THE CITIZEN ARMY OF OLD REGIME FRANCE
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2010
While the creation of the French citizen army is often attributed to the French Revolution, I argue that it is a product of the old regime. In the seventeenth century, France’s aristocratic army began to crumble when Louis XIV first created a military bureaucracy that eventually ceased to effectively regulate army matters. During the Seven Years’ War in the mid-eighteenth century, French officers’ apathetic attitudes towards fighting in Canada proved that French warfare had become only a vehicle for noble advancement. In the context of crisis and reform that followed, both educated society and military circles looked to the citizen armies of ancient Greece and Rome for military inspiration. French representations of the army and militias of the American Revolution as contemporary embodiments of ancient citizen armies supported reformers’ belief that patriotism would revitalize the French army. In 1789, the National Guard institutionalized these ideas, making the French citizen army a forerunner of the French Revolution.