Tea Time at the Met

Now that I’ve dipped my proverbial toe into the weird cult world of art museums, I’ve found a few more items that might be of interest for fellow EMEMHians who are procrastinating from their many research projects. I’ve accumulated a few museum exhibit guides that give the reader the opportunity to read the background of Karl V’s Tunis tapestries, and get more background on each of the pieces on display (see online Zotero group). Admittedly, it’s not the same as being there, but, still, these catalogs allow you to look silly and pretentious pointing at art in the comfort of your own home (or library).


Since we’ll be going to the Frick to check out Watteau’s French soldiers, I thought I’d check out the massive Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC) online, remembering that they have quite the collection of arms and armor – largest in the Western hemisphere they claim. Turns out they have a fair number of art pieces in their online catalog – or ‘catalogue’, if you think ‘theater’ should be spelled ‘theatre’. So, for example, if you were ever wondering what great-grandpa Louis le Grand gave to Prince Luis of Asturias for his fifth birthday c. 1712, you can, thanks to the Met:DT765


But to make a short story long, I’ll circuitously wind back to the title of the post. Turns out Europe and the U.S. both have rich people who pay lots of money to buy artwork. While in the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum (Vienna’s Military History Museum) a month back, I came across a collection of large prints of the ‘greatest Austrian hits’ of the War of the Spanish Succession, such as they were. The intimidating Latin title of the volume is Representatio Belli, ob succesionem in Regno Hispanico auspiciis trium potentiis. Invictiss. et gloriosiss. Caesarum Leopoldi. I. Josephi. I. et Caroli VI. intra 14. annos (Der Spanische Successions Krief unter drei Gossmächtigst. Unüberwindlichst-und Gloruwürdigsten Kenssern Leopoldo I. Josepho I. und Carolo VI. innerhalb 14 Jahren…), c. 1714, published by Jeremias Wolff. You’ve likely seen the format before, you can find similar illustrations of individual triumphs from the English, Dutch and French sides: triumphal engravings of battlefield victories (battles, sieges, naval victories) textually explicated on cherubim-suspended drapery and humanized by likenesses of selected participants. And don’t forget the marginal panoplies (martial cornucopia?) and allegorical figures. Something like this, in other words:

Repraesentatio belli 1715 large 8

If so inclined, you can download the whole book, in all its gory detail, at several places online.

Adding the work to my list, I just now happened upon an even more interesting variation in the Met’s collections. Turns out somebody wasn’t happy just looking at the pictures in a book, or maybe they wanted to look at the pretty pictures while having their cuppa and were afraid of stains. So the market, always efficiently satisfying demand, led one Ignaz Preissler to create a tea set with some of these same images. The Met acquired most of the tea service (and tracked down the rest), a researcher wrote up a description for art fans and the occasionally-interloping military historian, and Bob’s-your-uncle:

Pages from Repraesentatio_Belli_ob_successionem_in_Regno_Hispanico_The_Metropolitan_Museum_Journal_v_24_1989-2

(Note that Figure 10, the upper-right bowl, illustrates soldiers stripping a body.) For details, you can read all about it in Cassidy-Geiger, Maureen. “Repraesentatio Bell, Ob Successionem in Regno Hispanico…: A Tea Service and Garniture by the Schwarzlot Decorator Ignaz Preissler.” Metropolitan Museum Journal 24 (1989): 239–54, available here.

The Met has other publications online as well. Those of interest to EMEMHians include catalogues of fencing manuals, early modern crossbows, and of arms and armor more generally. So if you’re interested, head on over to the MetPublications page and choose the Thematic Category of European Art 17C-18C. Undoubtedly you can find similar online resources at other major museums. But, unfortunately for me, my research projects won’t finish themselves, so it’s back to the grind.

As I was saying

somebody should let people know when there are museum exhibits on early modern military subjects.

I’ve been writing up personal summaries of our recent trip to Vienna-Salzburg-Munich (and sprinkling them with photos off the web, which are usually far better than what we can manage), lest the memories fade from view too quickly. Pursuant to this task, I started looking up a bunch of early modern artists’ works in Google image search. Concurrently, my RSS feed alerted me to Amy Herman’s Visual Intelligence, which I acquired and have been reading with interest. In a suitably artistic state of mind, I thought I’d look up the Frick Collection (where Herman worked), just to see what kind of museum it was. Turns out, it’s in New York City (a few hours from me), and has some early modern works. So on a further whim, keenly aware of the fortuitous timing that allowed us to see the ephemeral Feste feiern and Kaiser Karl V erobert Tunis exhibits in Vienna, I checked to see what special exhibits the Frick had coming up. And, lo and behold, I find this exhibit, starting July 12 and running through October 2: Watteau’s Soldiers: Scenes of Military Life in Eighteenth-Century France. The description of the exhibit:

It would be difficult to think of an artist further removed from the muck and misery of war than Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684–1721), who is known as a painter of amorous aristocrats and melancholy actors. And yet, early in his career, Watteau painted a number of scenes of military life. They were produced during one of the darkest chapters of France’s history, the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), but the martial glory on which most military painters trained their gaze held no interest for Watteau. Instead, he focused on the most prosaic aspects of war — marches, halts, and encampments. The resulting works show the quiet moments between the fighting, when soldiers could rest and daydream, smoke pipes and play cards.

Watteau's soldiers

Watteau’s soldiers chilling’ at a Valenciennes gate

Presented exclusively at The Frick Collection in the summer of 2016, Watteau’s Soldiers is the first exhibition devoted solely to these captivating pictures, introducing the artist’s engagement with military life to a larger audience while exploring his unusual working methods. Among the paintings, drawings, and prints will be four of the seven known military scenes — with the Frick’s own Portal of Valenciennes as the centerpiece — as well as the recently rediscovered Supply Train, which has never before been exhibited publicly in a museum. Also featured will be thirteen studies of soldiers in red chalk, many directly related to the paintings on view, as well as a selection of works by Watteau’s predecessors and followers, the Frick’s Calvary Camp by Philips Wouwerman among them.

An accompanying book by Anne L. Poulet Curatorial Fellow Aaron Wile, published by The Frick Collection in association with D Giles, Ltd., London, will be the first illustrated catalogue of all Watteau works related to military subjects.

So if you’ll be in the region this summer, make some time to check it out. I know I will. And if you can’t,  at least consider checking out the catalog. Hopefully it’ll explain why Watteau’s short career should be divided into “early” and “late” works.

More posts on the military art to come.



Short post on Vienna trip

Just got back from a two-week excursion to central Europe, with a quick turnaround for other familial obligations.

But lest you think I was merely reading Georg Scherer’s sermons at a Viennese café while drinking my Wiener Melange (more like eating apfelstruedel mit schlagobers and reading reports of yet another act of hate/terrorism/gun violence in the U.S.), I was actually hard at work, traipsing across the historical flotsam and jetsam of what once was the crown jewel of the Austro-Hungarian empire. But that’s for another time.

To tide you over, in case you’re in Vienna over the next couple of months, and are interested in all things Karl V, the Kunsthistorisches Museum has a top-floor exhibit on Charles V’s capture of Tunis in 1535. There are apparently some tapestries of his successful North African campaign in the Prado, but Vienna has the “cartoons” (the paintings which were the basis of the tapestries) currently on display.

Detail from Vermeyen cartoon of Tunis 1535 campaign

Detail from Vermeyen cartoon of Tunis 1535 campaign

For a brief (English-language) overview of the exhibit, you can look here.

The KHM also has a (German-language) catalog of the exhibit. Which makes me think there really should be some art museum listserv to alert interested parties to military history-themed exhibits. Though something like this might be a start.

Early Summer Reading

In case you need to add anything to your summer reading list, the following (recent and not-so-recent) publications are available for your perusal*:

Hamilton, Douglas J., and Douglas Macinnes, eds. Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire, 1680-1820. London: Routledge, 2014.
Abstract: The essays in this collection examine religion, politics and commerce in Scotland during a time of crisis and turmoil. Contributors look at the effect of the Union on Scottish trade and commerce, the Scottish role in tobacco and sugar plantations, Robert Burns’s early poetry on his planned emigration to Jamaica and Scottish anti-abolitionists.
Chapters of a more military bent include:
  • McInally, Thomas. “Missionaries or Soldiers for the Jacobite Cause? The Conflict of Loyalties for Scottish Catholic Clergy.” In Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire, 1680-1820, edited by Douglas Macinnes and Douglas J. Hamilton, 43–58. London: Routledge, 2014.
  • Szechi, Daniel. “Jamie the Soldier and the Jacobite Military Threat, 1706-27.” In Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire, 1680-1820, edited by Douglas Macinnes and Douglas J. Hamilton, 13–28. London: Routledge, 2014.
Faini, Marco, and Maria Elena Severini, eds. Books for Captains and Captains in Books: Shaping the Perfect Military Commander in Early Modern Europe. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2016.
Abstract: This volume collects the papers presented at the conference Books for Captains and Captains in books. Italo-German Conference on the training and image of the military leader during the Renaissance, held at the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel from 24th to 25th February, 2014.
The essays explore at length why and how the captain became the subject of a series of new discourses. The present volume therefore proves an extensive insight into an understudied, if not neglected, subject. It investigates the rise of the captain in early modern Europe through a wide variety of sources: treatises, poems, books of precepts, translations from the classics, and visual sources. While the focus of this collection is mainly on Italy, the articles here collected stress the relevance of cultural transfer to and from Germany, while taking into account also other countries, such as France, Poland and Spain. The interdisciplinary approach allows the successful reconstruction of the figure of the captain, in order to understand the reasons of its rise, and to explain its multifarious representations. This collection of studies also enables us to investigate some of the most crucial historiographical questions concerning early modern Europe (i.e. the role of the Counter Reformation or the issue of social mobility) from new perspectives. Books for Captains and Captains in Books will certainly pave the way for future research into this fascinating and complex topic.
El Hage, Fadi. Abraham Fabert. Du clientélisme au maréchalat (1599-1662). L’Harmattan, 2016.
Abstract: « Cet homme eut un courage intrépide, une application infatigable, une conduite irrépréhensible, et une capacité si diversifiée, qu’on n’a jamais bien su le plus beau de ses talents. » Telle était selon Courtilz de Sandras la réputation d’Abraham Fabert (1599-1662), fils d’imprimeur devenu maréchal de France. Ce livre propose de découvrir ou de redécouvrir un personnage emblématique de l’évolution sociale et militaire de la noblesse au XVIIe siècle, passant du clientélisme auprès de grands seigneurs au service de l’État.


Fontaine, Marie-Madeleine, and Jean-Louis Fournel, eds. Les mots de la guerre dans l’Europe de la Renaissance. Genève: Librairie Droz, 2015.
Abstract: Cet ouvrage s’intéresse à la terminologie des mots appartenant aux domaines militaires (armes, artillerie, fortifications, etc.), qu’ils concernent les professionnels de la guerre, les juristes du droit de la guerre ou les acteurs politiques, selon les langues et les conditions de chaque pays du monde européen et méditerranéen, entre les XVe et XVIIe siècles. L’analyse de l’invention, de l’usage et de l’usure des mots réserve quelques surprises dans les évolutions rapides et irrégulières qui marquent les relations entre des réalités éphémères et leurs désignations plus ou moins stables et pertinentes. Les auteurs de ces études se sont interrogés sur les causes diverses qui ont pu être à l’origine de tels décalages ou survivances.
To mention but one example, Pieter Martens has a chapter on the assimilation of Italian engineering terminology in the Habsburg Low Countries.
Tozzi, Christopher J. Nationalizing France’s Army: Foreign, Black, and Jewish Troops in the French Military, 1715-1831. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2016.
Abstract: Before the French Revolution, tens of thousands of foreigners served in France’s army. They included troops from not only all parts of Europe but also places as far away as Madagascar, West Africa, and New York City. Beginning in 1789, the French revolutionaries, driven by a new political ideology that placed “the nation” at the center of sovereignty, began aggressively purging the army of men they did not consider French, even if those troops supported the new regime. Such efforts proved much more difficult than the revolutionaries anticipated, however, owing to both their need for soldiers as France waged war against much of the rest of Europe and the difficulty of defining nationality cleanly at the dawn of the modern era. Napoleon later faced the same conundrums as he vacillated between policies favoring and rejecting foreigners from his army. It was not until the Bourbon Restoration, when the modern French Foreign Legion appeared, that the French state established an enduring policy on the place of foreigners within its armed forces. By telling the story of France’s noncitizen soldiers―who included men born abroad as well as Jews and blacks whose citizenship rights were subject to contestation―Christopher Tozzi sheds new light on the roots of revolutionary France’s inability to integrate its national community despite the inclusionary promise of French republicanism. Drawing on a range of original, unpublished archival sources, Tozzi also highlights the linguistic, religious, cultural, and racial differences that France’s experiments with noncitizen soldiers introduced to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French society.Winner of the Walker Cowen Memorial Prize for an Outstanding Work of Scholarship in Eighteenth-Century Studies
Dorrell, Nick. Marlborough’s Other Army: The British Army and the Campaigns of the First Peninsula War, 1702-1712. Helion and Company, 2015.
Abstract: An often neglected aspect of Marlborough’s war is its crucial campaign in Spain and Portugal also known as the First Peninsula War of 1702–1712. Whilst this campaign was critical to the outcome of the war, relatively little information is available about it or the army that fought it. This work not only provides  a detailed look  at the army that fought the Spanish and Portuguese campaigns of Marlborough’s war, but it also offers an insight into  the course of the war in Iberia. It aims to provide more detail and understanding of a relatively little known part of a war that helped to shape and strengthened Britain’s position amongst the main European players.  Several chapters look at the national contingents that made up the confederate armies fighting in Spain and Portugal. The work concentrates not only on the reasonably well known British contribution but also on the equally important role of the  less well known Austrian, Dutch, Palatine, Portuguese and Spanish contingents. These chapters provide general information about  the units involved, their organization, tactics and other relevant detail. In other chapters  the work concentrates  in detail on the developments in the Spanish and Portuguese campaigns in each year of the war.  Details of the composition of the armies in each campaign, their activities and battles, the size of the units if known, etc, in each year are provided. Attention is paid not only to the most famous engagement at Almanza but also to the other battles and skirmishes  of the Iberian campaigns.The book provides a complete guide to the forces fighting in Marlborough’s armies in Iberia. It will be a valuable addition to the library of both the casual reader and the serious history student with interest in this important part of British and European history. It not only offers  for the first time an overview of all the contributions to the war effort in Iberia, but also  presents the reader with a valuable contrast not only to Marlborough’s campaigns of the time, but also perhaps  to Wellington’s later campaign.


Dadson,  Trevor J. and J.H. Elliott, eds. Britain, Spain and the Treaty of Utrecht 1713-2013. London: Legenda, 2014.
Military chapters of note:
Elliott, J.H. “The Road to Utrecht: War and Peace.” In Britain, Spain and the Treaty of Utrecht 1713-2013, edited by Trevor J. Dadson and J.H. Elliott, 3–8`. London: Legenda, 2014.
Hoppit, Julian. “Party Politics and War Weariness in the Reign of Queen Anne.” In Britain, Spain and the Treaty of Utrecht 1713-2013, edited by Trevor J. Dadson and J.H. Elliott, 9–18. London: Legenda, 2014.
Palao Gil, Francisco Javier. “The Crown of Aragon in the War of the Spanish Succession.” In Britain, Spain and the Treaty of Utrecht 1713-2013, edited by Trevor J. Dadson and J.H. Elliott, 18–38. London: Legenda, 2014.
Storrs, Christopher. “Philip V and the Revival of Spain 1713-48.” In Britain, Spain and the Treaty of Utrecht 1713-2013, edited by Trevor J. Dadson and J.H. Elliott, 78–94. London: Legenda, 2014.
Pogăciaș, Andrei. “Chemical Warfare in the 18th Century? A Wallachian Chronicle and Other Written Sources about It.” Revista Arhivelor 2 (2016): 85–93.
Title kinda explains it all, doesn’t it?


And even further afield:
Noda, Jin. The Kazakh Khanates Between the Russian and Qing Empires: Central Eurasian International Relations During the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Lam edition. Leiden ; Boston: Brill Academic Pub, 2016.
Abstract: In The Kazakh Khanates between the Russian and Qing Empires, Jin Noda examines the foreign relations of the Kazakh Chinggisid sultans and the Russian and Qing empires during the 18th and 19th centuries. Noda makes use of both Russian and Qing archival documents as well as local Islamic sources. Through analysis of each party’s claims –mainly reflected in the Russian-Qing negotiations regarding Central Eurasia–, the book describes the role played by the Kazakh nomads in tying together the three regions of eastern Kazakh steppe, Western Siberia, and Xinjiang.


As usual, many of these citations can also be found in the group Zotero bibliography.


* Assuming you hunt them down.

Vienna Calling

In less than a month we’ll be heading to Vienna and Munich (oops, Wien and München) for a couple of weeks. Spanish dancing horses and a few palaces/museums are on our list, but feel free to leave suggestions in the comments about places of particular interest for early modern military history. Intact star fortresses are particularly appreciated (I’ve got a video to record). And no, we won’t be venturing out to Blindheim.

Got Things Done


Got Promoted

And for those who need statistics from my first full academic year of real GTD use:
Total tasks completed (i.e. those that I bothered to enter into Pocket Informant and not just do right away) from 2015.08.22 to 2016.05.11:
1200 tasks (probably 3-5 hours-worth of entry time over the span of 8 months).

And to see how much I used the various pieces of metadata, and to get a better sense of what I did with my time, in broad brushstrokes, I record the following summaries for posterity:

PI Tasks by Project

Screenshot 2016-05-12 14.20.31

Screenshot 2016-05-12 14.26.09


I wouldn’t analyze these too closely, since some tasks were deleted, since not every task had every possible piece of metadata – some of them were just ephemeral reminders to myself (“Bring cheese”) set up with Siri, and since different tasks required differing amounts of time to complete. But still, it’s kinda interesting, if you’re into that kind of thing…

And speaking of generic end-of-academic-year checklists:

  • Clean work office
  • Inventory work office supplies
  • Bring home perishable food items (office, fridge)
  • Clean up computer folders on work computer
  • Copy work computer course folders to Dropbox
  • Order any outstanding textbooks for next semester
  • Wish happy summer to faculty/staff
  • Return library books
  • Update CV
  • Write semester-end thoughts for each course (keep textbook? different assignments…)
  • Brainstorm generic teaching improvements
  • Clean home office

Ha! Thought I’d let a GTD post go by without a checklist? You’ve been chklstd!

The Fours Walls of early modern European military historians

For those familiar with the early Reformation, you might recall one of Martin Luther’s classic criticisms of the Catholic Church, from his Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Respecting the Reformation of the Christian Estate (1520): “The Romanists have, with great adroitness, drawn three walls round themselves, with which they have hitherto protected themselves, so that no one could reform them, whereby all Christendom has fallen terribly.” I’ll spare you a description of the Catholic fortifications, and of the tactics Luther used to besiege this fortified opponent. But I won’t spare you my maladroit use of this metaphor to introduce my own version of the four walls that separate early modern European military historians from each other. There are, I would argue, four significant obstacles that tend to isolate EMEMHians, and which make it treacherous for us to overgeneralize beyond our particular area of focus. Like a trace italienne fortification, knowledge of EMEMH is protected by four defensive layers. Gaining access to the secrets within requires besieging and breaking past these formidable barriers.

The First Wall: A Focus on a Particular Country
Even today, early modern European military historians still tend to focus on a single country, mostly either France or England. Gaining knowledge of the field of EMEMH requires you first penetrate this veritable covered way. Mutual understanding between EMEMHians is hindered first and foremost by a language barrier, which requires charging up the glacis and breaking through the linguistic palisades. Having successfully prepared an assault on the covered way with an initial bombardment of foreign language classes and paleography lessons, an invader from another country then finds himself confronted with the defenders therein, hundreds of culturally-specific events, individuals, and structures, all armed with their own histories and patterns that require a concerted effort to wrestle into comprehension. Each new allusion and curious reference in your sources is yet another traverse that needs to be passed and secured on your way to understanding a country’s military history.

The Second Wall: A Focus on a Particular War
Capturing the widely-arcing covered way around a fortress only provides you a hazy overview of the fortifications still to penetrate. The chronological boundaries between one war and the next serve as yet another obstacle, a moat or ditch, if you will. Inconveniently for historians like myself, Louis XIV fought five majors wars, about 34 years worth, each with enough information for a scholarly career. Thus we find most specialists of the era from c. 1660-c. 1715 devoting their attention to one of these wars, or perhaps specializing in either the early, middle, or late reign. To cross this yawning chasm requires a facility with an overview of each war as a whole: its diplomatic and political origins, the grand strategic objectives of the belligerents, its overall narrative, and its resolution. Usually the ditch is wet, and filled with flotsam and jetsam from previous wars. Yet more obstacles to drain away and build your fascine bridge-of-understanding on top of.

The Third Wall: A Focus on a Particular Theater of Operations
The multiple theaters in which military operations were conducted are a third type of boundary the generalizing EMEMHian must overcome. At the time most theater boundaries were easily crossed, but for historians these different theaters are individual ravelins within the outworks, each one requiring its own conquest. A country (or its most successful commander) might concentrate their attention in one specific geographical outwork, a massive crownwork to be occupied. The ditches between such theatrical outworks are further policed by the structure of many archives, where Flanders documents are physically separated from those on Italy, and so on. Thus the larger wars, e.g. the 9YW and WSS, witnessed sustained operations in four major European theaters, sub-theaters within each. Each had a unique combinations of nationalities; their operational constraints (divergent topography, climate, demographies, and economic and transportation networks) operated as yet another réduit to overcome. No surprise that the operational arcs of different theaters were often, well, different.

The Fourth Wall: A Focus on a Particular Level of War
Most works on EMEMH are also isolated from a broader readership by their focus on a particular topic. When scholars have managed to overcome the first three barriers to greater early modern understanding (the chronological impediment more easily breached than the national), they are still confronted by numerous studies that focus on one particular aspect of the war. Thus we have works on battles, on infantry tactics and drill, on cavalry, on sieges, on artillery, on small war, on logistics, on financial administration, on army administration, on the political assimilation of frontier provinces, on military-civilian interactions, and so on. Most of the detailed research on these subjects has only appeared over the past decade or two, and rarely are all the topical components integrated into any one of them, and even less likely for more than one country.

Fortification cross-section (Ath)

These four walls resist historical attempts to truly understand a single war, much less the military history of a single country. These specializations – national, chronological, geographical and topical – are necessary, but so is our need to break them down. The shortcomings of most attempts to study war X from the perspective of country Y (which is, most often, actually a study of the single theater Z) can be illustrated by the average Confederate (i.e. Allied) army during the 9YW and WSS. In Flanders, this average army would comprise units from the United Provinces, Britain (England and Scotland), Spain, Germany, and Bavaria. In the WSS we can occasionally add Imperial and Austrian troops, while subtracting the Spanish and Bavarians. Some of these units, and their commanders, would shift from one theater to another, just as defenders might readjust their personnel from one outwork to another during a siege. To get the full picture of who these Allied troops were and what they did requires plowing through archives (and god-awful handwriting) in multiple countries, in English, French, Dutch, Spanish and German tongues. And we’d have to repeat the same siege operations in order to delve into the operations of another theater, and then again for another war.

Acknowledging these walls is not necessarily a criticism of the work many EMEMHians (including myself) have undertaken. It is, however, a warning about how far we should generalize from our particular particulars. Perhaps it’s even a call to action. Integrating together countries and themes and wars remains, I would suggest, the next challenge for early modern European military historians.

So if you wondered what our SMH panel on Anglo-Germanic relations was like (without the strained fortress metaphor), you just got a peek. And yes, I did complete my post-conference checklist.


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