Current Institutional Affiliation
Senior Lecturer, History, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2011
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Johns Hopkins University
Non-Citizen Soldiers: Foreigners in the French Army, 1750-1815

Under the Old Regime, soldiers born beyond France's borders, most of them elsewhere in Europe but some as far away as the Congo, Pennsylvania and central Asia, comprised a substantial proportion of the French army. They were not merely mercenaries, but men who spent their entire careers in regiments created especially for foreign troops, and whose families often accompanied them on their migrations to France. Upon completing their tours of duty, many of these soldiers were awarded the title of “subject of the French king,” granting them and their descendants the same privileges as French natives. From the first months of the French Revolution, however, hostility towards foreign troops serving France began to mount, and continued as the Revolution progressed. The National Assembly abolished France's foreign regiments in 1791 and 1792, and the Constitution of 1795 entirely outlawed the recruitment of foreigners. In practice, however, revolutionary leaders' desperate need for manpower as they waged war against most of Europe beginning in 1792 meant that they continued to enlist foreign soldiers, even after such an act became illegal. Unlike their predecessors under the Old Regime, however, foreigners recruited during the Revolution were not granted citizenship and were expected to leave France once the war ended. Through research in archives located throughout France, as well as a study of parliamentary debates and other official discourses, I will trace this story of foreign soldiers in France from the last decades of the Old Regime through the Napoleonic era. One main objective of my research is to determine the relationship between French revolutionary political theory and policies on foreign troops, a topic of unique significance for the history of citizenship and nationality, but one which has received little attention from scholars. A second focus is the interactions between people of diverse backgrounds which the French army facilitated.