In 1793 France was facing foreign invasion along its borders and a fierce political war was raging in Paris when a large-scale revolt, centred on the western Department of the Vendée, suddenly erupted, almost bringing the new-born French Republic to its knees.
The immediate trigger for this Great War of the Vendée, barely known outside of France, was the attempted imposition of conscription but the region seethed at the erosion of its traditional values and way of life. The persecution of the Catholic Church and killing of the king symbolized to the Vendéens how dangerous the new Republic had become; in a matter of weeks tens of thousands had flocked to fight for the ‘Catholic and Royal’ cause.
This is the story of the new Republic’s ferocious military campaigns against the armies of the Vendée, which fiercely defied them between March and December 1793, tying down hundreds of thousands of troops desperately needed on the frontiers. Napoleon later called it ‘The War of Giants’ and it directly led to the implementation of some of the Republic’s most extreme laws.