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About this book

The seventeenth century has long been seen as a period of 'crisis' or transition from the pre-modern to the modern world. This book offers a chance to explore this crisis from the perspective of war and military institutions in a way that should appeal to those doing global history.

By placing 17th century warfare in a global context, Black challenges conventional chronologies and permits a reappraisal of the debate over what has been seen as the Military Revolution of the early-modern period. The book discusses war with regard to strategic cultures, assesses military capability in terms of tasks and challenges faced and attaches styles of warfare to their social and political contexts. Genuinely global in range, this up-to-date and wide-ranging account provides fresh historiographical insights into this crucial period in world history.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
War played a key role in the history of the seventeenth century. It was a prime means by which empires, states and peoples expanded and resisted expansion, and the way in which ministers, rulers, dynasties, indeed systems of control, were overthrown in particular states. War thus linked the Europeans establishing their position in North America to the Manchu taking over the most populous empire in the world, Ming China.
Jeremy Black

2. Sixteenth-Century Background

Abstract
An understanding of the sixteenth century is important to that of the following period, important in order to understand events but also so as to provide a background for analysis. The latter conventionally rests in large part on the reading of the seventeenth century as part of a distinct early-modern period that began in the late fifteenth century. For the outset of this period, the fall of Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium, the Eastern Roman Empire, the city now called Istanbul, to the Ottomans in 1453, as well as Christopher Columbus’s arrival in what became to the Europeans the New World in 1492, and the beginning of the Italian Wars in 1494, are classically seen as (alternative) turning points, although each of course had little direct relevance for the regions in which the bulk of the world’s population lived, East and South Asia. At any rate, the reading of the seventeenth century within the early-modern period is as part of a treatment that looks at the idea of a transforming ‘long sixteenth century’. The idea of such a transforming long sixteenth century rests on a number of factors, specific both to military developments and events, and those in which warfare was located. These specific factors focus on the spread of gunpowder weaponry and the absolute and relative capability advantages to which it led, both on land and at sea. The ‘location’ of warfare is related to these factors in terms of the many needs and opportunities created by powerful states and far-flung geographical connections and ambitions.
Jeremy Black

3. Conflict, 1590–1615

Abstract
There is no clear break to separate the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Instead, there were wars in progress in 1600, while, in addition, the events of the early years of the seventeenth century frequently reflected conflicts in the preceding decades. As advanced by Michael Roberts, the Military Revolution spans the century divide, but the wars of 1590–1615 revealed the difficulties of attaining decisive outcomes, difficulties that sit uneasily alongside the implication that greater proficiency arose from the adoption of particular methods.
Jeremy Black

4. Conflict, 1616–1650

Abstract
It is worth rethinking the world in 1600 and 1700 in terms of equal-population cartograms. These provide demographically weighted maps (with territory mapped in proportion to its population) that have much to offer that is not provided by conventional, equal-area, maps. Notably, these cartograms, with their emphasis on East and South Asia where most of the world’s population lived, would suggest that Western power was less central than the use of equal-area maps would imply. This contrast offers an important perspective because the subliminal quality of cartographic images conveys impressions of relative importance that, in turn, help dictate conclusions about political and military success. In many respects, the impressions created by equal-area maps are misleading and rethinking the world spatially in terms of equal-population cartograms very much revises the impression of Western success. For example, the Russian conquest of much of Siberia, with its low density of population, becomes of limited immediate importance, as indeed does that of eastern North America, whatever their eventual consequences. This approach also offers a different account of European history since more attention, for example, should be devoted to Italy, especially the populous north, than is usually the case in the discussion of seventeenth-century warfare. Furthermore, an emphasis on gaining control of people helps underline the importance of sieges, as major towns were fortified.
Jeremy Black

5. Conflict, 1650–1683

Abstract
A key theme in this period was that of the consolidation of authority. In part, this consolidation can be seen as the sequel to the series of problems and number of crises grouped together as the mid-seventeenth century crisis, but there was also a longer-term process of seeking to establish control over states. This was particularly true of the Manchu in China but was also the case, for example, in Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and the lands of the Austrian Habsburgs. In contrast, in India and much of Europe the political and military situation was more clearly a response to the immediate crises of mid-century.
Jeremy Black

6. The Expansion of Europe

Abstract
Vienna, Luxembourg, Tangier, Bijapur, Albazin, Golconda: six significant sieges, each from the mid-1680s, all, bar the first, successful, and each benefiting from being considered alongside the others. Indeed, it is the resulting comparisons that make it possible to discuss relative capability and effectiveness, just as, for example, when considering eighteenth-century India it is appropriate to look not only at the British victory at Plassey in 1757 but also at British defeats, such as Wadgaon in 1779, as well as at major battles between non-Western forces, such as Karnal in 1739 and Third Panipat in 1761.
Jeremy Black

7. Conflict, 1683–1707

Abstract
The most dramatic clash in the last years of the seventeenth century occurred in East Asia. Earlier, the Rebellion of the Three Feudatories had prevented Chinese opposition to the expansion of a new steppe force, the west Mongolian tribes, known collectively as the Oirats, which had united in the dynamic new Dzhungar Confederation from 1635. They conquered the domain of the last Altan Khan in north-western Mongolia and, in 1670, overcame his former vassals in the western part of the region of Tuva. Under Taishi Galdan Boshughtu (r. 1671–97), the Dzhungars seized the Islamic oases near Mongolia from 1679: Hami and Turfan that year, Kashgar in 1680, and Yarkand soon after. This expansion made the Dzhungars a more serious potential challenge to the Manchu, who were far more concerned about the steppe than the Ming had been. The latter only tended to worry about how steppe politics impinged upon ‘Chinese’ territory.
Jeremy Black

8. Naval Capability and Warfare

Abstract
The Western powers had a clear edge on the oceans as only the major Western European powers controlled fleets of deep-draught vessels able to operate at great distances. Only Western European warships and merchantmen sailed across the Atlantic or Pacific or between the Atlantic and the Indian or Pacific Oceans. Havana, Seville, Goa, Malacca, Manila and Acapulco were all way stations on routes of global exchange controlled by the Western powers, and each offered possibilities for resupplying and repairing warships. Moreover, this network expanded during the century, with the creation of new Western bases, notably Cape Town by the Dutch in 1652, which offered a valuable stopping point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, followed for the English by St Helena in 1673, and Batavia (Jayakérta/Djakarta), also by the Dutch, in 1619, which centred their presence in the East Indies. The establishment of colonial bases in North America, such as Boston by the English and Quebec by the French; or the West Indies, such as Kingston, Jamaica by the English; or South Asia, such as Pondicherry by the French, also provided naval facilities, notably safe anchorages and supplies.
Jeremy Black

9. Warfare, Social Contexts and State Development

Abstract
The early-modern period is generally given a major role to play in works on the development of states.1 A classic account of this period argues that newly developed technology, in the shape of cannon and firearms, helped strengthen the military potential of the state and also acted as its cutting arm, supposedly enabling central government to overcome local particularism in the shape of the castle walls of powerful aristocrats and the town walls of independent cities. Indeed, the terms of the surrender of the Huguenot stronghold of La Rochelle in 1628 included the demolition of its fortifications, and, in 1629, Cardinal Richelieu oversaw personally the destruction of the walls of Huguenot towns in the rebellious province of Languedoc. Thus, at Montauban, which submitted under the threat of a siege, Richelieu both celebrated a Te Deum, an affirmation of Catholic triumph, and watched as the first stone was removed from the town ramparts. In 1632, the castle and ramparts of Les Baux-de-Provence, long a centre of aristocratic opposition to royal control, were demolished. Military capability and the consequences of internal conflict were linked, in the classic account of military-political developments, to a newfound political cohesion that served as the basis for the early-modern state, distinguishing it from medieval predecessors. Furthermore, it was argued that the pressures of external conflict, in particular its cost, helped lead to this new situation. In short, a form of social Darwinism (competition resulting in the survival of the fittest) focused on military capability and employed war as its process: conflict serving as cause, course and consequence of state development.2
Jeremy Black

10. Conclusions: Beyond the Military Revolution

Abstract
War was central to the international and domestic politics of the period, to its culture and confessional development, and to social experience and that of many individuals across the century. There is no doubt of the political, demographic, social, economic and cultural importance of military preparedness and conflict, although causal relationships can be obscure, ambiguous and controversial. The problematic definition and usage of the concept of an early-modern Military Revolution suggests, while noting the great and continuing advances made by scholars deploying this thesis, that it would be helpful now to consider approaching the period without employing an idea that also has serious conceptual, methodological and historiographical deficiencies and baggage. There is, more generally, a need for a new set of intellectual strategies (and operational concepts) for approaching both military history and the early-modern period. In particular, in emphasising the protean character of war and the military, and in arguing that any argument that proposes a clear shape for developments is misleading, it is necessary nevertheless, while avoiding teleology, to provide a sense of more than one thing after the other.
Jeremy Black
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