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THE FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY WARS 1787-1802The French Revolutionary Wars 1787-1802 by T C W Blanning is a superWork of historiography Far more ambitious than its modest title suggests it is thehistory of the French Revolution as well as a military and diplomatic history ofEurope from 1787 to 1802 Blanning enriches our understanding of theRevolution by placing it in its European context by showing how it affected andwas affected by Frances neighbors He is especially well placed to take on thistask Not only has he written extensively on the French Revolution he haswritten a book on Mainz under the Old Regime and the revolutionary republicanother on the French occupation of the Rhineland and two biographies of theHabsburg Emperor Joseph II 1 He is one of the few historians who can movecomfortably from France to Germany to the vast Habsburg empire stretchingfrom Belgium to the Balkans and he has filled in the remaining gaps withextraordinarily vast reading Among the thousand or so footnotes in The FrenchRevolutionary Wars are references to works in German Italian Spanish andRussian as well as French and English Yet this book is more than a tour deforce of erudition It is a richly textured engaging narrative punctuated by cogentBlanning begins by arguing that French defeat in the Seven Years War 1756-63stimulated reforms in the army which are normally associated with theRevolution the breaking up of armies into smaller more flexible divisions theuse of columns in addition to lines an increasing reliance on light troops and theuse of artillery More controversial however were the reforms introduced in1787 and 1788 which slashed the number of officers in an army that was inBlannings words absurdly over-officered p 19 These reforms coincidingwith the revolt of the parliaments added fuel to the fire of the aristocraticrevolution by alienating many of its leaders who were not only parlementairesbut army officers They guaranteed that the army would not serve the king whenhe needed it to suppress the insurrection in Paris in
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