Citizens, Soldiers and National Armies: Military Service in France and Germany, 1789-1830

Compulsory military service implies a contradiction: conceived as an element and a guarantee of the citizens' active participation in politics, it is at the same time an institution of social discipline that separates the citizens from the civil society. This tension between citizenship and discipline thus poses concretely the problem of political liberty. While being egalitarian in its principle, conscription concerns only the male parts of the population. The exclusion of women echoes their exclusion from political rights. Moreover, the universality of the obligation is in constant tension with particular class-interests.

Rather than opposing a French model of republican conscription to a Prussian militarism, this book tries to show how Prussia has replied dialectically to the revolutionary institution of mass violence. The French Revolution and the Prussian Reforms are thus conceived of as two moments within a single process with is intrinsically transnational. The book seeks to confront the philosophical problem of political liberty - as it was formulated most prominently by Rousseau and Kant - to history and relies on official sources, philosophical texts, as well as ego-documents, which are subjective articulations of political modernity.


Alan Forrest, American Historical Review, October 2008.