The Military Revolution; military innovation and the rise of the West,1500-1800
New York: Cambridge UP, 1988.


Chapter 1
"My story begins with a survey of the various ways in which the Europeans fought their wars in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as the rapid spread of firearms transformed the conduct of both offensive and defensive operations, with due regard for those areas that seemed largely unaffected by the military revolution, as well as for those that lay at its heart." (4)

Was there a military revolution? The first big change occurred when fortifications became vulnerable to bombards. Leon Batista Alberti developed defense mechanisms. He argued that fortifications could be more effective if they were built in an uneven line, like the teeth of a saw. Between the 1440s and 1490s cities took new defensive measures: they were made longer, thicker and lower, and shaped to allow effective flanking fire. The bastion was the dominant feature of the new style defense fortification. A moat was placed in front, and two sides presented room for defensive fire. Anything beyond the moat might have the protection of a crownwork or a hornwork. The French invasion of the Italian peninsula under Charles VIII in 1494-95 was seen as a watershed. He brought with him 18,000 men and a horse-drawn siege train of at least 40 guns. The cost of such fortifications were stunning in one case, the Republic of Siena spent so much on fortification that they bankrupted themselves for soldier pay. The new defensive system was known as the trace italienne. It was in point of fact an international expert revolution. From the 1500s onwards, Italians designed fortifications in all the colonies - Havana, St. Augustine Florida, Mobassa, Bassein and Damao. Other Italians found work in the Netherlands and France. By 1648 when the Thirty Years' War was over, only a handful of major settlements remained without bastions in the Netherlands. Clearly, carrying out an attack of this sort and maintaining a defense at the same time, called for an unprecedented concentration of both men and munitions. After the Renaissance, therefore, much of Europe seemed locked into a military system in which offense and defense were exactly balanced. Fortresses in enemy territory had to be taken; they were too dangerous to leave unconquered, and so most of the major encounters were sieges.

What would a soldier carry? Major innovations were the musket, bringing an end to archery and cavalry and the broadsword. Early firearms were not an improvement on the speed of archery; a well-trained archer could fire off 10 hours a minute with reasonable accuracy up to 200 meters. Early arquebuses took several minutes to reload, and was accurate only up to 100 meters. But the key is well-trained. It apparently took years of hard work to build up the muscles to be an archer. Among traditional weaponry, pikemen remained. The European countermarch was developed in 1594 and taught by Maurice and John of Nassau in their school of war (opened 1616). They developed the musketry volley and the Kriesbuch provided pictorial display for a systematic method of loading the gun. Each man in the new strategic narrow lines was more likely to face personal attack. In this case, drill, discipline and courage were imperative so men would keep cool under fire. (Drill standardization has echoes of Frederick Taylor?)

So there are three key factors: First -- artillery transformed fortress design. Second -- muskets transformed weapons, soldier roles, training and deployment of troops. Third -- armies increased in size. The determining factor for moving to the new style of warfare was the presence or absence of the trace italianne fortification.

Old defenses needed to be swept away: the past was irrelevant, and the present was expensive. New forms of weapons didn't entirely end old forms of warfare. Regular troops could indeed be put to flight by undisciplined clansmen without up-to-date weaponry. But the odds on rage and courage ran out mid-18th century. The great Eastern European plain remained deeply resistant to change; the Poles retained high levels of cavalry, but given the nature of their enemies, Tartars and Turks, it made some sense.

Garrison spats were the most common form of warfare, more common than pitched battles or protracted sieges. When countries determine to raze their old fortresses, this kind of warfare ended.

Additional summary: the timing of this transformation was slower and less total than once thought.

Chapter 2 Supplying War

"Chapter 2, by contrast, does focus on these more 'advanced' areas, most of them in the west of Europe, in order to examine the logistical problems which better fortifications and bigger armies created, and how they were overcome. However, the arms-race between the various Western powers took place by sea as well as by land; and the 'military revolution' here offered the European states an opportunity to extend their conflicts far beyond their own shores." (4)

Up to the 1670s, about 150,000 men were all that could be supported on the field. In the 18th century, between 10 and 12 million Europeans became soldiers (all armies combined, I guess, and across the whole century?) How were soldiers found and supported?

Some wanted to escape being a craftsman, living in a shop, or avoid a criminal sentence, or a girl back home, or a debt. Some wanted honor or travel, and most or all hoped to improve their status in goods and fortune. The bounty varied, depending on the grain supply. In years when food was plentiful, and work was plentiful, the enlistment bounty increased; in years when food was scarce, and prices were high, then more men would volunteer to fight with low bounties. Some men came with their clans, and some units were hired in other areas of Europe. Most armies depended on foreign troops, local conscription, and recruits culled from the defeated. Richelieu, for instance, favored an army with about 50% foreign troops. Those who lived were tough and successful. Their loyalties were to the person who hired them - the cause was immaterial; serving honestly was all that mattered. There was high military wastage. First, most who went abroad died, some in war, some from disease. A fair bit of wastage came from desertion and another from lack of pay. Attrition rates were about 25% per year in the crack and experience troops. It was impossible for a king, general or minister to know exactly how big the army was at any given time. Revolts were relatively common: to take an extreme example, between 1572 and 1609 the quite unruly Army of Flanders mutinied 45 times. By 1630 it cost 5 times as much to put a soldier in the field as it had done a century earlier.

How were soldiers funded? The Dutch developed a new way of managing: they backed their loans on taxes and were so successful that people were sorry to see them pay up. No one gave such high and steady returns loans. They never ran out of money to fund war, but many other countries did; most notably the Spanish. The English borrowed the Dutch system successfully under Queen Anne and William III. During the 30 Years' War, a high point for entrepreneurial recruiting, some 1,500 individuals acted as troop recruiters. Supply lines were sometimes set up, such as the highly impressive Spanish Road (1567-1620) from Lombardy to the Low Countries; in other cases the army marched along rivers to be supplied easily; in yet others, the army pillaged the countryside. Standardization hadn't yet been developed, and in one recorded case in Ireland, soldiers had to gnaw off the ends of their bullets to get them to fit in the muskets.

Other difficulties included keeping enough horses on the battlefield, and getting or making standard uniforms - or even, just getting or keeping clothes. Hospital care was first established in Brabant, Netherlands. Feeding and lodging was no joke - just baking enough bread (wood, ovens, flour, carts to carry the whole) and finding enough meat was nearly impossible. A new way, pioneered by Oliver Cromwell, was to make each soldier carry enough bread and cheese in their knapsacks to keep them for a week. Yet another consideration was all the servants, wives, family and service providers and rag-tag that followed the army.

Chapter 3 Victory at Sea
"At first this escalation remained confined to encounters at sea, with attacks by one European flotilla upon another in the North Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and, eventually, the Indian Ocean." (4)

A revolution in naval warfare occurred equal to the revolution on land. It allowed the exercise of a European hegemony for most of the modern period. At the center was the adoption of the gun. The principle European warship was the galley, which had held its place since the 9th century AD. Although guns make their entrance on ships earlier, around 1450 effective guns are added to ships. In the 1520s, the Chinese gave up naval gunnery in their war against Japan, but the West took the opposite approach. The Venetian shipbuilders, by contrast, settled on the galleas and guns aboard. They were so effective that 6 of them sunk 70 Turkish galleys in the battle of Lepanto in 1571. (The Ottoman fleet was decimated, but they replaced their losses in about 7 months.) Older models of ship required too many men; between 1450 and 1650 improved sail design meant that the same size crew could go much greater distances. Muzzle loading cannons replaced the weaker breech loading gun. There are a few famous examples of ships that sank in the harbor because they were overloaded with guns (the English Mary Rose, 1545, and the Swedish Vasa,1628). The English fleet was revived under Elizabeth (at the advice of her later opponent Phillip of Spain) The big test came in 1588, in which the English ships proved more maneuverable, but more importantly, the Spanish guns were unprepared to fire more than a single volley. The Dutch created the first high seas long- range fleet. They were swift, shallow of draft, powerful, and could bear useful number of guns. These frigates were 300 tons, with 40 guns, and a ratio of 3.5 to 1. The English then adopted Dutch ways and invested in a truly superior fleet under Oliver Cromwell, which he tested in the West Indies. The century after 1588 saw many battles far from home, with fleets operating in the Caribbean, the Pacific, and the West and East Indies.

The Portuguese had done well until were not removed until the 1560s. The Indians resisted the Portuguese in a stalemate, but the English and the Dutch tipped the balance against both until the 1620s. Both the Indians and the Japanese (red seal ships) found a solution to naval aggression. They used diplomatic and economic sanctions: they would take a land "hostage" or cease trading with all of the nation in question until the offending ship or person had been punished. This is the power of the permit and the prison. Being able to pull the plug on all trade meant that they did not have to invest in military firepower, but could trade in "defenseless" ships. (Note: the Korean turtle ships of the 1590s). The Europeans were by no means unbeatable: for instance, the Omanis did manage to capture Fort Jesus in Mombasa and Bahrain. Pirate king (Cheng Ch'eng-kung) Coxinga, a Ming supporter, commanded 2,000 warships and 100,000 troops and a powerful trade network in Fukien province. Forced out of China by the Qing, he menaced the Europeans around Taiwan and Manila. His death at 37 was fortuitous for his enemies.

An equilibrium was established in the later 17th century: Europe ruled the waves around America, Africa and South Asia, but were not able to penetrate the far East. Not until Europe had conquered India and passed through the Industrial Revolution would they be able to "open" East Asia.

Chapter 4
"But, before long, the Europeans abroad searched for native allies, and thereby spread their enmities to the other continents. With them they took their new military methods and, as these steadily improved, they gradually gained superiority over all their opponents: over the American in the sixteenth century, over most Indonesians in the seventeenth, over many Indians and Africans in the eighteenth. In the end, only Korea, China and Japan held out against the West until the Industrial Revolution in Europe and America forged some new tools of empire - such as the armoured steam ship and the rapid-fire gun - to which even East Asia at first possessed no effective reply." (4)

Why was it that small groups of Europeans caused the collapse of two major Empires in America, but no one could make a dent on India until about the 1740s? And then, why was success so rapid afterwards? Europeans were somewhat bewildered. Although the machine age explains the 35-85% jump, it does not explain the first 35%. By 1800 white colonists ruled all of Siberia, large parts of America and India, several enclaves in South East Asia, and a few outposts along the coast of Africa. But no impact had been made in Far East Asia. Why?

First, why were the Europeans successful elsewhere? First, the wars fought by South Americans and some North American tribes and Africa were for slaves and not for territory or conquest. In the case of the Americas, the entire populace was overwhelmed by European diseases. As a side note, search and destroy missions were developed by the Spanish in their guerilla warfare against the Indians (survival crops, mastiffs, knives - thoroughly nasty). So Europeans overseas were fighting for different reasons than their opponents, and settled into their new "conquests" to establish fortifications and trade. Let us also remember slaves figured in the Ottoman Empire too: the Janissaries were the Ottoman way of creating an army, and they were equal, until the 1700s, to anything European. What gave the Europeans an advantage? Parker argues that the Turks invested in "big" versus "mobile," never quite redeployed troops to work with thin gun lines, and never quite figured out siege warfare. Finally, the Ottomans didn't have the best metal work on their guns. Then, why didn't locals learn to besiege European fortifications? It is difficult to understand, but Parker suggests that in the case of India, the local castles were so huge that sieges were useless (- and so the idea had been abandoned long ago? I'm not sure about this!) Anyway, the VOC spent about 30% of the running costs of each voyage on war-related items. The EIC didn't invest quite so heavily, but did get involved in British disputes overseas. In the next century Indians were eventually absorbed in the British army.

Parker argues that the Far East had already understood and absorbed the principles of warfare with guns and gunpowder, but didn't use musketry. The Japanese adopted the gun quickly in the 1520s, and developed musketry salvos in 1575, 20 years before the Europeans. Both the Japanese and Chinese built huge, nearly impregnable forces which could not be taken with artillery until after the mid-19th century. The Japanese demilitarized in 1580 and remained closed to the West from 1639 until the 1852 expedition by (American) Admiral Perry forced a trade opening.

Chapter 5
"This volume concludes with a brief examination of the process by which the armies and navies of the early modern states metamorphosed into those of the industrial age, capable of imposing - and, for nearly a century, of maintaining - Western influence and Western ways on almost the entire world. That saga, of course, has been well told by others, most notably by Daniel R. Headrick in The Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century. Headrick explained how the Western states increased their global empires from about 35 percent of the world's land surface in 1800 to 84 percent in 1914. His story makes compelling reading; it does not need re-telling. My objective, therefore, is rather different: I seek to illumine the principal means by which the West acquired that first 35 percent between 1500 and 1800." (4)

Chronology of the Military Revolution

1530s and 40s: first leap in army size, concommitant re-organization in the government in most western states
1672 and 1710: second leap in army size associated with the rise of absolutism

When is the end of the military revolution? Parker puts it after the second leap, after the Seven Years' War. He says that gunnery was still "fire away" not "fire at" and army size was still around 200,000 for smaller sizes. It wasn't until guns and uniforms and food could be produced at industrial speed that the military revolution was at end. But a state like Prussia was crippled by the Seven Years' War.

Signaling the End Point of the Military Revolution, about 1790:
(after the death of Frederick the Great, and before Napoleon)

the creation of the light cavalry and the light infantry
the creation of the administrative unit called the "division"
really effective field artillery
assembling much bigger armies - about 1 million men in the French army; the trace italienne could be broken by an army of this size
the British navy was so big that it outgunned all other navies, and just beyond were the ironclads

These are new developments that carry us into modern warfare.