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

By Clifford J. Rogers | Go to book overview

5
Recalculating French Army Growth During the Grand Siécle, 1610-1715

JOHN A. LYNN

BY THE END OF THE SEVENTEENTH century, European warfare had become an affair of giants, as colossal armies battled against one another. France boasted the greatest of these Goliaths, a force which totaled as many as 400,000 soldiers, at least on paper. It was the largest and hungriest institution maintained by the state. That this Titan existed by 1700, no one denies; but the pattern and timing of its growth and its final dimensions remain matters of debate. This article presents a new and more rigorous calculation of French army expansion 1610-1715.

For over a century, historians divided French military expansion into two stages. First, in order to challenge Spain, Richelieu and Louis XIII assembled an army of unprecedented size in 1635. Totaling 150,000 or more, this force was at least twice as large as any previous wartime military maintained by the French monarchy. A second phase of growth followed the military and administrative reform associated with the first decades of the personal reign of Louis XIV. Troop strength reached 280,000 during the Dutch War ( 1672-78) and hit 400,000 in the War of the League of Augsburg ( 1688-97), continuing at that level for the War of the Spanish Succession ( 1701-14).

Since the mid- 1950s, proponents of a Military Revolution in early modern Europe, most notably Michael Roberts and Geoffrey Parker, have insisted that the need to raise and support armies larger than ever before called for administrative, fiscal, and governmental reforms. 1 This side of the Military Revolution has attracted historians and social scientists concerned with state formation, most notably Charles Tilly, who writes, "As they fashioned an organization for making war, the king's servants inadvertently created a centralized state. First the framework of an army, then a government built around that framework -- and in its shape". 2 Of course, reason dictates that in order for military necessity to have brought on government reform, the growth of the army must have predated that reform, not the other way around.

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