Colloque went (well)

The conference on Louis XIV’s last two wars (Le grand tournant) was held at the Service historique de la Défense (Vincennes) without a hitch – the Sun King refuses to be eclipsed by the dark clouds of a few Islamic terrorists. I’m sure Phil McCluskey could find some irony in there somewhere. The first day saw an almost full house, 50+ attendees, while the second day (a Friday, with fewer presentations) saw probably 30 in attendance. Quite a success, given that many Parisian academic conferences/meetings scheduled for that week were cancelled altogether, and given the fact that Paris was still technically in a state of emergency.

Like most European academic conferences that I’ve attended, there was little premeditated commentary. The chairs largely served to introduce each presenter, though occasionally they might make some brief commentary at the end. This means, of course, that the presenters have until the day of their presentation to write their talk – not sure if this is generally a good thing or a bad thing. All this differs from the American academic conference culture, where the papers are due weeks before the conference, so the commentator has time to draft a more considered response to each paper, and combine the papers together thematically.

The program follows, with my briefest of summaries of each paper:

Des pratiques guerrières en mutation, prés. Bertrand Fonck (SHD)

D’une guerre à l’autre, le double retard de l’infanterie française (1688-1715), par Boris Bouget (musée de l’Armée).

Discussed the technological and tactical limitations on French infantry weapons and tactics.

«Le bras droit des armées»: la cavalerie dans les dernières guerres de Louis XIV, par Frédéric Chauviré (CERHIO)

Good summary of the many roles cavalry played in the wars of the period.

Pour une histoire-campagne, prés. Hervé Drévillon (Université Paris 1)

Le duc de Vendôme en Italie (1702-1706), par Fadi El Hage (IHMC/Université Paris 1)

Argued that Vendôme was fortunate to get recalled from Italy before Eugene relieved Turin and exposed Vendôme’s poor planning for the theater.

A l’aube de la campagne: l’impact du quartier d’hiver dans le déroulement de la campagne de Flandre de 1712, par François Royal (SHD)

Interesting paper discussing the diplomatic, logistical and preparatory operations of the French army in Flanders during the winter 1711-1712.

Batailles, sièges et usages de la violence, prés. Olivier Chaline (Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Au cœur de la bataille: l’expérience des combats de la guerre de Succession d’Espagne, par Clément Oury (Centre ISSN International)

Described the psychological responses to battle by officers and soldiers.

Louis XIV aimait-il trop la bataille?, par Jamel Ostwald (Eastern Connecticut State University)

Thought-piece on Louis’ willingness to order relief battles despite his oft-stated “fear” of battle.

Le sort des vaincus pendant les guerres de Louis XIV: les limites de la culture de la reddition honorable, par Paul Vo-Ha (Université Paris 1)

All the ways in which Louis’ armies didn’t play nice: devastations, bombardments, expulsions…

Regards croisés, prés. Guy Rowlands (University of Saint-Andrews)

Louis XIV, ennemi de la Chrétienté. Le roi noirci par ses adversaires pendant la guerre de la Ligue d’Augsbourg, par Isaure Boitel (Université de Picardie – Jules Verne)

Analyzed several Allied (English, Dutch) anti-Louis illustrations.

Repenser la Boyne : regards croisés, France-Irlande, par Nathalie Genet-Rouffiac (Ministère de la Défense)

Présentation de documents d’archives et de la bibliothèque du SHD

Exhibition of variety of documents from the archive’s holdings, including numerous maps and contemporary engravings.

Les contraintes stratégiques et logistiques de la guerre, prés. Michèle Virol (Université de Rouen)

Les enjeux géostratégiques des différents théâtres d’opérations de la France sous Louis XIV, par Jean-Philippe Cénat

Good overview of the fundamental geostrategic considerations in each theater of war (Flanders, Germany, Italy, Spain).

The Failure of Bourbon Empire in Europe: the Logistics of French Defeat and Survival in the War of the Spanish Succession, par Guy Rowlands (University of Saint-Andrews)

Interesting analysis of the economic/logistical collapse of France by late war – elicited some good discussion of how desperate France really was by 1712.

Un temps de reconfigurations géopolitiques, prés. Jean-Philippe Cénat

L’histoire d’un déclin ou les limites de la puissance? La France face aux reconfigurations géopolitiques de l’Europe du Nord, au tournant des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, par Eric Schnakenbourg (Université de Nantes)

Summary of the politics and diplomacy of the Baltic during the period.

Le théâtre atlantique durant la seconde partie du règne louis-quatorzien: bilan naval et colonial, par Philippe Hrodej (Université de Bretagne Sud)

Thorough discussion of the blue water and raiding warfare at sea.

Discours et représentations de la guerre, prés. Charles-Edouard Levillain (Université Paris-Diderot)

La «désolation du Palatinat» (1688-1689): du scandale à l’évènement, par Emilie Dosquet (Paris 1)

Analyzed the contemporary media debate over the French devastation of the Palatinate. Prompted some good discussion on the laws of war and propaganda.

Peindre la guerre, 1688-1715, par Bertrand Fonck (SHD)

Survey of the main painters of Louis’ wars, and the role of patronage. Louis liked landscapes.

 

The conference ended with Hervé Drévillon introducing John Lynn as the scholar most responsible for reinvigorating the military history of Louis XIV’s reign with his Giant of the Grand Siècle (1997). Lynn then provided an égo-histoire (intellectual biography) of his career up to the drafting of his Wars of Louis XIV.

 

All in all, ‘twas an excellent conference. (And I even understood 90%-95% of what each speaker said!) Its main organizers – Hervé Drévillon and Bertrand Fonck – deserve congratulations. It’s made me decide to discuss French historians and historiography on this blog more. There’s a whole crop of new scholars (many under the tutelage of Drévillon) who are providing detailed, archivally-based analyses of Louis’ armies and wars. Their work deserves to be disseminated beyond la Francophonie. So stay tuned.*

 

* There’s a plan to publish the actes (i.e. proceedings from the conference) sometime in the next year or two. There are even rumors that video of the conference will be posted on YouTube. Depending on whether the videographers got my good side or not, I might even post the link.

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4 responses to “Colloque went (well)”

  1. Ben Trotter says :

    Happy to hear that all went well. Thanks for the useful summaries of the presentations.

  2. Bjorn Thegeby says :

    Thanks. A month-long conference in Geneva prevented me from going, but it sounds really interesting. Anyone working on Spain;-)?

  3. Bjorn Thegeby says :

    Drumroll, cymbal, hook from stage left.;-)

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