Is The Notion Of An Early Modern Military Revolution Tenable?

1860 words - 7 pages

Is the Notion of an Early Modern Military Revolution Tenable?

The notion of an early modern military revolution is one which is a much debated subject among historians. Two historians who are very dominant in this field are Geoffrey Parker and Michael Roberts. Although they both agree that a military revolution occurred, they disagree on the timing of a revolution in war. Roberts argues that a military revolution started in 1560 and "by 1660, the modern art of war had come to birth." Parker, on the other hand, sees the military revolution as a "firmly sixteenth century phenomenon with antecedents in the fifteenth."

Prior to the early modern period, warfare was based around castles and fortified towns and attempts to capture them. This changed very little in the middle ages. Armies had a maximum of forty thousand soldiers, many of whom were mercenaries (1550). Armies consisted of Pike men in square formations supported by cavalry and musketeers. Battles often ended in a stalemate and wars were very lengthy as a result of this. Through the military revolution emerged new tactics, technology and style of warfare. Michael Roberts acknowledged four revolutionary traits of what he called the military revolution. "First, the superiority of disciplined infantry - musketeers rather than pike men - armed and drilled to prosecute a field battle by the ordered application of firepower, not the hurly-burly of man-man combat; second, themanifestly greater size of these new-style, mostly musketeer armies; third, the emergence of bolder, more dramatic strategies designed to seek a decisive battle at the culmination of a sharp campaign; and fourth, a need for larger and more reliable and intrusive commissariats and military bureaucracies to supply and support these armies"

The early modern period brought about larger, more organised armies. Prior to this era, the maximum size of an army was approximately forty thousand (1555) but this increased immensely. Parker argued that the demands of new siege style warfare required men to provision siege lines while attacking and to garrison towns and citadels while defending rose the

number of soldiers required to sustain a war. Gustavus Adolphus used an army of one hundred and seventy five thousand men to obliterate Habsburg influence in the Holy Roman Empire and Spain mobilised three hundred thousand men in the 1630's, which is far greater than the amount of troops used before. Armies were also becoming permanent rather than seasonal as they were prior to the revolution. Mercenary armies, which were widely used in the sixteenth and fifteenth centuries, were on the decline and conscription was on the rise. The Swedes used conscription in the Thirty Years War, which provided cheap and reliable regiments, as they "were motivated by religion and national sentiment" . This was very effective as conscription soldiers who believed they were fighting for something, be it their country or religion, were less...

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