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By Jeremy Black. London and New York: Routledge, ISBN Written by one of the acknowledged experts on European military history, this book is a synthesis of recent work on warfare in Europe from the French invasion of Italy in to the Peace of the Pyrenees, which ended fighting between Spain and France in Unlike many older accounts, the book's focus is much wider than strategy, tactics, and weaponry.


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Indeed, Jeremy Black explicitly makes clear that the history of warfare should not be understood simply as a series of technological innovations, a whiggish perspective that smacks of historical determinism: "[I]t is necessary to see technological change as an enabler of attitudes and policies, rather than as the driving force of modernity" p. On the other hand, Black's book is also much more comprehensive than much of the "new military history" that focuses primarily on war and society, as he is as interested in the operational aspects of warfare as he is in its causes and impact.

Thus, this is a synthesis that assimilates the best of all kinds of military history, both traditional and cutting edge, and combines them together into a narrative that is ideal for beginners to the subject. The book begins with a long chapter on "Cultural, social, and political contexts" that sets the scene and helps the reader contextualize the warfare of the period.

This is followed by a chapter evaluating the "Military Revolution" model popularized by Michael Roberts and Geoffrey Parker. An emphasis on technology as the motor of military change and success developed most of all in Europe, although other factors continued to be seen as important and the emphasis on technology did not match that to be shown from the nineteenth century.

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Furthermore, the skills involved in employing the firearms of the period were rather those of a repetitive industrial process and not therefore seen by contemporaries as praiseworthy than those requiring intellectual effort or the understanding of a complex technology: In the days of the matchlock arquebus the soldier had first to dismount and secure his match; then to blow any sparks from his firing pan; then to prime the pan with special fine gunpowder, remembering to shake any excess from the pan and to tamp the pan with his finger; then to recharge his piece with regular gunpowder and to reload it with wadding and shot, drawing out his ramrod and 21 C U LT U R A L , S O C I A L A N D P O L I T I C A L C O N T E X T S tamping the powder and ball with just the right amount of pressure.

Troops were also involved in a range of internal tasks, and indeed all significant policing operations involved troops. Military operations took place along a continuum stretching from formal war to actions against smugglers. Given the severity of some rebellions, formal war did not necessarily entail greater commitments or problems than domestic action, although it generally did so. Nevertheless, although domestic conflict could be a serious problem, it was a matter of rebellion, not war, in the eyes of the rulers concerned and in that of most other monarchs.

Commentators were generally able to differentiate between the policing and war functions of armed forces. Glory and honour could be gained through suppressing domestic discord, but it was primarily a function of defeating foreign rivals, and certainly not crushing peasants. Just as war between rulers was encouraged by the bellicist culture, so also was civil conflict.

Alongside the cultural factors encouraging conflict, there were also specific military and political characteristics and circumstances. Violence and warfare were endemic to society. As with international conflict, issues of honour and reputation played a major role in encouraging civil conflict: they were central to much lawlessness and, in particular, to aristocratic and other feuds. Such feuding was assumed to be a part of noble privilege. In the late Middle Ages, warfare was the continuation of litigation by other means, not an incompatible alternative; and feuds have been seen as playing a major role in state-building by princes: there was an overlap between noble office-holding and participation in feuds.

This step was not immediately successful, but in the long run there was a decline in feuding. That summer, he could only keep his army in being by ravaging and enforced contributions, which led to his being placed under the imperial ban. As with so many commanders, Albert, born in , was young. However, his siege of Trier was unsuccessful.


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Sickingen was forced to raise the siege and retreat to his castle at Landstuhl, and, in April , his fortress succumbed to bombardment. Sickingen suffered a mortal wound from a stone splinter. In England, the Tudors limited the affinities of nobles, which had served as the basis of their military potential.

The execution of the Duke of Buckingham in , in part because he was building a castle at Thornbury, discouraged others from the same course. In Italy, in contrast, for example in the Veneto and Lombardy, there was a rise in violence and a revival of feuds at the close of the sixteenth century.

European Warfare, 1494-1660

Brigandage, frequently associated with the social elite, remained a marked feature of Sicilian society. Another example of civil conflict was provided by the suppression of heterodox opinion. Clerical bodies, such as the Inquisition, played a major role in this, but they were dependent on the support of secular authorities. This was accentuated when the two were conflated as a consequence of the Reformation. The combination led to new institutions that employed force to stamp out dissent, for example the Council of Troubles in the Low Countries — The Roman Inquisition was founded in The suppression of heterodox opinion was not limited to Christian powers.

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While many nobilities and nobles derived their importance and sense of identity in large part from warfare, that did not ensure that internal conflict was incessant. Many disputes between nobles did not escalate into warfare. Instead, civil warfare had much to do with the balance of power and authority between larger political entities — states and kingdoms — and smaller entities, such as provinces, with their own identity and liberties. It was easier than is the case today to sustain both war and a viable society.

War was less destructive. Peasants knew how to hide the movable wealth of a village when an army was passing through, although, aside from the direct damage caused by conflict and soldiers, higher taxes pressed hard on both society and economy. Resources were destroyed and investment opportunities were lost. The use of relatively inefficient guns was such that the serious killing effects of firearms had not yet been realised; but the limited ability of medical knowledge to cope with wounds, particularly with subsequent infections, ensured that a higher percentage of the wounded died than in twentieth-century conflicts.

War and state-building The difficulty of defining the character and impact of war was accentuated by the limited extent to which the state monopolised organised violence. Authorised non-state violence, for example by mercantile companies with territorial power, was important, and unauthorised violence, for example feuds and piracy, were frequently large-scale. Attempts to limit either were hindered by the widespread nature of military entrepreneurship: the practice of hiring military services, particularly mercenaries.

The prevalence of this practice serves as a reminder of the need for caution before assuming any modern definition of state-building. It has been repeatedly argued that state control over cannon enabled central governments to dominate other centres of power — nobility and towns — and to overawe or destroy opposition. Dunstanburgh Castle was already much ruined in and Dunster Castle in , as a consequence of a lack of maintenance for decades.

In , a survey found that Melbourne Castle, a Duchy of Lancaster possession in Derbyshire, was being used as a pound for trespassing cattle. The castle itself was demolished for stone in the s by its new owner, the Earl of Huntingdon. Warkworth Castle was neglected and, when James I visited it in , he found sheep and goats in most of the rooms. By then, Bramber Castle, formerly a Sussex stronghold of the Howards, was in ruins. It is less clear what this was a potent demonstration of. Rather than seeing this shift as a simple product of the impact of royal artillery strength, it is worth noting that many declining castles including those of the Duchy of Lancaster were royal possessions, and that the nature of fortifications was such that as needs changed there were always redundant castles, and that this had always been true.

In addition, the more peaceful nature of the kingdom was such that Windsor Castle was now a palace whose fortified character was not central to its role. In France, Francis I created a royal monopoly for saltpetre.

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In , French artillery played a major role in persuading the rebel Duke of Bouillon to surrender his fortified town of Sedan rather than face a siege. Yet, as so often with discussion of both military capability and technological advance, the stress on cannon as the enabler of a new military order is conceptually a misleading approach because it is monocausal. In addition, this specific argument is unhelpful because the shift towards stronger government was long-term, complex and only partial, and in none of those respects does it fit with the gunpowder explanation.


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The Diet had the opposition leaders arrested and they were executed or murdered in prison. He turned to Austria and Spain for military assistance, only for their opponents, France and the Dutch, to provide counter-pressure. It was not until that Ferdinand was able to deploy about 3, troops in order to enforce his will. Conversely, a lack of co-operation between France and Spain helped keep the border zone lawless and made it difficult to counter the smugglers of the region, whose bands were often led by nobles. Governmental military capability could face serious weaknesses if there was a lack of social support.

European Warfare 1494-1660 and the Military Revolution

Aside from an absence of necessary backing for raising and supporting forces on the part of the powerful local social elite, there could also be an active political rivalry. This was shown clearly in midseventeenth-century Britain. The English Civil War of —6 had revealed the military redundancy of the traditional centres of landed power in the face of a determined opponent. In , Oliver Cromwell entrusted authority in the localities to eleven Major-Generals, who were instructed to preserve security and to create a godly and efficient state.

The division of the country among the Major-Generals created a new geography of military rule. They were ordered to take control over the Justices of the Peace, the local gentry who had traditionally governed the localities, and to take charge of the militia. Compared to the former Lords Lieutenants, the Major-Generals, however, lacked the local social weight to lend traditional patterns of obedience and deference to their instructions.

No other regime sought to replicate this method, and Cromwell soon found it necessary to abandon the unpopular system of rule by MajorGenerals. It is important to note the prevalence of a different political course, one that centred on the search for a new consensus with the socially powerful, rather than on bureaucratic control and centralisation.