol and Northern Italy during the Napoleonic Wars
The Polish and Russian experience of the Wars of Napoleon
Commentator: PROF. JANET HARTLEY (London School of Economics)

Lunch: 1:15–2:30 p.m.

War, Citizenship and Patriotic Mobilisation
2:30–4:15 p.m.
Chair: PROF. TIM BLANNING (University of Cambridge)
DR. JOHAN JOOR (University of Amsterdam) :
Dutch popular protest in the Napoleonic period
DR. KEVIN LINCH (University of Leeds) :
The British volunteer movement and the war against Napoleon
PROF. CLAUDIA KRAFT (University of Erfurt) :
The Polish struggle for independence, military mobilization and political rights
Commentator: DR. MICHAEL ROWE (Kings College London)
Coffee Break: 4:15–4:30 p.m.

Final Discussion
Introductory Remarks
PROF. RICHARD BESSEL (University of York)
PROF. DENNIS SHOWALTER (University of Colorado)

PD Dr. ARND BAUERKÄMPER (Berlin School for Comparative European History)
PROF. KAREN HAGEMANN (TU Berlin / University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
GHI London

NBI Project Board

Prof. Karen Hagemann (project director)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
History Department
Email: Hagemann@unc.edu
Technische Universität Berlin
Institut für Geschichte und Kunstgeschichte
Email: hagemann@kgw.tu-berlin.de

PD Dr. Arnd Bauerkämper
Freie Universität Berlin
Berliner Kolleg für Vergleichende Geschichte Europas (BKVGE)
Email: baue@zedat.fu-berlin.de

Prof. Richard Bessel
Department of History
University of York
Email: rjb8@york.ac.uk

Prof. Etienne François
Technische Universität Berlin
Email: etienne.francois@tu-berlin.de

Prof. Alan Forrest
University of York
The Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies
Email: aif1@york.ac.uk

Prof. Hartmut Kaelble
Berliner Kolleg für Vergleichende Geschichte
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften
Email: KaelbleH@geschichte.hu-Berlin.de

Dr. Jane Rendall
University of York
The Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies
Email: jr3@york.ac.uk

In co-operation with:

German Historical Institute London

Prof. Hagen Schulze (director)
German Historical Institute
17 Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2NJ
Email: hschulze@ghil.ac.uk



  • Londres
    London, Britain


  • Friday, February 24, 2006


  • Prof. Karen Hagemann
    courriel : Hagemann [at] unc [dot] edu

Information source

  • Karen Hegemann
    courriel : hagemann [at] kgw [dot] tu-berlin [dot] de


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« War Experiences and Identities », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Sunday, December 11, 2005, https://doi.org/10.58079/a9u

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