Dr Adam Storring’s article ‘‘The Age of Louis XIV‘‘: Frederick the Great and French Ways of War, published in German History, demonstrates that the military ideas of King Frederick the Great of Prussia up to the Seven Years War (1756–1763) were primarily inspired by France, and particularly by the towering figure of King Louis XIV. It examines the intellectual inspirations for Frederick’s military ideas, showing that French military influence reflected the strength of French cultural influence in the long eighteenth century and the importance of Louis XIV as a model for monarchical self-representation. Frederick’s famous personal command of his armies reflected the Enlightenment concept of the ‘great man’ (grand homme), but Frederick thereby sought primarily to outdo the Sun King, whom Voltaire had criticized for merely accompanying his armies while his generals won battles for him. The example of Frederick thus demonstrates that not only rulers but also enlightened philosophers often looked backwards toward older monarchical examples.
Frederick sought to create his own ‘Age of Louis XIV’ in the military sphere by imitating the great French generals of the Sun King. Frederick’s famous outflanking manoeuvres followed the example of famous French generals, reflecting the practice of the more mobile armies of the mid-seventeenth century. Frederick used French practice to justify his attacks with the bayonet, and his ‘short and lively’ wars reflected French strategic traditions. The evidence of French influence on Frederick seriously challenges concepts of a ‘German Way of War’, and indeed of supposed national ‘ways of war’ in general, emphasizing the need for a transnational approach to the history of military thought.
The article can be viewed in full here – https://academic.oup.com/gh/article-abstract/38/1/24/5560167.
Adam Storring completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Professor Sir Christopher Clark. From October to December 2015, he was Stipendiat of the Bühler-Bolstorff-Stiftung Berlin and the Stiftung Preußischer Schlösser und Gärten (SPSG), and he returned to the SPSG as RECS-Voltaire-Fellow in December 2018. He is currently Early Career Fellow at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg – The Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study.