French Revolutionary Wars

1792–1802 series of conflicts between the French Republic and several European monarchies

The French Revolutionary Wars are conflicts between 1792 and 1802 that happened because of the French Revolution. France fought Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia, and several other countries that have a king as their leader (called monarchies). There are (mostly) two conflicts: the War of the First Coalition (1792–1797) and the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). The fighting was first mainly in Europe but then spread across the world. After ten years of fighting, France took much land from Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, parts of present-day Germany, and gave up the Louisiana lands in present-day America. Because France won these wars, they spread revolutionary ideas across much of Europe.

The French Revolution was a revolution to remove the King of France, called King Louis XVI, from power. As early as 1791, the other monarchies of Europe hated the French Revolution; and they wondered if they should intervene to stop the revolution from spreading, or to take advantage of the chaos in France. Austria put many troops next to its French border and, together with Prussia, threatened France if they hurt King Louis and his wife, Queen Marie-Antoinette. This threat is now known as the Declaration of Pillnitz. After Austria refused to move its troops away from the French border and refused to stop threatening France, France declared war on Austria and Prussia in the spring of 1792; both countries then invaded France but retreated after France won the Battle of Valmy in September. This victory gave the National Convention, an assembly of France, the confidence to get rid of the monarchy.[1] France won more battles but was stopped when they were defeated at Neerwinden in the spring of 1793. France lost more battles for the rest of the year and these difficult times allowed the Jacobins to rise to power and start the Reign of Terror to get rid of people who opposed the Revolution.

In 1794, the situation was very good for France after they won huge battles against the Austrians and the Spanish. This started a new stage in the wars. By 1795, the French took land in much of present-day Belgium from Austria, and land in much of the present-day Netherlands from the Dutch. France also made Spain and Prussia sign peace treaties to stop them from fighting in the war. A general called Napoleon Bonaparte, mostly unknown until then, began his first campaign in Italy in April 1796. In less than a year, French armies led by Napoleon destroyed the Habsburg forces and kicked them out of Italy, winning almost every battle and taking 150,000 prisoners. After France started to get near Vienna, the capital of Austria, the Austrians surrendered, ending the War of the First Coalition against France.

The War of the Second Coalition began in 1798 after Napoleon invaded Egypt. The other countries took advantage of Napoleon being far away to take back lost land taken by France. The war began well for them in Europe, when they kicked France out of Italy and invaded Switzerland and won many battles along the way. However, they quickly started to lose after France won a battle at Zurich in September 1799, making Russia stop fighting.[2] Meanwhile, Napoleon destroyed many Egyptian and Ottoman armies. Napoleon's victories in Egypt made him more popular back in France, and he returned home successful in the autumn of 1799, but his overall goal in Egypt was not achieved and was a failure. Not only that, Britain's Navy had won the Battle of the Nile in 1798, giving Britain more powerful control of the Mediterranean and weakening the French Navy.

Napoleon overthrew the Directory, then-government of France, in a coup after he arrived in France, becoming a dictator with the title First Consul. Napoleon then reorganized the French army and attacked Austria in Italy during the spring of 1800. France won the Battle of Marengo in June 1800, making Austria leave the land once again. France won again at Hohenlinden in Bavaria, making Austria surrender for a second time after signing the Treaty of Lunéville in 1801. Britain was alone after Austria and Russia stopped fighting, and agreed to the Treaty of Amiens with Napoleon's government in 1802, ending the Revolutionary Wars. However, the countries still hated each other, and the Napoleonic Wars began over a year later after the Third Coalition was formed, continuing the Coalition Wars.


  1. TCW Blanning, The French Revolutionary Wars. pp. 78–79.
  2. TCW Blanning, The French Revolutionary Wars. pp. 254–55.