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

By Clifford J. Rogers | Go to book overview

13
In Defense of The Military Revolution1

GEOFFREY PARKER

ALTHOUGH The Military Revolution is a relatively small book, it took twenty years to write. I had read and enjoyed Michael Roberts' seminal article before starting work on my dissertation and, while studying the Spanish Army of Flanders for my Ph.D. between 1965 and 1968, I looked for evidence that would his model of a backward, benighted, ineffectual force. But I failed to find it. Instead at the battle of Nördlingen in 1634, Habsburg troops fighting in traditional fashion inflicted a crushing and decisive defeat on the masters of the new military science, forcing Sweden and her allies to abandon all their conquests in south Germany. It was most puzzling and the last chapter of my dissertation, entitled "A military revolution?", expressed my doubts. With that grim humor for which academics are famous, the History Faculty Board of Cambridge University appointed Michael Roberts to serve as my external examiner; I walked to my oral defence with heavy heart. Much to my surprise, however, that generous and gracious man told me that he found my critique convincing and advised me to publish it separately as an article, instead of tucking it away at the back of a book. In the event, I transferred some of the material to the front instead, to form the introductory chapter of The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road ( 1972), and published the rest in 1976 as "The Military Revolution -- a myth?" (see chapter 2 above.)

And there the matter rested until the summer of 1982 when, while beginning research at the archives of Simancas for a book on the Spanish Armada, I received an invitation from the Master and Fellows of Trinity College Cambridge to deliver four lectures on a topic -- any topic -- concerning Military History. Simon Adams, then also working at Simancas, suggested that I might take the opportunity to develop the theme advanced in that first chapter of The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road: namely that early modern warfare involved far more sieges than 0battles, and that "actions" between men with firearms in and around the trenches proved far more common than full-scale encounters decided by saber and lance in the field.

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