chapter  2
27 Pages

2War

The most explosive consequence of the French Revolution was war. ‘Militarized nationalism’, notes Schama, was its ‘heart and soul’.2 The level of economic and manpower mobilization was unprecedented, and had lasting political and ideological consequences: in Mann’s terms, the ‘four greatest modern state crystallizations - capitalism, militarism, representation and the national issue - were institutionalized together’.3 For a generation before 1815 France was almost continuously at war. During the century after 1815 she was marked by war more than any major European country, undertaking eight wars or expeditions in Europe,4 engaging in conflict with all the other continental Great Powers, and fighting innumerable colonial campaigns at a cost in French soldiers’ lives of about 350,0005 - a toll exceeded only in Russia, whose population was of course far greater. To this must be added civilian losses, very high in 1870-71. Fundamental political changes stemmed from war: the fall of the old monarchy; the rise and fall of Napoleon; the Bourbon restorations of 1814 and 1815; the fall of the Second Empire in 1870 and its replacement by the Third Republic; the fall of the Third Republic in 1940 and of the Vichy regime in 1944; and the installation of the Fifth Republic in 1958.