Jacques-Antoine-Hippolyte, comte de Guibert: Father of the Grande Armée

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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 ... continued below

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Abel, Jonathan, 1985- May 2011.

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  • Abel, Jonathan, 1985-

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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 reform to create an army that could face the Prussian juggernaut. His star quickly rising, Guibert became the toast not only of literary Paris but all of Europe. Guibert exerted an overwhelming influence on military theory across Europe for the next fifty years. His military theories laid the foundation for the French army of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. As other nations adopted French methods, Guibert's influence spread across the continent, reigning supreme until the 1830s. Guibert's importance to military theory is analogous to Voltaire's influence on European literature and culture, an area in which Guibert was not unfamiliar. Guibert was also a celebrated lover of women, most notably Julie de Lespinasse and possibly a young Germaine de Staël. To date, no work has been produced that provides a clear picture of the man, his place in society, his work, and his legacy. For these reasons, a study of Guibert's life and his career is a valuable contribution to French history.

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  • May 2011

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  • Jan. 9, 2012, 9:53 p.m.

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  • Jan. 10, 2017, 10:26 a.m.

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Abel, Jonathan, 1985-. Jacques-Antoine-Hippolyte, comte de Guibert: Father of the Grande Armée, thesis, May 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc67951/: accessed July 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .