The Defeat of Napoleon and the Occupation of France

My French historian colleague, Christine Haynes, recently published Our Friends the Enemies, a new book on the defeat of Napoleon and the occupation of France.

The book description at Harvard University Press’s website reads:

“The Napoleonic wars did not end with Waterloo. That famous battle was just the beginning of a long, complex transition to peace. After a massive invasion of France by more than a million soldiers from across Europe, the Allied powers insisted on a long-term occupation of the country to guarantee that the defeated nation rebuild itself and pay substantial reparations to its conquerors. Our Friends the Enemies provides the first comprehensive history of the post-Napoleonic occupation of France and its innovative approach to peacemaking.

“From 1815 to 1818, a multinational force of 150,000 men under the command of the Duke of Wellington occupied northeastern France. From military, political, and cultural perspectives, Christine Haynes reconstructs the experience of the occupiers and the occupied in Paris and across the French countryside. The occupation involved some violence, but it also promoted considerable exchange and reconciliation between the French and their former enemies.

“By forcing the restored monarchy to undertake reforms to meet its financial obligations, this early peacekeeping operation played a pivotal role in the economic and political reconstruction of France after twenty-five years of revolution and war. Transforming former European enemies into allies, the mission established Paris as a cosmopolitan capital and foreshadowed efforts at postwar reconstruction in the twentieth century.”


Haynes has written a post entitled “The Occupation of France after Napoleon, or Confessions of a Cultural-Turned-Military Historian,” on Age of Revolutions about her historical research and the genesis of her book project.

Haynes explains that: “The ‘Age of Revolutions’ was also an Age of Wars. While this point may be obvious to most readers of this site, as well as historians of the period, it took me an embarrassingly long time to understand. Trained as a cultural historian focused on nineteenth-century France, I saw military history as separate from, and tangential to, the dramatic political and social changes unleashed by the French Revolution and Napoleonic Empire. Sure, I studied and eventually taught the wars that ensued from the French Revolution and their role in the rise and fall of Napoleon, but it took me a good while to recognize the centrality of war to all aspects of life in this period. … Paradoxically, my realization of the importance of war in this period came while researching a topic that, on the surface, could not be farther from military history: book history.”

Haynes discusses the trajectory of her research process: “While writing what ultimately became my first book on the ‘politics of publishing’ in France during the century after the re-regulation of the book trade by Napoleon in 1810, I noticed that following the fall of the Empire, many of the booksellers and printers in Paris came from outside of France. Curious about why so many foreigners arrived in the French capital at that time, I realized that this influx was spurred by the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, particularly the military occupation of France by the powers allied against the Emperor following his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo. Seeking to sell books to the thousands of foreign soldiers and civilians in occupied France, these cosmopolitan printers and booksellers served as a reminder that the years after 1815 were a period of post-war reconstruction.”


Christine Haynes’s new book is Our Friends the Enemies: The Occupation of France After Napoleon (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018).

This entry was posted in Early Modern Europe, Empires and Imperialism, European History, French History, French Revolution and Napoleon, Paris History, Strategy and International Politics, War and Society, War, Culture, and Society, Warfare in the Early Modern World. Bookmark the permalink.

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