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About this book

Placing eighteenth-century warfare in a truly global context, Jeremy Black challenges conventional accounts and offers a reappraisal of debates in Western and Asian history. This concise, up-to-date survey assumes little prior knowledge and provides cutting-edge historical insights into a crucial period of world history.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Abstract
History is at once what happened in the past and the varied accounts we tell about it. As such, history reflects scholarly advances in what we know about the past, as well as current changes in interest and concern. The latter are germane to this book because of the rapid rise in relative prominence of China and India, and the apparent decline, at least relative decline, of the West, and certainly of Europe. In 2012, Asian military expenditure passed that of Europe, although the latter remained higher at the per capita level. This perspective poses a number of questions in the coverage of the eighteenth century. First, how far should more attention than is conventionally given be devoted to China and India in that period because of the situation today? Secondly, should there be more attention because trends in that period can be linked to the situation today, notably the Chinese conquest of Xinjiang and Tibet in the eighteenth century and opposition, sometimes violent, in each now to Chinese rule? Thirdly, if the latter two approaches are rejected as misguided, then how should attention be apportioned between areas and developments in the eighteenth century? However, the very use of the term ‘development’ presupposes a clear pattern of improvement and improvability.
Jeremy Black

2. 1700–1720

Abstract
The themes outlined in the introduction can be readily seen in this chapter. The variety of conflict across the world emerges clearly. The first two decades of the century witnessed a high level of conflict across the world, in many senses continuing the wide-ranging and sustained warfare of the 1690s.1 In East Asia, the expansion of Manchu (Qing) China, which had already led to victory in Mongolia over the Zunghar Confederation in 1696–7, was continued into Tibet. In India, the conflict between the dominant ruler, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707), and the Marathas persisted. In Europe, the protracted warfare of the 1640s-90s between the Ottoman (Turkish) empire and at least one of its Christian neighbours resumed in the 1710s, with conflicts with, successively, Russia, Venice and Austria. The last denoted the Habsburg empire, which also ruled Hungary, the modern Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia, and parts of northern Italy and Yugoslavia.
Jeremy Black

3. 1720–1740

Abstract
The 1720s and 1730s tend to be overshadowed in military history, in part because of the fame of military leaders earlier in the century, notably Marlborough, Eugene, Charles XII and Peter the Great, but these decades again display the themes outlined in the introduction. The standard Western-centric focus ensures that the period only appears of consequence at the close, when the outbreak of war with Spain, the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739–48), began a period (1739–63) in which, having defeated France on land and sea in 1758–60, Britain ultimately became the strongest power in North America. Attention is also devoted to the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1740, when Frederick the Great (II) of Prussia successfully invaded the Austrian province of Silesia. In contrast to both wars, the campaigning of the earlier years in the period 1720–40 is overshadowed. Moreover, the War of the Polish Succession (1733–5) and the Balkan conflicts of 1735–9 with the Turks seem far less consequential than the earlier conflicts in Europe of 1700–18, which also receive more attention.
Jeremy Black

4. 1740–1760

Abstract
The Seven Years’ War (1756–63), known in the USA as the French and Indian War (1754–63), dominates conventional accounts, with the central narratives being ‘the miracle of Prussia’ — Frederick the Great’s ability to fight off a stronger coalition, and the conquest by his ally Britain of French Canada, which centred on Québec.1 These achievements were important, but the presentation of the conflict as the first world war, while capturing the range of the fighting, both underplays earlier instances of wide-ranging warfare between European maritime powers, notably Spain and the Dutch in the seventeenth century, and also fails to deal with the autonomy and importance of major wars across much of Central and South Asia in the mid-eighteenth century. These conflicts were not linked to this supposed first world war.
Jeremy Black

5. 1760–1780

Abstract
The focus of attention in this section will be on India, notably the fate of the Marathas, defeated by the Afghans under Ahmad Shah at Third Panipat near Delhi (1761), possibly the largest battle in the century, but, in turn, able, in a relatively minor clash, to defeat the British at Wadgaon in western India in 1779. It is also pertinent to consider the rise of Haidar Ali of Mysore in southern India and what this rise indicated about the potential variations in military development, not least compared with the British success in establishing a powerful position in Bengal. Other developments in Eurasia were not on the scale of India, but successful Russian expansion against the Turks contrasted with failed and costly Chinese campaigning in Burma. In turn, Burma proved successful in Siam.
Jeremy Black

6. 1780–1800

Abstract
These years are conventionally dominated by developments in Western Europe, the French Revolution, which broke out in 1789, and the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars which followed in 1792 and lasted until 1802, although, after Napoleon came to power in France in 1799, these wars are sometimes grouped with the Napoleonic Wars which lasted, with two brief intervals in 1802–3 and 1814–15, until 1815. Linked to this focus, this period is usually discussed in terms of a clear teleology. These developments are considered in this chapter, but the central themes of the chapter are different from the conventional account. Again, the perspective is global, with global, crucially, not only understood, as it so often is, in terms of conflict between Western imperial powers. Moreover, there is an engagement in this chapter with a range of issues that cannot be assessed in terms of the teleology already referred to.
Jeremy Black

7. Naval Capability and Warfare

Abstract
When Captain James Cook, British naval officer and famed explorer, visited the Pacific island of Tahiti for the second time in 1774, its fleet was preparing for a punishment expedition against the neighbouring island of Mocorea. Cook and William Hodges, the expedition painter, took great interest in these war preparations, as did the general public when Hodges’ painting The War Boats of the Island of Otaheite [Tahiti] was exhibited in London in 1777. Cook estimated that the expedition involved 160 large war canoes, 170 smaller ones and no less than 7,760 men.
Jeremy Black

8. War and Society

Abstract
In 1776, the Scottish economist Adam Smith offered, in his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (which was to prove the foundational work for modern economics), an analysis of the sociology of warfare in which he adopted the standard Western stadial (stages) approach, and contrasted nations of hunters and shepherds with the ‘more advanced state of society’, in which industry was important. These advanced societies were seen by Smith as providing a hierarchy of military organisation and sophistication in which ‘a well-regulated standing army’ was vital to the defence of civilisation. Firearms, Smith claimed, were crucial in the onset of military modernity and as a measure of military capability:
Before the invention of fire-arms, that army was superior in which the soldiers had, each individually, the greatest skill and dexterity in the use of their arms … since the invention … strength and agility of body, or even extraordinary dexterity and skill in the use of arms, though they are far from being of no consequence, are, however, of less consequence. … In modern war the great expense of firearms gives an evident advantage to the nation which can best afford that expense; and consequently, to an opulent and civilised, over a poor and barbarous nation. In ancient times the opulent and civilised found it difficult to defend themselves against the poor and barbarous nations. In modern times the poor and barbarous find it difficult to defend themselves against the opulent and civilised.1
Jeremy Black

9. Conclusions

Abstract
War was central to the history of the period and to the experience of its peoples, and the wars of the century were far from inconsequential. However, the classic focus in scholarly attention for this period is Western, and the eighteenth century there, prior to the French Revolution and, more particularly, the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, is commonly regarded as a period of military conservatism, indecisiveness and stagnation, part of an interlude between periods of alleged military revolution in 1560–1660 and 1792–1815. The sole major alternative to this approach suggests that the latter revolution began with the outbreak of the War of American Independence in 1775. That conflict is then linked to the French Revolutionary Wars.
Jeremy Black
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