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The French Revolution For War Studies

an introduction looking at how the French revolution and its ideals allowed revolutionary france to survive invasion by almost everyone at the start of the revolutionary wars

Date : 11/01/2016


Author Information

Uploaded by : Paul
Uploaded on : 11/01/2016
Subject : History

The Historical context to the French Revolution for the themes paper

The French revolution like so many revolutions before and after starts as one thing and ends as a very different thing indeed, so is the concept of a revolution defined, a period of radical change. The French revolution starts as a revolution of the nobility against the absolute power of the King. It is not the revolution of the masses rather a rebellion of the nobility demanding more political representation for their views. Trouble really starts when the ‘Third Estate’ representing the middle classes declared itself a ‘National Assembly’ with the intention of writing a constitution for France as a ‘Bill of Rights’. Fear that the French King would use troops to crush the National Assembly leads to the storming of the Bastille and a formation of a citizen’s army called the National Guard. The National Assembly votes to abolish all elements of feudal privilege and the revolution really begins. It is this expression of challenging the old order that is seen as some much a threat by the old monarchies of Europe (often referred to as the ‘Ancien Regime’) less so the British who had fought their conflict over the rights of King and Parliament the previous century and whose political system restricted the power of the King. Thus until the execution of the French King quite a lot of British political opinion favoured the revolution.

The Battle of Valmy in September 1792 came as a rather nasty shock as the French revolutionary army stood against the Prussians (who were thought to be the best soldiers on the continent). In truth compared with later battles this was a small affair and the survival of the French army can be in part put down to the use of artillery. The French were at the forefront of reforms of artillery on the battlefield (see moodle) and the significance of Valmy is more political than military. Nevertheless it sent a clear signal that the Revolutionary armies could not be underestimated as enthusiastic, half-trained trained soldiers had held off an army that should have easily beaten them. Having been condemned to death by the revolutionary Jacobins the French King was executed in January 1793. Not only had the French executed their King they promised by an ‘Edict of Fraternity’ to aid all foreign peoples to overthrow their kings. The revolutionary generals were instructed to seize the land of nobles and that of the church abolish feudalism and proclaim the ‘Sovereignty of the People’ France declared that its natural borders lay at the Rhine, the Pyrenees and the Alps. In a final gesture they sent ships to threaten the vital port of Antwerp and declared war on Britain, Holland and Spain.

1793 was a crucial year, Revolutionary France faced Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, Holland, Prussia and Spain. She also experienced two internal Royalist uprisings . To survive the Terror was unleashed, no decent would be allowed. At least two revolutionary generals were guillotined for failure to defeat the enemy, the currency fell by 22% and France was invaded by the enemies stacked against them. How would she survive?

The answer was in becoming even more radical than before. Lazare Nicholas Carnot was the War Minister of the Committee for Public Safety . Carnot reorganised the French army introduced proper training to complement revolutionary enthusiasm. He introduced the Corps system (pronounced KORS) than in effect created miniature armies with all their supporting arms including infantry, cavalry, artillery and engineers that could move rapidly and independently. French soldiers were taught to attack in column this was easier for poorly trained soldiers. They had the psychological support of their friends around them and the shock effect on enemy troops in line was considerable as the column advanced with drums beating and soldiers singing revolutionary songs like the Marseillaise. Ahead of the columns sharpshooters picked off the enemy’s officers. The cost would inevitably be high so the revolution created the Levee en Masse all unmarried French men between 18 and 25 were conscri pted into the army. Married men and older man were directed towards the new factories created to supply the revolutionary armies with all that they needed. The blue dye needed for the soldiers uniforms became a vital war product and its use for any other purpose was expressly forbidden. Carnot also focused on logistics creating a series of supply depots that ensured that what the army needed the army got and in the right place at the right time.

Conclusion – So why did the Revolutionary armies triumph against what seemed impossible odds. The use of terror against anyone even perceived to be a potential threat, Generals knew that if they failed they faced the Guillotine, the ordinary people so often oppressed were bound by the ideals of the revolution, equality, liberty and friendship to all who truly believed, a system of training soldiers that gave them just two months to learn what they needed to fight in column. Reform of the army allowed it to move faster in the corp system with artillery that was organised and suitable, supply bases provided what it needed. If the odds were still too great the sharpshooters picked off the enemies leaders, sowing confusion and affecting morale. In short the revolutionary French state mobilised every resource available to it to survive and triumph over its many enemies and obstacles

And then, wonder of wonders the revolution produced a true child of war, a young artillery officer named Napoleon Boneparte…

Task – The topic breaks down into four themes they are

The impact of factors directly related to the conduct of war: generalship, quality of soldiers, development of strategy and tactics, the work of military theorists, and the concept of total war.

The impact of technological change: industrialisation, developments in communications and transport, developments in weaponry.

Planning and Preparation: the effectiveness of alliances developments in the organisation, command and control of armies.

The relationship between relevant domestic factors and warfare: the organisation of the state for war, public opinion, conscri ption, economics, manpower and resources.

Your task is to link facts in the text above to the four themes, neatly draw up four columns, what goes where?

This resource was uploaded by: Paul

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