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

By Clifford J. Rogers | Go to book overview

3
The Military Revolutions of the
Hundred Years War1

CLIFFORD J. ROGERS


THE MILITARY REVOLUTION

The concept of the "military revolution" first 2 entered the historical literature with Michael Roberts's famous inaugural lecture, "The Military Revolution, 1560- 1660" at the Queen's University of Belfast some forty years ago. Roberts proposed that the art of war in early modern Europe was radically transformed over that space of a century. A tactical revolution based on the use of linear formations of drilled musketeers had led to a massive increase in the size of armies, which in turn had dramatically heightened the impact of war on society. The new armies of Maurice of Nassau and Gustavus Adolphus, larger and more disciplined than any seen before, had made it possible to execute more complex strategic plans. 3

The idea of the military revolution rapidly became the "new orthodoxy" in early modern military history, passing almost unchallenged until 1976, 4 when Geoffrey Parker article, "The 'Military Revolution,' 1560-1660 -- a myth?" appeared. Parker argued that Roberts had overemphasized the importance of Gustavus Adolphus at the expense of French, Dutch, and Hapsburg developments; underemphasized the importance of siege warfare; and put the startingdate of the revolution perhaps half a century too far forward. Still, Parker concluded that he had "failed to dent the basic thesis" propounded by Roberts. 5 Subsequent studies stretched the parameters of the Military Revolution even further, and argued that its key significance lay in the development of state governmental bureaucracies which the revolution made necessary. 6

The next major step in the development of Military Revolution historiography came with the 1988 publication of Parker The Military Revolution: Military innovation and the rise of the West, 1500-1800. In that work, Parker posed the question which has come to define the significance of the Military Revolution as an historical phenomenon: "Just how did the West, initially so small and deficient in most

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