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Napoleon's Lost Legions: French Prisoners of War in Britain, 1803-1814

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 15:22 authored by Gavin DalyGavin Daly
During the Napoleonic Wars, over 100,000 French prisoners of war were held captive in Britain. These prisoners remain a marginal group in the military history of the period, yet they represent a key turning point in the history of European prisoners of war, and their predicament offers insights into the nature of the French Revolution. This article considers the treatment and experiences of French prisoners, and in particular seeks to understand the circumstances surrounding their long-term captivity. Unlike eighteenth-century prisoners of war, prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars remained captive for the duration of the conflict, unable to return home through the traditional means of prisoner exchange or officer parole. This radical departure from the past gave rise to the modern practice of interning prisoners of war for the entire duration of a war. This historic shift was, on the one level, a result of the actions of one man – Napoleon Bonaparte. Yet, as this article highlights, it must also be understood as part of the long-term social and cultural legacy of the French Revolution.


Publication title

History: Journal of the Historical Association








School of Humanities


Historical Association/Blackwell

Place of publication


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The definitive published version is available online at:

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Understanding past societies not elsewhere classified

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