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

By Clifford J. Rogers | Go to book overview

11
"Money, Money, and Yet More Money!"
Finance, the Fiscal-State, and the
Military Revolution: Spain 1500-1650

I.A.A. THOMPSON

FOLLOWING MICHAEL ROBERTS, there has been general agreement among historians that one of the principal consequences of the Military Revolution was a great increase in the cost of war, leading to the growth of state taxation, bureaucratic administration, and centralized government. The scale, the costs and the organizational demands of the new style of warfare are seen to have been the driving forces of a coercion-extraction cycle of power and resources that led inexorably to the monopolization of military force by the central government and to the consolidation of the territorial control of the state. The crucial features of the Military Revolution that are said to have made war so much more expensive are the increased size of armies and navies, more sophisticated battle tactics requiring longer periods of training and more intensive leadership, the heavy capital costs of artillery and new fortification works, expensive gunpowder weaponry, the continuous nature and the continental scale of sixteenth and seventeenth century wars, necessitating permanent defences and standing forces, and large administrative and logistical support staffs. 1

That war was overwhelmingly the most important item of expenditure for virtually every government in early-modern Europe can hardly be doubted. That is not in question. The more pertinent issues are whether war was costing relatively more in this period than in previous ages; in what ways were the costs of war related to the changes in the nature and conduct of war that have come to be known as the Military Revolution; and how did those costs affect the development of fiscality and the state? Is war=taxes=state a universally valid syllogism? Or is this an inversion of the proper syntax, state=taxes=war? Indeed, to what extent was war a state activity? And how much of it was financed by the state, rather than by society, or by the soldier, or by its victims?

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