Two hundred years ago, in 1800, Great Britain had a population of 10 million. (Yes, this is Jane Austen’s England, I’m speaking of here…) Great Britain and Ireland together had a combined population of 15 million.
London, itself, was the largest city in Europe at the time, with a population of one million. Which will tell the savvy reader that one in ten lived in the capital city.
Today, Greater London alone has a population of 7.5 million or 7% of the UK population. And that will give the thoughtful reader an indication of just how uncrowded London was 200 years ago. Indeed, how uncrowded the whole of the British Isles was back then. How much land there was between people, as it were.
By comparison, France had a population of 29 million in 1789. And the Austrian Empire probably had 22 million souls.
Prussia’s population stood at 10.7 million by 1806. So about the same as Britain–though obviously with more land.
But by 1812, the French empire, as led by Napoleon, had a population of 43.7 million. (Yes, that’s a leap of over ten million–in just over fifteen years…)
And, when you add to that the fact that he was also King of Italy (yes, he did enjoy adding on as many lands and titles as he could, as long as they were for his glory) and Italy had a population of 6.5 million…and he was also (by his own hand again) Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine which gave him another 14 million inhabitants to call his own.
Which, when he came to face any of his adversaries in combat, gave Napoleon a rather significant advantage in terms of manpower: that is to say, a combined population of 64.2 million from which to draw his army.
By comparison, and this is at best a rough guide, Russia had a mere 40 million in 1797.
So, when historians talk in terms of casualties of at least six million over the whole of the Napoleonic Wars…and that’s not counting all the civilian casualties, because the French did not count civilian casualties, therefore these generally went unrecorded…this can give you an idea of just how much of the population were talking about, just how devastating to countries as a whole, this mortality rate was.
Had it just happened to Britain, for example, it would have been one of every two individuals or roughly half the population. Just a bit of perspective…