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L'oeil du topographe et la science de la guerre. Travail scientifique et perception militaire (1760-1820). Directeur de thèse: M. Jacques Revel. Thèse soutenue le 29 novembre 2002 à l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

Abstract : In the French army, at the end of the 18th century and until the end of the First Empire, a group of officers, the “ingénieurs géographes” are regularly occupied with topographical work. These officers are also often in charge of “reconnaissances” which precede the attack; they do statistical inquiries, and they direct and sometimes personally realize series of battle paintings. Their objet, in all these practices, is the battle, the way it has to be prepared, and the way it has to be reproduced in documents. This particular form of scientific work is based on a so-called military logic, a system of thought that the general, who leads the action, and the topographer, who reads reality for him, have to share. Practices and methods of work model, and reveal to us, the structure of this logic. It is from the analysis of the method the topographers use for the “reconnaissance à vue” (the reconnaissances in which the only scientific instrument is the topographer’s eye) that we can deduce the utopian potential of the topographers’ activity. The topographers deal with their sight as if it had no real limits, as if training could increase indefinitely the possibilities of their senses. Everything is potentially perceptible. The perceptive utopia of the topographical officers is directly linked to the possibility of leading the whole war action. The general can control the battle only if he can see, through his eyes or those of his collaborators, the elements that compose it. The institutional conditions of the topographical activity are a part of the military logic at work. The key concept that governs the educational system of the military topographers in the Ancien Régime is the concept of talent. A talented officer is someone who is considered able to accomplish his work. Talent means that innate dispositions have been correctly trained, and that the man in which this process has been operated has become the true guarantee that the work can be made. No other guarantee is possible, if it is not based in a real, well trained person. This concept of talent will lose its validity in the 1820s, but it is still active and discussed during the First Empire, when two different educational systems are valid and operating: apprenticeship based on practice, and, on the other hand, uniform knowledge, learnt in classes, equal for all students.
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Valeria Pansini. L'oeil du topographe et la science de la guerre. Travail scientifique et perception militaire (1760-1820). Directeur de thèse: M. Jacques Revel. Thèse soutenue le 29 novembre 2002 à l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.. Histoire, Philosophie et Sociologie des sciences. EHESS - Paris, 2002. Français. ⟨tel-01416852⟩

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