It was the French Revolution, the revolutionary wars, and the rise and fall of Napoleon, which for the first time made history a mass experience, and moreover on a European scale. During the decades between 1789 and 1814 each nation of Europe underwent more upheavals than they had previously experienced in centuries.”
from The Historical Novel
Georg Lukács goes on to say that such European “absolutist” rulers as Frederick II of Prussia campaigned with small, mercenary armies which made a point to avoid civilian contact and destruction. The French and Napoleon brought the first mass armies that campaigned with a national sense of purpose, nationally generated propaganda, and individualized but broadly shared, newly minted, mass histories. And these armies waged wars on whole peoples and wide geographies because they could not rely for food and fodder on a depot system. So, in destroying small German-speaking feudal states, Napoleon created other, new national “mass” histories.
I haven’t looked at this scientifically. But in a collection of ISBNs within historical fiction, Americans I’ll wager are most often writing about our Civil War, surely the seminal “nationalizing” historical mass experience for us. I would further venture that British historical fiction might find most of its new ISBNs in a given year coming from… the Napoleonic world wars. Jonathan? Am I right?