Prefects: ‘Tools of Conquest’

Martijn van der Burg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This chapter is concerned with the introduction of the prefectoral system in the North. The introduction of préfets was an expression of the desire to create a modern civil administration answerable to the central government. Attention is paid to its implementation, the selection and circulation of prefects, and their relationships with other actors. Napoleonic territorial governance meant a significant break with tradition, but its implementation was far from perfect. Although French legislation itself was not altered, in practice, many issues hindered the functioning of the prefectoral system in the incorporated departments, such as redrawing geographical borders and lack of understanding of Napoleonic governing practices. Creating support was difficult when no consideration was given to local circumstances and wishes—a challenge delegated to prefects. Stimulating personal mobility between different parts of the Empire was a possible means of accelerating integration. The case of the prefects in the Netherlands and Northwest Germany shows how the flow of imperial models, officials, and knowledge contributed to the interconnectedness of the different parts of the Napoleonic Empire, or conversely, how the lack thereof hindered integration.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNapoleonic Governance in the Netherlands and Northwest Germany
Subtitle of host publicationConquest, Incorporation, and Integration
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9783030666583
ISBN (Print)9783030666576
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

SeriesWar, Culture and Society, 1750-1850


  • Circulation
  • Incorporation
  • Integration
  • Prefectoral system
  • Prefects


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