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Why the century from 1750 to 1850?

The century from 1750 to 1850 marked a seminal period of change in world history. The Seven Years War, 1756-63, had seen continuing rivalry between European powers, rivalry that extended into competition for empire. The political landscape was to be transformed by a series of revolutions fought in the name of liberty – in America and France most notably, but also in Holland and Geneva in the eighteenth century, and across much of mainland Europe by 1848. The new ideas, as well as the rivalry of imperial nations, were carried to the furthest outposts of empire, to Egypt, India and the Caribbean, where the 1790s were the formative period in creating the first black republic in Haiti, the former French colony of Saint-Domingue, in 1801. Those ideas continued to inspire anti-colonial and liberation movements in Central and Latin America throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. The Age of Revolutions challenged the legitimacy of states and regimes in Europe and beyond, exposing their people to new, often incendiary, ideas.  It was not confined to any one continent; it was a world movement which requires study in its global dimension.


Revolution and war in this period

If social and political institutions were transformed by revolution in this period, so, too, was warfare. During the quarter-century of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars in particular, Europe was faced with the prospect of “total” warfare, a war that was unprecedented before the twentieth century. Military hardware, it is true, evolved only slowly. But in other ways these can legitimately be described as the first modern wars, fought by mass armies mobilized by patriotic and national propaganda, leading to the circulation of millions of people throughout Europe and beyond (soldiers first and foremost, but also prisoners of war, civilians and refugees). The civilian population had to contribute to these wars at a level that had not been seen before, and had to provide huge quantities of food, clothing and equipment for the armies. Those who lived through the period as children, youths, and adults, shared formative common experiences and memories that would help shape their ambitions and their identities.


Cultural, political, economic, and social consequences of the changing nature of warfare

The changing nature of war had a number of consequences. Because of mass mobilization and the spatial extension of war, even ordinary men travelled as soldiers to regions they had barely heard about, encountered unknown people, languages and customs, and crossed new borders within Europe and overseas. Both soldiers and civilians experienced a further brutalization of warfare, with war casualties rising to previously unheard-of levels. Yet, because of their character as “national wars”, these conflicts were closely intertwined with the process of political and cultural nation-building in Europe. It was not only America, France and Britain but also monarchies such as Prussia, Russia and Spain that sought, through appeals to national sentiment, the mobilization not only of young men but also of civilian populations, men and women alike. Without the support of civilian society the leading powers would not have been able to go to war. They needed broad civilian support to provide equipment for armies, militias and volunteers, medical services for sick and wounded soldiers, and war charities for invalids, widows and orphans. Women’s activity steadily expanded, since they were not only solely responsible for supporting their families and carrying on the business of their soldier husbands, but also played a leading role in wartime nursing and relief work. New gender images were brought into play, and gender roles were renegotiated around the mobilization of men and the enhanced if frequently complementary and subordinate range of women’s activities. These images could be used to legitimise the gender-specific tasks of men and women in the state, the military, society and the family.

The consequences of the various wars of revolution and liberation between 1750 and 1850 are often discussed in terms of the redrawn map of Europe and the Americas, of political reaction and the stimulation of national aspirations and identities. But the individual and collective memories of those wartime experiences, and their impact on future generations across Europe and the Americas, cry out for further analysis. This series will revisit the Age of Revolutions across the globe and will  place those experiences, perceptions and memories in their full cultural context.


Main objectives of the series

  • to extend the scope of traditional histories of the period by discussing war and revolution across the Atlantic as well as within Europe, thereby contributing to a new global history
  • to relate political, social, cultural and military history and art history and thus develop a multidisciplinary approach to the analysis of war
  • to analyse the construction of identities and power relations by integrating various categories of difference—most particularly class, gender, religion, generational difference, race and ethnicity
  • to examine elements of comparison and transfer, so as to tease out the complexities of national, regional and global history
  • to cross the traditional borders between early modern and modern history since this is a period which integrates aspects of old and new, traditional and modern.


Book proposals for the series are welcome!

The series will publish both:

  • themed collections addressing key aspects of the social and cultural history of war and revolution in this period;
  • single-authored books.

For publication proposals we ask all interested authors to use the Palgrave form for the series. The proposal should include a clear statement of what was new about the volume.