Date: May 2011
Creator: Abel, Jonathan
Description: The eighteenth century was a time of intense upheaval in France. The death of Louis XIV in 1715 and the subsequent reign of Louis XV saw the end of French political and martial hegemony on the continent. While French culture and language remained dominant in Europe, Louis XV's disinterested rule and military stagnation led to the disastrous defeat of the French army at the hands of Frederick the Great of Prussia in the Seven Years War (1756-1763). The battle of Rossbach marked the nadir of the French army in the Seven Years War. Frederick's army routed the French infantry that had bumbled its way into massed Prussian cavalry. Following the war, two reformist elements emerged in the army. Reformers within the government, chiefly Etienne François, duc de Choiseul, sought to rectify the army's poor performance and reconstitute France's military establishment. Outside the traditional army structure, military thinkers looked to military theory to reinvigorate the army from within and without. Foremost among the latter was a young officer named Jacques-Antoine-Hippolyte de Guibert, whose 1772 Essai général de tactique quickly became the most celebrated work of theory in European military circles. The Essai provided a new military constitution for France, proposing wholesale ...
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