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War for Sale. Peninsular War Veteransʼ Memoirs in the Long Nineteenth Century (1808-1914)

Dates:
  • Thu 06 Dec 2018 15.00 - 17.00
  Add to Calendar 2018-12-06 15:00 2018-12-06 17:00 Europe/Paris War for Sale. Peninsular War Veteransʼ Memoirs in the Long Nineteenth Century (1808-1914)

This is a study of the development of war writing in the nineteenth century, showing how the authorial impulses of veterans from the Napoleonic Wars interacted with a booming publishing industry across Europe to forge a new relationship between ex-soldiers, the book market, and the cultural representation of war. Focussing on the hundreds of military memoirs written by British, French, and Spanish veterans of the Peninsular War (1808-1814), I propose a new methodology for the study of these sources, departing from the current state of literature with a deliberate emphasis on their public, political, and commercial aspects.Beginning with the political aims of the old soldiers who wrote these books, I examine their attempts to re-write history, reform the army, and defend themselves from controversy. Using evidence from the archives of publishing houses, I reveal the immense and frenzied editing, printing, and marketing activity which was concealed behind the facade of a simple soldier’s tale, challenging us to start thinking about soldiers as professional authors, aiming to influence the broader writing of the story of war. I then explore the afterlives of these war memoirs, following the books once they outlived their authors. In the hands of later editors, family members, and commercially-minded publishers, many memoirs changed dramatically, selling an updated idea of the experience of war. I also consider the widespread phenomenon of reprinting and translation, which carried soldiers’ tales far beyond their home countries and into new languages, appropriating them into the memory-making processes of other nations. Throughout, the comparison with Spain acts as a counterweight to the more heavily-studied France and Britain, allowing me to challenge prevailing ideas about the origins and format of military autobiography in Europe, as well as to explore the development of still-persistent divisions between the different ‘national’ narratives of the same war.

Sala dei Levrieri - Villa Salviati- Castle DD/MM/YYYY
  Sala dei Levrieri - Villa Salviati- Castle

This is a study of the development of war writing in the nineteenth century, showing how the authorial impulses of veterans from the Napoleonic Wars interacted with a booming publishing industry across Europe to forge a new relationship between ex-soldiers, the book market, and the cultural representation of war. Focussing on the hundreds of military memoirs written by British, French, and Spanish veterans of the Peninsular War (1808-1814), I propose a new methodology for the study of these sources, departing from the current state of literature with a deliberate emphasis on their public, political, and commercial aspects.Beginning with the political aims of the old soldiers who wrote these books, I examine their attempts to re-write history, reform the army, and defend themselves from controversy. Using evidence from the archives of publishing houses, I reveal the immense and frenzied editing, printing, and marketing activity which was concealed behind the facade of a simple soldier’s tale, challenging us to start thinking about soldiers as professional authors, aiming to influence the broader writing of the story of war. I then explore the afterlives of these war memoirs, following the books once they outlived their authors. In the hands of later editors, family members, and commercially-minded publishers, many memoirs changed dramatically, selling an updated idea of the experience of war. I also consider the widespread phenomenon of reprinting and translation, which carried soldiers’ tales far beyond their home countries and into new languages, appropriating them into the memory-making processes of other nations. Throughout, the comparison with Spain acts as a counterweight to the more heavily-studied France and Britain, allowing me to challenge prevailing ideas about the origins and format of military autobiography in Europe, as well as to explore the development of still-persistent divisions between the different ‘national’ narratives of the same war.


Location:
Sala dei Levrieri - Villa Salviati- Castle

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Examiner:
Prof. Regina Grafe
Prof. John Horne (Trinity College Dublin)
Philip Dwyer (University of Newcastle Australia)

Supervisor:
Prof. Lucy Riall

Defendant:
Matilda Louise Greig (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)

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