”The main part of Tim Blanning’s book deals with the origins of the three major wars which France fought over the course of the Revolution: that of 1792 against Austria and Prussia, that of 1793 against Great Britain, Spain, and the United Provinces, and that of 1798-9 against the Second Coalition (Austria, Russia, and Great Britain). Despite the critical importance of these conflicts for Europe as a whole, no such study has been published this century; moreover, there is an increasing awareness that, in their long-standing concentration on ’history from below’, historians of the period have allowed some of the most important aspects of the French Revolution — most notably the wars — to become neglected. In the book Tim Banning synthesizes for the first time the work on the subject, recent and not so recent but all too often ignored, which has been published in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Russian. The appearance of this major study will therefore be widely welcomed. But the book does more than just examine the origins of the wars of the 1790s. It is also a major contribution to the debate on the origins of all modern wars. In his substantial introductory chapter, Tim Blanning analyses the theories of war advanced by other disciplines (psychology, ethnology, anthropology and the social sciences amongst them) and examines their advantages and shortcomings. Among the controversial issues he discusses are the nature of human aggression, economic determinism, the ’primacy of foreign policy’, the theories of Clausewitz and the role played by ideology. In particular, Tim Blanning stresses the reciprocal nature of war and the need to examine the response of the victim as well as the motives of the aggressor. These general explanations of war are recalled at appropriate intervals throughout the book, so that the contemporary relevance of the events of the 1790s is never lost from view.”
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