'Desperation to the Utmost': The Defeat of 1806 and the French Occupation in Prussian Experience and Perception

Title'Desperation to the Utmost': The Defeat of 1806 and the French Occupation in Prussian Experience and Perception
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsHagemann, Karen
EditorForrest, Alan, and Peter H. Wilson
Book TitleThe Bee and the Eagle: Napoleonic France and the End of the Holy Roman Empire, 1806
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
CityBasingstoke, UK ; New York, NY

The events of 1806 and their aftermath were one of the most important subjects in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German historiography. They stood at the centre of the national myth of Germany’s ‘renewal’ after the crushing Prussian defeat at Jena and Auerstedt in October 1806, which was interpreted as a ‘national debacle.’ Yet, after 1945 western historians lost interest in the era, rejecting its earlier eminence and pro-Prussian interpretation, and set out to interpret the role of Prussia in German history more critically. As scholarship on Napoleonic Germany revived from the late 1960s, it moved in three directions, focusing on military campaigns and alliances, emerging sovereign states and reform movements, and early articulations of modern nationalism. These three thematic areas, however, were often treated in isolation from one another. Moreover, the scholarship did not really understand the importance of the experience of the French occupation of Prussia between 1806 und 1809 for the development not only of the Prussian reform policy but also the  the attitude of ordinary people in the monarchy toward France and French people. This book chapter examines the economic, social, cultural and political aftermath of the French occupation of Prussia after its dramatic defeat in 1806-07.

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