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About this book

In this radical reassessment, Jeremy Black challenges many of the established assumptions about the so-called Military Revolution of 1560- 1660. He argues that it is far from clear that a military revolution did occur during this period. Indeed there is more evidence to suggest that the description could be applied more accurately to the following hundred years. This book also re-examines the relationship between military strength and domestic stability. Rather than seeing the latter as the consequence of the former, Dr Black argues that it makes more sense to see the former as a result of the latter.

Table of Contents

1. Military Change

Abstract
The idea that a military revolution occurred in the early modern period, specifically the century 1560–1660, is an established part of the curriculum for early modern studies in Britain. It is based on a published lecture by Michael Roberts, delivered in 1955 and published the following year. This drew essentially on his detailed studies of early-seventeenth-century Sweden, and in particular on the reign of Gustavus Adolphus (1611–32) and on Sweden’s entry in 1630 into the Thirty Years War (1618–48) in which most of the Holy Roman Empire (essentially modern Germany and Austria) was involved [1]. The idea is linked commonly with the view that developments in the following century (1660–1760) were of considerably less importance and that the pace of military change resumed in the closing revolutionary decades of the eighteenth century, especially with the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792. The thesis is therefore related to the generally dominant view of early modern European history, one that sees a resolution of earlier crises culminating in a supposed mid-seventeenth-century crisis, followed, after 1660, by relative stability within states and limited wars between them until the onset of an Age of Revolutions. Indeed the putative military revolution has been used to explain this period of stability which is described as the age of absolutism and defined in terms of the authority and power of centralising personal monarchies.
Jeremy Black

2. The Limitations of Change, 1660–1760

Abstract
Even if historians can accept that major changes did indeed take place over the century from 1600, it is nevertheless the case that warfare continued to encounter many obstacles, ranging from the acute difficulty of operating in the winter to the poor quality of munitions. Technological, economic and social constraints gravely qualify any notion of an early modern European military revolution. The technological constraints remained paramount. At sea there was only a limited amount that could be done with wooden vessels subject to decay and dependent on windpower. Ship performance was depressed by the fouling of hulls, the luxuriant marine growth below water that was a particular problem in tropical waters, along with its kindred problem, attack on timbers by marine worms. The remedy of coppering was applied to the British fleet in the 1770s, though the French did not adopt it until 1785. Poor and unseasoned timber were other major problems, leading to ships being dismasted in storms, and making the supply of top-quality, generally Baltic, naval stores and the denial of them to enemies an important priority of diplomacy and strategy.
Jeremy Black

3. Military Change and European Society

Abstract
Rather than presenting the absolutist states of late-scventeenth-century Europe as the products of military change, the new-found strength of new model armies, as scholars influenced by the Roberts’ thesis have been inclined to do, it is possible to reverse the relationship. By setting the decisive changes, in terms of size and, though to a lesser extent, organisation and weaponry, in the post-1660 period it can be argued that it was the more stable domestic political circumstances of most states in that period, which contrasted notably with the civil disorder of so many countries in what has been termed the mid-seventeenth-ccntury crisis [106, 117, 127], that made these changes possible. Such a revision requires, however, a new explanation of these circumstances, one that no longer relies on military strength. Instead, it is possible to stress stability rather than order, consensus rather than coercion, government as a part of elite society, rather than an external force seeking to mould it. The nature of absolutism can be defined as a politico-social arrangement, rather than a constitutional system, by which the social elite was persuaded to govern in accordance with the views of the ruler, while these views were defined in accordance with the assumptions of the elite.
Jeremy Black

Conclusion

Abstract
This work has sought to show the relationship between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries on the one hand and the eighteenth on the other, periods all too often studied in isolation, and in particular to argue that it is unhelpful to place too much weight on a mid-seventeenth-century division. The notion of a military revolution in the early modern period has been challenged and it has been argued that the changes commonly stressed in the period 1560–1660 can be qualified both by considering the claims that have been advanced and by ranging more widely to consider the situation throughout Europe. A concentration on warfare in the last decades of the period suggests that the notion of a revolution is inappropriate. In so far as a military revolution occurred in the early modern period it could be dated more appropriately to the hundred years, especially the first fifty, after the period highlighted by Roberts. This is equally the case whether attention is devoted to weaponry and tactics, where the introduction of the bayonet and the phasing-out of the pike were of considerable importance, or to the position in a number of crucial states — France, Austria, Russia, Prussia and Britain — which emerged as the European great powers in this period and retained that position until 1918 [141, 149].
Jeremy Black
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