The Military Man in French and British Fiction, 1740–1789
… the feudal system, about which the writers of this age have made such a pother, as if it was a new discovery, like the Copernican system. Every peculiarity of policy, custom, and even temperament, is affectedly traced to this origin, as if the feudal constitution had not been common to almost all the natives of Europe (1771).1
As the military man moved from non-national archetype (warrior, knight, noble) to nationalised professional, loyalties were transferred from feudal lords to kings and, finally, to states. The shift from the dynastic realm to nationalism was under way in the years that frame this study and would be consolidated but also disturbed by the French Revolution and its aftermath. For the warrior, individual glory had been the reward for valour on the battlefield; for the military professional, selfless service to the state was recompense in itself, with the concept of glory being reshaped and financial reward modest and uncertain. In the same decades, patriotism was evolving into a moral category that seemed to offer a democratic alternative to hierarchical models, a shift that put new focus on the moral relationship between the soldier and the state. Simultaneously, the battlefield was revolutionised by technological developments to the weapons of war, a further limitation of the scope for the display of personal valour and a further requirement for professionalisation, moving nations incrementally toward, as Adam Smith affirmed, the ‘absolute necessity’ of possessing a professional army. These fundamental changes, as I have...
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