Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Controlling Paris

Controlling Paris: Armed Forces and Counter-Revolution, 1789-1848

Jonathan M. House
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 324
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Controlling Paris
    Book Description:

    When not at war, armies are often used to control civil disorders, especially in eras of rapid social change and unrest. But in nineteenth century Europe, without the technological advances of modern armies and police forces, an army's only advantages were discipline and organization - and in the face of popular opposition to the regime in power, both could rapidly deteriorate. Such was the case in France after the Napoleonic Wars, where a cumulative recent history of failure weakened an already fragile army's ability to keep the peace.After the February 1848 overthrow of the last king of France, the new republican government proved remarkably resilient, retaining power while pursuing moderate social policies despite the concerted efforts of a variety of radical and socialist groups. These efforts took numerous forms, ranging from demonstrations to attempted coups to full-scale urban combat, and culminated in the crisis of the June Days. At stake was the future of French government and the social and economic policy of France at large.InControlling Paris, Jonathan M. House offers us a study of revolution from the viewpoint of the government rather than the revolutionary. It is not focused on military tactics so much as on the broader issues involved in controlling civil disorders: relations between the government and its military leaders, causes and social issues of public disorder, political loyalty of troops in crisis, and excessive use of force to control civil disorders. Yet somehow, despite all these disadvantages, the French police and armed forces prevented regime change far more often than they failed to do so.Jonathan M. Houseis the William A. Stofft Professor of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. His previous books includeCombined Arms Warfare in the 20th Century;A Military History of the Cold War, 1944-1962; and, with David M. Glantz,When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-3663-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    For four decades after 1815, civil disorders occupied an unusually prominent place in the political and military history of Europe. Colonial campaigns abounded, but war between nation-states was overshadowed by constant internal strife and political conspiracies. Rapid social and economic changes combined with crowded urban conditions that gave a tactical advantage to insurgents. The standing armies of Europe notably failed to control the revolutions of 1830 and 1848, but once the troops recovered from their initial surprise, they proved remarkably successful in preserving the political status quo in a changing society. This work seeks to identify the patterns of this...

  6. 1 Déjà Vu: The Bourbon Monarchy Falls Twice
    (pp. 9-37)

    In accordance with its status as the premier city of France, Paris was the first urban area in the country to develop a police structure. In the eleventh century, the prévôt de Paris became the overall administrator of the city, an office that evolved over the ensuing centuries to include a force of night watchmen, the Guet.² From the beginning, however, the termpolicemeant much more in France than the Anglo-Saxon definition of that word. In addition to law and order, the work of the police of Paris included public health, building inspections, fair-trade practices, control of vagabonds, public...

  7. 2 The Collapse of the July Monarchy
    (pp. 38-64)

    The example of 1830 clearly demonstrated the need for Louis-Philippe to have an effective system for controlling disorders in his capital city. Yet, despite the presence of a large army garrison, a strong police force, and an essentially monarchist militia, political opposition in Paris overthrew the last French monarchy in February 1848. This revolution is important not only as the birth of the Second Republic, but also as the background to and first clash of an unstable social and political situation that troubled Paris and, indeed, all of France for four months. In order to understand the February Days, one...

  8. 3 Exiled from Paris: The French Army, February–May 1848
    (pp. 65-83)

    Before considering the turbulent events and military confrontations that followed the February Revolution, the next three chapters will discuss the various military and paramilitary organizations in and around Paris that spring. Of necessity, this involves occasional reference to leaders and events that appear in subsequent chapters. However, to attempt to look at civil disorders without first examining the building blocks of order or disorder would be even more confusing.

    The French Army was not exempt from the general disorder that followed the February Revolution. The army’s indiscipline, its politics, its leadership, and its expansion all had a direct bearing upon...

  9. 4 Paramilitary Forces in Paris
    (pp. 84-102)

    With the exclusion of the regular army and the abolition of the Municipal Guard, a power vacuum appeared in the French capital from the end of February through April 1848. Just as during the Terror of 1793–1794, the National Guard expanded (in theory) to include all adult males, but the growth of the new militia’s effective strength was slow; it was a part-time force; and its social and political composition made it an unpredictable instrument of public order.

    After the departure of the July Monarchy, leaders of different political persuasions emerged both inside and outside the Provisional Government, and...

  10. 5 La Garde Nationale Mobile
    (pp. 103-125)

    At the time of the June insurrection, many French conservatives insisted that the National Workshops be closed because of their ruinous expense—six million francs to pay up to one hundred thousand men for four months. Yet, during a shorter period of time (three months), the Provisional Government authorized expenses totaling 4.5 million francs for a group of only sixteen thousand men—the Mobile National Guard.¹ Leaving aside for the moment the relative social utility of these two organizations, such figures would indicate that the Mobile National Guard was a major instrument of the Provisional Government. Apart from the Sedentary...

  11. 6 Public Force in Paris, February 24–May 4, 1848
    (pp. 126-145)

    The Second French Republic was divided by factionalism from the moment of its birth. A very large portion of the population, even in the capital city, had not actively sought this republic; such people were at most neutral and in many cases favorable to a return to some form of monarchy. Others, including many National Guardsmen of the July Monarchy, reluctantly accepted the fait accompli of the new republic but remained alert to any tendency toward political or social innovation.

    Within the Provisional Government itself, as described in chapter 4, a wide spectrum of political beliefs and ambitious personalities competed...

  12. 7 May 15–16
    (pp. 146-165)

    The return of a few regular army units had little effect upon the security situation in republican Paris. The Mobile Guard evacuated the École Militaire and a few other barracks to make room for these soldiers, but the formation of a garrison was delayed by the Rouen rising and by a false alarm in Beauvais, each of which drew troops away from the capital for brief periods.¹ Although Charras’s staff in the War Ministry considered the contingency of a thirty-thousand-man garrison, the actual army forces present in Paris-Vincennes, excluding Versailles and other nearby posts, totaled fewer than nine thousand in...

  13. 8 Troop Movements and Attroupements: Civil Disorder in Paris, May 17–June 22, 1848
    (pp. 166-189)

    French patriots and some historians habitually discuss French political history in terms ofjournées, great dates of revolutionary confrontation that frequently represent specific ideologies and regimes, such as July 14 and August 4, 1789. Such dates are undoubtedly important, but this propensity to describe history in terms of a few cataclysmic events exaggerated the significance of those events while overlooking the developments that occurred between the great “days.” The period between the dissolution of paramilitary units on May 16 and the dissolution of the National Workshops on June 23 is a neglected and especially important phase in the French Revolution...

  14. 9 The June Days
    (pp. 190-212)

    In February and again in June 1848, substantial portions of the Parisian population staged insurrections against the established national government. In each case, the regular army supported that government, while the National Guard split into pro-government, pro-revolutionary, and neutral factions. Yet the contrasts between these two insurrections went far beyond the success of the first and failure of the second. Despite the economic depression of France, the February Days were an impromptu expression of political opposition, while the June Days were a deliberate, premeditated confrontation about the social and economic future of France. The corollary and symbol of this contrast...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 213-226)

    This study has attempted to combine two topics: an analysis of enduring trends in the control of Parisian public disorders and a detailed case study of a critical period of upheavals—the “coup of the month club” between February and June 1848. This conclusion must, therefore, be in two parts, addressing the same two topics.

    Unrest was endemic in an era of constant social and economic change, fueled in part by ideas of representative government and later socialism, and in part by the economic realities of preindustrial cities. To some extent, therefore, European capitals all faced similar problems of determining...

  16. APPENDIX A: Troop Strengths in Paris, 1848
    (pp. 227-234)
  17. APPENDIX B: Military Commanders in 1848
    (pp. 235-236)
  18. APPENDIX C: Glossary
    (pp. 237-240)
  19. NOTES
    (pp. 241-288)
    (pp. 289-306)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 307-312)
    (pp. 313-313)