The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe

By Clifford J. Rogers | Go to book overview

feral warfare of the epoch, with which Grotius thus felt obliged to come to terms, gave a peculiar incisiveness to the logic of Leviathan.

The continued use of mercenary armies, with their professional codes and traditions, and the rise of an international officer-class, did indeed provide mitigations before many decades had passed: new military conventions grew up, to regulate the relations of armies to one another. But it was long before these restrictions were applied to civilians: not until the most civilized state in Europe, impelled by military logic, had twice devastated the Palatinate, did public opinion begin to turn against the type of warfare which Grotius had been compelled to legitimize. Grotius, indeed, represents a transitional stage at which the military revolution had not yet worked out its full effects. A completer control by the state of its armies, better administrative devices -- and the fear of reprisals -- were required before there could be any real alleviation. If the military revolution must be given the responsibility for the peculiar horrors of the Thirty Years' War, it did at last evolve the antidote to them. The eighteenth century would bring to Europe a long period in which a limitation of the scope of war was successfully maintained. But it is a long way still, in 1660, to the humane rationalism of Vattel.

Such were some of the effects of the military revolution: I have no doubt that others could be distinguished. I hope, at least, to have persuaded you that these tactical innovations were indeed the efficient causes of changes which were really revolutionary. Between 1560 and 1660 a great and permanent transformation came over the European world. The armies of Maximilian II, in tactics, strategy, constitution and spirit, belong to a world of ideas which would have seemed quite foreign to Benedek and Radetzky. The armies of the Great Elector are linked infrangibly with those of Moltke and Schlieffen. By 1660 the modern art of war had come to birth. Mass armies, strict discipline, the control of the state, the submergence of the individual, had already arrived; the conjoint ascendancy of financial power and applied science was already established in all its malignity; the use of propaganda, psychological warfare, and terrorism as military weapons was already familiar to theorists, as well as to commanders in the field. The last remaining qualms as to the religious and ethical legitimacy of war seemed to have been stilled. The road lay open, broad and straight, to the abyss of the twentieth century.


Notes
1
For a general treatment of the period Hans Delbrück, Geschichte der Kriegskunst im Rahmen derpolitischen Geschichte, Berlin, 1920. iv, is the best authority, though this volume is on a slighter scale than its predecessors. Paul Schmitthenner, Krieg und Kriegführung im Wandel der Weligeschichte, Potsdam, 1930, is a stimulating and suggestive survey. Sir Charles Oman A History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century ( 1937) necessarily ends with Maurice of Orange. The best discussions in English are the chapter in Sir George Clark , "The Seventeenth Century", Oxford, 1929, and the same author's War and Society in the Seventeenth Century, Cambridge, 1958.

-29-

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