Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

1/1/2011 - 6/30/2011

Funding Totals

$25,200.00 (approved)
$25,200.00 (awarded)

Watching War: The Napoleonic Battlefield and the Spectacle of Total War

FAIN: FB-55893-11

Jan Mieszkowski
Reed College (Portland, OR 97202-8138)

The thesis of this book is that the experience of militarism in the West has been shaped by the dynamic of battlefield spectatorship that emerged in the Napoleonic era. My project is the first to explore the history of the modern belief that wars provide something meaningful to watch. I argue that if the turn of the nineteenth century saw the advent of a new "total" war concept, changes in the intensity and scope of combat were informed not just by the mobilization of entire populations and economies in the service of the war effort, but by the awareness that modern military operations were now carried out in full view of an unlimited audience. Henceforth, "watching war" would be a paradigmatic form of mass entertainment, but one founded on a fantasy of observation, since no one's gaze could win a god's-eye view of the unfolding events.