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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

'Place'

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'Place'

Postby jf42 » September 23rd, 2015, 8:49 am

Most of us will be familiar with the 18th-century loan word 'affaire' from the French, used in reference to military actions on a fairly wide scale of intesity.

Over the last year I have been encountering in French texts the word 'place' (in Spanish texts 'plaza') to signify, depending on the context, a stronghold, a castle, a fortress, a fortified town or city, usually when the object of a campaign or attack.

I have failed to find a concise English translation. This may be to do with the portmanteau vagueness of the orginal. Obviously, one word in English just might not serve, but am I overlooking something? Needless to say, I don't think 'place' will do.
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Re: 'Place'

Postby Senarmont198 » September 23rd, 2015, 11:11 am

The term in English is also 'place.' French engineering terms, generally begun with Vauban in the late 17th century tended to be adopted into English, just as general artillery terms were also.

Louis de Tousard's excellent American Artillerist's Companion (3 Volumes) is an excellent period reference and has a very useful 45-page Index and Artillery Glossary, which includes engineer terms, that is very helpful to understand the period terms. The first two volumes can now be found on Google Books. The third volume is plates, which illustrate not only artillery 'items' but tools, implements, mining, etc.

Like it or not, the French led in both engineering and artillery for quite some time and they had the first technical schools for engineering and artillery in Europe, including Great Britain.

The technical schools that were developed in other nations followed the French model and example, such as Woolwich in England and Budweiss in Austria. Interestingly, the Prussians did not have an artillery school until 1791 and the Russians had one in fits and starts, actually doing away with formal artillery training under Tsar Paul I. They learned their lesson during 1805-1807 and began to look at artillery developments seriously, including formal education. Both Robert Wilson and French émigré General Langeron remarked on the low level of the education of Russian officers. Formal technical education is mandatory for both engineer and artillery officers.

And excellent beginning reference for the development of technical education in Europe is Frederick Artz's The Development of Technical Education in France 1500-1850.
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Re: 'Place'

Postby jf42 » September 23rd, 2015, 11:32 am

I am sorry, I should have expressed myself more clearly. I am looking for a modern term, or terms. While French influence from the mid-C17th onwards is a given, the contemporary understanding of 'Place' and 'affair' don't stand alone in a modern account.
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Re: 'Place'

Postby Senarmont198 » September 23rd, 2015, 2:21 pm

I've seen the term used in modern accounts, though usually a note is used to denote the use of the period term. I've also seen such notes when an author uses the term 'piece' to describe an artillery piece, though that term is still used in artillery, at least in the United States Army and Marine Corps.
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Re: 'Place'

Postby Josh&Historyland » September 23rd, 2015, 2:45 pm

Do you think it might be a superlative? IE

"It became necessary to bring about the reduction of Pamplona. There was no project so near to the general's heart than the fall of that place"

What think you?

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Re: 'Place'

Postby jf42 » September 23rd, 2015, 3:14 pm

Senarmont: the key phrase in my last post was ''stand alone".

Josh: er, what?
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Re: 'Place'

Postby Josh&Historyland » September 23rd, 2015, 4:29 pm

I shall take another stab. Referring to the city after using its name (I used Pamplona) with the word "place" IE "That place" so as not to exhaust the name?

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Re: 'Place'

Postby jf42 » September 23rd, 2015, 4:41 pm

Ah, I see. No, I don't require translation for my own comprehension.

I am looking for a concise, modern alternative to the C18th/early C19th usage of the word 'place', adopted from the French, and used in military parlance, although not quite a technical term, to refer to a range of fortifed places, strongholds, etc in accounts of campaigns.

Possibly in vain.
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Re: 'Place'

Postby Andrew » September 23rd, 2015, 9:45 pm

I have come across this many times in my own reading: I generally read it as a 'fortified town', although as I think you have picked up, this is not always strictly accurate, but the best I can do.

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Re: 'Place'

Postby jf42 » September 23rd, 2015, 10:14 pm

Yes, indeed, that is the general sense, or even 'fortified place.'

I suspect that our muscular language deals better in specifics than in generalities, which may be why the French usage was adopted, as it also was with 'affaire' - over and above the fashion for affecting the French style of genteel circumlocution.

In English, we are better off calling a spade a spade, and a shovel a bloody shovel, rather than a digging implement (Never mind a ***** entrenching tool).
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