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

By Clifford J. Rogers | Go to book overview

course of the Military Revolution. Charles VIII's decision to invade Italy and Ferdinand of Aragün's decision to intervene in response may have had inconclusive strategic results, but their impact on the Military Revolution was enormous. Indeed, if we were to pick a single motivating impulse which set the course of the Military Revolution during the period with which we are concerned here, it would be that which emerged from those two related decisions. But that invasion might have come a decade earlier, and from the southeast rather than the northwest. To be more precise, it did come, but was not sustained. In 1480 Mehmed 11 threw an invasion force into Apulia and seized the nominally Byzantine city of Otranto. Mehmed died unexpectedly the following year and in the turmoil of the succession struggle the garrison was abandoned and forced to surrender. The throne fell to Bayezid II, who was forced to adopt a non-aggressive policy in the Mediterranean until the death in 1495 of his brother Cem, who had fled to the west after being defeated. 115 Without going into the laws and customs governing the Ottoman succession, this outcome appeared to be among the least likely. In almost any other scenario, the Turks would have maintained themselves in strength at Otranto and moved to expand their foothold, though how aggressively we can only guess. The first serious encounters of Spanish armies beyond Iberia would thus have been with the Turk rather than the French and Swiss, and Italian engineers would have had to adjust their fortress designs to Turkish rather than French methods. I leave consideration of likely outcomes to the reader, but with the reminder that the Imperial troops who faced down Suleiman I's army before Vienna in 1532 did so on the basis of lessons which Gonsalvo de Cürdova and his men had distilled from hard experience fighting the French and Swiss.


Notes
1.
( Cambridge, 1988)..
2.
Parker, Military Revolution, 5.
3.
"The Military Revolutions of the Hundred Years' War", The Journal of Military History, Vol. 57, No. 2 ( April 1993), 241-278; reprinted with revisions above, chapter 3.
4.
This approach was suggested to me by Theodore K. Rabb.
5.
Andrew C. Hess, "The Ottoman Conquest of Egypt and the Beginning of the Sixteenth-Century World War"," International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 4 ( 1973), 62.
6.
The Safavid alignment with the Shii sect of Islam, which enjoyed widespread support in eastern Anatolia, posed a serious internal threat to the Ottomans with which Selim I, The Grim, dealt in draconian fashion following his accession in 1512, Hess, "Ottoman Conquest", 67. The parallel with Charles V's later problems with German Protestantism is inescapable.
7.
The link between territorial acquisitions in the west and the health of the empire was timar, a system of land allocation, taxation, local rule and military manpower mobilization which was a central pillar of the Ottoman state. Timar was based on the award of non-hereditary, feudatory land grants which gave the holder the right to collect agricultural taxes, normally in return for military service as an armored horse archer. Timar thus provided a

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