Citizenship, Honour and Masculinity: Military Qualities under the French Revolution and Empire

TitleCitizenship, Honour and Masculinity: Military Qualities under the French Revolution and Empire
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsForrest, Alan
EditorHagemann, Karen, Gisela Mettele, and Jane Rendall
Book TitleGender, War and Politics: Transatlantic Perspectives, 1775-1830
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
CityBasingstoke, UK, and New York

This book chapter explores the connection between citizenship, military service and honour in Revolutionary France and the Napoelonic Emipre. Just as contemporaries argued about the supposed attributes of the soldiers who fought for revolutionary France during the decade after 1789, so historians have found it impossible to agree about their character or their military qualities. Some regard them as a new creation, the product of a society regenerated by the experience of revolution, an army of militants for whom the notion of honour had a new sense, one born of revolutionary zeal and ideological commitment.  But are we too prone to confuse the words of a few enthusiastic young men, stirred by republican speeches and heroic images on the eve of battle, with the spirit of the army as a whole? Or were they, just soldiers like any other, ordered and disciplined in the language and demagogy of revolution but otherwise little different from the generations of French soldiers who had gone before them, and fighting not for ideology but for the conventional foreign-policy objectives of eighteenth-century states?

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