“From Saragossa to France: Environment changes through the vision of a Napoleonic State Prisioner (1808-1814)”

María Zozaya

 

 

According to the Treaty of Fontainebleau, signed in 1807, Spain and France agreed to invade Portugal. Thus, theoretically, the French Army entered Spain to invade that Portugal. What they were doing, in reality, was to silently invade their ally’s country. The people and part of the Spanish Army where not in the mood to accept this situation, and conspired to fight the French. Within this context, the insurrection of Zaragoza, in May 1808, took place. To organise its defence, a few Professors of the Royal Academy of Military Engineers at Alcalá de Henares went to Zaragoza. They participated actively in the war but fell prisoner to the Napoleonic Army. They were taken to France, where they remained till 1814, when they returned to Spain. Amongst them was Second Lieutenant José María Román, who wrote a Diary of this trip.

The present paper analyses how his diary reflects the change towards modernity. Thus it is the vision offered by a person who lives during the Ancient Régime in Spain, and is forcibly taken to France, a country that has experienced the Liberal Revolution and the Napoleonic Régime. His Diary is characterized by the sobriety and functionality of data collecting proper to a military engineer. As he belonged to an elite group he had the chance of enjoying a certain degree of freedom in France, so he collected data related to social, cultural and educational French life. As regards political and ideological questions the author does not offer any direct information at all, but he does so indirectly, so revolutionary and Napoleonic changes may be surmised. All these questions are analysed in this paper.