Sunday 12 August 2012

Britain's 22 year-long Struggle Against France

When I think of the French Revolution, the reign of George III and Regency, so many authors spring to mind. Dickens, Thackery, Jane Austin, Georgette Heyer, Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe, and many others.

At the moment I am studying the late 18th century and the early 19th century.

For twenty-two years, from 1793 to 1815, France tried to dominate the world. At the beginning of this period, some men and women who had seen the Protector Richard Cromwell were still alive. At the end of it those who would live until Adolf Hitler was young had been born. On a personal note my grandfather remembered my long-lived great grandfather speaking about the Battle of Waterloo.

During those years of struggle the French wanted to overturn the old order, however the British did not accept a government not based on the rule of law. At one time Britain fought nearly the whole of Europe with little hope of victory. To make matters worse, when Britain was on the verge of bankruptcy, revolutionary France benefitted from Napoleon Bonaparte, considered by many to be the greatest military genius in the history of the world.

Until Sir John Moore fought Napoleon in Spain, only the Russians triumphed over Napoleon for a few months between 1806 and 1807.  

Trafalgar and the battle of Waterloo are so well-known that the first ten years of struggle, which William Pitt called ‘the virtues of adversity endured and adversity resisted, of adversity encountered and adversity surmounted, which ended in the Peace of Amiens, are often forgotten.

The peace did not last but it did give Britain the breathing space necessary for the war to continue until 1815.

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