Subprefects: (Trans)Regional Tools of Integration?

Martijn van der Burg*

*Corresponding author for this work

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


This chapter examines the Napoleonic subprefects who have been in office in the Netherlands and Northwest Germany. Within the prefectoral system, these sous-préfets were the highest officials at arrondissement (disctrict) level. Activities of subprefects, somewhat neglected by historians, give insight into how French tried to rally the locals, and how this affected the daily functioning of the Empire. Discussed are subprefects’ sociocultural backgrounds, imperial careers, and perception of Napoleonic governance. Subprefects had to balance national, local, and personal interest. Integration at district level was hard when the letter of the administrative legislation and the precise instructions from above were rigidly adhered to. Subprefects traveling the Empire linked events in the Netherlands and Northwest Germany to developments elsewhere, promoting integration into the Empire. Circulation patterns reflect different ideas on the required level of integration. It is argued that the figure of the subprefect was a potential ‘tool of integration’. That subprefects were close to the ground could contributed to the effectiveness of Napoleonic governance. But subprefects also coped with demanding prefects, and interference of other agents of the central state. Reversely, unwilling subprefects were in a position to hinder the integration process.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNapoleonic Governance in the Netherlands and Northwest Germany
Subtitle of host publicationConquest, Incorporation, and Integration
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783030666583
ISBN (Print)9783030666576
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

SeriesWar, Culture and Society, 1750-1850


  • Circulation
  • Integration
  • Personal mobility
  • Ralliement
  • Subprefects


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