Why do soldiers fight? Where the armies of Europe’s ancien régime were concerned, the existing scholarship is clear on this point. Life in an eighteenth-century army was apparently harsh and tightly controlled. Common soldiers were exhaustively drilled until they became a cog in a machine (a redolent image of the Enlightenment), leaving no scope for individuality or initiative. They were required to obey their superiors at all costs, or face arbitrary martial law. If they tried to flee the enemy or desert, they could expect to be executed. In a rare example of consensus between military and cultural history, Foucault described a similar state of affairs: the disciplinary regime of the military was a testing ground for forms of social power.
- Common Soldiers
- Old Regime Europe