In a book that reads more like several condensed volumes, Lee Kennett's French Armies in the Seven Years' War provides scholarship into a subject that maintains holes on the subject. Kennett claims this work to be "a brief synopsis of military operations," but proves modest (p. xiv). Lee Kennett is a Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Georgia and author of several books concerning French and American history in an array of time periods.
Kennett admits in his introduction not all spectrums of the French Army or Seven Years' War are covered in this work. Specifically the colonial and maritime campaigns are excluded to concentrate specifically on ground troops, movement and campaigns in Europe concerning the French Army and how they operated. "Except in a few areas, such as the officer corps, the common soldier, military organization, and military finance, these slim chapters add to our knowledge, and even in these areas the author appears to have exploited the French military records from the period of the Seven Year's War more throughly than his predecessors." Each of his chapters are self-contained and relating only to one another with the overall theme of the French Army and at time of publishing, (1967) offered new scholarship in the area.
Kennett begins with the first two chapters explaining the authority of those who wore the French Army uniform, those who commanded it and how they were selected (by appointment). The short comings of the military establishment are exposed as well and Kennett claims that divisions of men were ruled by those captains and colonels that equipped them and showed a lose allegiance to the French king and more devotion to those who clothed them. The lack of military organization was seen but flowed fairly seamlessly only because these rich appointed aristocratic officers desired to further their own lives and careers. Time is spent on the enlisted personnel as well and Kennett strives to give detail on all accounts of these individuals. Requirements, both physically and medically, are examined and cases in which women, deaf, crippled, etc are found as well in time of need are present. Although the nobility numbered few within the enlisted core, "every class in the nation was represented in the ranks," (p. 75) and statistical information supplements chapters concerning manpower. How financing of supplies and equipment is explained and transport and communication lines are made clear. The brutality of war is typical and a medical corps is needed to serve as an appendage of any army and Kennett goes into detail concerning those who served both in the hospitals and in the field.
A wide variety of primary and secondary sources are used, littering pages with footnotes, background and sources. An impressive bibliography is present as well, most of which are of French origin showing Kennett research and writing ability and not to just borrow upon other English speaking historians or sources who may have been biased in their war with the French. Because The French Armies reads like several volumes, an index is also included making this book valuable for scholars and students alike for future reference as well.
Some criticisms are present and feel that this tiny 150 page book could have been written in several volumes. Kennett has no doubtingly done adequate research for such a work and will provide more background on the interworking of French Army's many complexities. Although this book was intended to be treated more as a military analysis, his "emphasis on sociological and economic factors may seem distracting" to military historians or students. If one wishes to further their knowledge of the ranks of the French Army from 1756-1763 and how they operated, this book proves to be an informative read, although it removes the American campaigns from the picture completely. Treated more as "an institution rather than what it did" the French Army during this time period deserves special treatment and Kennett has prepared a fine analysis that will be used for future analysts.