Giants of the Grand Siècle

So what’s new in the world of EMEM historiography? The French are on the attack.

Sure, English historians continue to dominate the fiscal-military side of the ledger, as well as war-and-society topics. And, yes, the Germans continue their obsession with the Altagsgeschichte (everyday history) of the Thirty Years War. Italianists are even paying more attention to the Wars of Italy of the 16th century. Germanic scholars, both German and Dutch/Belgian, seem a bit more interested in the diplomatic history of these early modern wars as well. And even Spanish scholars are starting to write about their own wars from the period. And there are actually quite a few scholars working on those Terrible Turks as well, from what I can tell. But don’t worry, English-language collections still tend to serve as the default smorgasbord of different regions and decades, by scholars from around the globe.

Finally, though, French historians have embraced their inner giant. If you’ve read my past bibliography posts, you’ve already seen this trend in my shift to including foreign-language – primarily French-language – publications.  And this trend has only increased over the past few years, now that there’s a cadre of young (and older) French historians who have rediscovered the early modern age in all its martial glory. And they’ve got the conferences and edited collections to prove it. I’ve already mentioned a few of the recent publications over the past few years, but I’ll briefly re-cite them in one place, so you can see the trend:

  • Corvisier, André, ed. Le Soldat, la stratégie, la mort: mélanges André Corvisier. Economica, 1989.
  • Blanchard, Anne, Jean Meyer, Michel Mollat du Jourdain, André Corvisier, and Philippe Contamine. Histoire militaire de la France, tome 1: Des origines à 1715. Presses Universitaires de France – PUF, 1992.
  • Bérenger, Jean. La Révolution militaire en Europe, XVe-XVIIIe siècles: actes du colloque organisé le 4 avril 1997 à Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan par le Centre de recherches des Écoles de Coëtquidan, par l’Institut de Recherches sur les civilisations de l’Occident Moderne (Université de Paris-Sorbonne) et par l’Institut de Stratégie Comparée. Institut de stratégie comparée, 1998.
  • Chagniot, Jean. Guerre et société à l’époque moderne. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France – PUF, 2001.
  • Desplat, Christian, ed. Les villageois face à la guerre, XIVe-XVIIIe siècle: actes des XXIIes Journées internationales d’histoire de l’Abbaye de Flaran, 8, 9, 10 septembre 2000. Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 2002.
  • Chagniot, Jean, ed. Combattre, gouverner, écrire: Etudes réunies en l’honneur de Jean Chagniot. Paris: Economica, 2003.
  • Tollet, Daniel, ed. Guerres et paix en Europe centrale aux époques moderne et contemporaine: mélanges d’histoire des relations internationales offerts à Jean Bérenger. Presses Paris Sorbonne, 2003.
  • Warmoes, Isabelle, and Victoria Sanger, eds. Vauban, bâtisseur du Roi-Soleil. Paris: Somogy éditions d’art, 2007.
  • Salzmann, Jean-Pierre, ed. Vauban: militaire et économiste sous Louis XIV. Actes du colloque de 23-24 juin 2007 à Marsal. 2 vols. Luxembourg: Section Historique de l’Institut Grand-Ducal de Luxembourg, 2008.
  • Chanet, Jean-François. Les ressources des faibles: Neutralités, sauvegardes, accommodements en temps de guerre (XVIe-XVIIIe siècle). Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2010.
  • Saupin, Guy, and Eric Schnakenbourg, eds. Expériences de la guerre et pratiques de la paix de l’Antiquité au XXe siècle: Etudes réunies en l’honneur du professeur Jean-Pierre Bois. Rennes: PU Rennes, 2013.
  • Deruelle, Benjamin, and Bernard Gainot, eds. La construction du militaire: Volume 1, Savoirs et savoir-faire militaires à l’époque moderne. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2013.
  • Baechler, Jean, and Jean-Vincent Holeindre, eds. Penseurs de la stratégie. Paris: Editions Hermann, 2014.
  • Drévillon, Hervé, and Arnaud Guinier, eds. Les Lumières de la guerre : Mémoires militaires du XVIIIe siècle conservés au Service historique de la Défense. 2 vols. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2015.
  • Brunet, Serge, and José Javier Ruiz Ibáñez, eds. Les milices dans la première modernité. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2015.
  • Fonck, Bertrand, and Nathalie Genet-Rouffiac, eds. Combattre et gouverner: Dynamiques de l’histoire militaire de l’époque moderne (XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2015.
  • Collectifs. D’Azincourt à Marignan: Chevaliers et bombardes, 1415-1515. Paris: Gallimard, 2015.
  • Chauviré, Frédéric, and Bertrand Fonck, eds. L’âge d’or de la cavalerie. Paris: Gallimard, 2015.
  • Boltanski, Ariane, Yann Lagadec, and Franck Mercier, eds. La bataille. Du fait d’armes au combat idéologique, XIe–XIXe siècle. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2015.
  • Jalabert, Laurent, and Stefano Simiz, eds. Le soldat face au clerc. Armée et religion en Europe occidentale (XVe-XIXe siècle). Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2016.
  • Drévillon, Hervé, Bertrand Fonck, and Jean-Philippe Cénat, eds. Les dernières guerres de Louis XIV: 1688-1715. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2017.

If I were to include the chapters in these collections, they would easily number a couple hundred from several dozen authors. But just from the above titles and contributors, you can see the progression:

  • from doyens of the French historical establishment – André Corvisier, Jean-Pierre Bois, Jean Bérenger and Jean Chagniot most prominently – being festschrifted at the tail end of their careers
  • to a whole host of mid-career converts and newly-minted disciples. The military history of early modern France, and of Louis XIV’s age in particular, is definitely on the rise.

Just as interestingly, the French interest in war and society, evidenced in the early (1960s-1970s) works of scholars like Corvisier and Bois, has subsided a bit, many following the path of Corvisier, who turned, by the 1980s, to a more focused look at the sharp end of war in his La bataille de Malplaquet 1709: L’effondrement de la France évité (1997). After a brief flirtation with the Military Revolution, French military-historical scholarship of the past two decades has specialized in case studies (primarily of France) and topical analyses (primarily of France). Cultural and social topics continue to receive attention, bien sûr, but what’s striking is how traditional military subjects have also seen a renaissance. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that the Service historique de la Defense is supporting such researches with conferences and publication assistance.

This return to histoire événementielle appears a reverse image of what’s happened in the U.S. over the same timeframe. Even though Hervé Drévillon attributed the recent increase in early modern French military history to the influence of John Lynn’s Giant of the Grand Siècle (1997), Lynn’s own work has gone in a somewhat different direction ever since (after, it should be noted, beginning in the French Revolutionary armies). After his 1999 narrative of the Wars of Louis XIV, he shifted gears to works on women in early modern armies, just finished a book on modern terrorism, and is currently working on a broad history of surrender. This, I think, is more than a single example of a declining interest in the details of EMEMH among American academics: there are, to my knowledge, only a handful of young American scholars focusing on the period of 17C-18C European warfare (defined broadly), much less traditional military history (however that’s defined). And several of these focus much more on the later 18C into the Revolution.

Perhaps that’s not surprising, since I’d be hard-pressed to identify more than a handful of Ph.D. programs with more than a solitary European military historian (again, defined broadly) who could serve as advisor. I don’t mean to restart the old flame wars of ‘whither military history?’ and cast blame and rend garments, other than to suggest that, perhaps, the golden age of American students of EMEMH in the 1980s to late 1990s, advised by scholars like Joe Guilmartin, Geoffrey Parker and John Lynn at Ohio State and Illinois, where we had a dozen or more graduate students all working on the same general area, was an unsustainable deviation from the norm – unless you’re an American doing American history, or at least doing modern history. Maybe structural and institutional factors helped re-establish the normal state of affairs: the brutal job market for History Ph.D.s over the past several decades (or more!) certainly hasn’t helped matters. Last statistics I saw from the American Historical Association, a few years back, estimated about 1%-2% of academic historians were self-declared “military” historians, perhaps a bit more than the number of academic “diplomatic” historians. Perhaps it’s only natural, as well, that national history dominates a country’s historiographical interests, even in as large a country as the United States.

But back to the point: French military history is on the rise, and it’s hardly a surprise that they are focusing on their own nation’s martial past. In case we needed further evidence of the rise of EMFrenchMH, and of the concomitant necessity to read French, we can add one more publication to the above list, an edited collection which includes some familiar faces, as well as some new ones.

Jalabert, Laurent, ed. Les Prisonniers de Guerre (XVe-XIXe Siècle) Entre Marginalisation et Reconnaissance. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018.

Chapters with an early modern focus include:

  • Ambühl, Rémy. “Le statut de prisonnier de guerre et les lois de la rançon à la fin du Moyen Âge.” In Les prisonniers de guerre (XVe-XIXe siècle) Entre marginalisation et reconnaissance Laurent Jalabert (dir.), edited by Laurent Jalabert, 99–112. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018. [If the medievalists.net website can include 17C stories under its rubric, we EMEMHians will annex late medieval!]
  • Bardakçi, Özkan. “La figure des prisonniers de guerre (Européens et Ottomans) à travers les récits de l’expédition de Candie (1667-1669) : entre mort, souffrance et trahison.” In Les prisonniers de guerre (XVe-XIXe siècle) Entre marginalisation et reconnaissance Laurent Jalabert (dir.), edited by Laurent Jalabert, 41–50. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018.
  • Chaline, Olivier. “Conclusions.” In Les prisonniers de guerre (XVe-XIXe siècle) Entre marginalisation et reconnaissance Laurent Jalabert (dir.), edited by Laurent Jalabert, 285-. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018.
  • Chauviré, Frédéric. “Le sort des prisonniers sur le champ de bataille aux XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles, vers une humanisation?” In Les prisonniers de guerre (XVe-XIXe siècle) Entre marginalisation et reconnaissance Laurent Jalabert (dir.), edited by Laurent Jalabert, 113–26. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018.
  • Frijhoff, Willem. “Prisonniers de guerre néerlandais aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles.” In Les prisonniers de guerre (XVe-XIXe siècle) Entre marginalisation et reconnaissance Laurent Jalabert (dir.), edited by Laurent Jalabert, 233–48. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018.
  • Marquis, Hugues. “Le discours sur les prisonniers de guerre, des Lumières à la Révolution.” In Les prisonniers de guerre (XVe-XIXe siècle) Entre marginalisation et reconnaissance Laurent Jalabert (dir.), edited by Laurent Jalabert, 51–64. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018.
  • Martin, Philippe. “Vivre sa foi en captivité : les guerres indiennes 1640-1670.” In Les prisonniers de guerre (XVe-XIXe siècle) Entre marginalisation et reconnaissance Laurent Jalabert (dir.), edited by Laurent Jalabert, 267–84. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018.
  • Perréon, Stéphane. “Entre représailles et indispensable coopération : la gestion administrative des marins prisonniers de guerre pendant la guerre de la Ligue d’Augsbourg (1688-1697).” In Les prisonniers de guerre (XVe-XIXe siècle) Entre marginalisation et reconnaissance Laurent Jalabert (dir.), edited by Laurent Jalabert, 127–42. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018.
  • Picaud-Monnerat, Sandrine. “Les prisonniers de guerre pendant la guerre Succession d’Autriche.” In Les prisonniers de guerre (XVe-XIXe siècle) Entre marginalisation et reconnaissance Laurent Jalabert (dir.), edited by Laurent Jalabert, 143–58. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018.
  • Plassmann, Max. “Kriegsgefangene der Reichsarmee im Neunjährigen Krieg und im Spanischen Erbfolgekrieg (1688-1714).” In Les prisonniers de guerre (XVe-XIXe siècle) Entre marginalisation et reconnaissance Laurent Jalabert (dir.), edited by Laurent Jalabert, 199–212. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018. [Hey, how did a German chapter get in here???]
  • Vo-Ha, Paul. “Les prisonniers de guerre de la bataille de Fleurus (1690-1691).” In Les prisonniers de guerre (XVe-XIXe siècle) Entre marginalisation et reconnaissance Laurent Jalabert (dir.), edited by Laurent Jalabert, 249–66. Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2018.

En avant!

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One response to “Giants of the Grand Siècle”

  1. Tom Reilly says :

    Hi there,

    I have been a subscriber to your excellent blog for some years and I was wondering if you could help me. I am making a call out for papers on Cromwell in Ireland. A new volume will be published next year (2019) entitled ‘Cromwell and Ireland: New Perspectives’.

    Edited by Professors Martyn Bennett and Raymond Gillespie and Dr R Scott Spurlock the idea is to publish work on Cromwell in Ireland and that all contributors will deal with the civilian massacre allegations. Should Cromwell be labelled a war criminal? Sort of thing. So far we have papers on the Cromwellian Settlement, Cromwell and Irish Catholics, Cromwell in Irish memory, Cromwell in the dock; the case for the defence and JB Williams/JD Muddiman analysed. Prof Padraig Lenihan, Nicholas Canny and Dr John Cunningham are all confirmed contributors.

    My brainchild, we are looking for papers from anyone working on Cromwell or the Irish wars 1641-1652. I was wondering if your blog might be a vehicle that could be used to attract further contributors.

    I would be grateful for any reply.

    Thanks in advance.

    Tom Reilly Author ‘Cromwell at Drogheda’, Cromwell: ‘An Honourable Enemy’ and ‘Cromwell was Framed.’

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