Archive | March 2012

Seeing a man about a horse

No discussion of cavalry and forage would be complete without an acknowledgement of the darker side. Gene Wilder and Daisy the Sheep; Tijuana donkey shows; Harry Potter in Equus. That exhausts my knowledge of pop culture bestiality references. But we can’t blame this decline in moral standards on the 60s – ask Catherine the Great. For a bit more historical context, I provide the following, from Mother Ross (aka Mrs. Christian Davies), in late 1708:

“The duke of Marlborough, after the siege of Brussels was raised, encamped at Alost. While we were here, I observed an officer, who, by his laced clothes, I con­jectured to be one of the guards, strolling backwards and forwards in the intervals of the camp; I fancied he had a mind to steal some of our horses, and for that reason watched him narrowly; at length I saw him lead off a mare, belonging to a poor woman, into a ditch, and with her commit, by means of the bank, the most detestable sin that can enter into the thoughts of man. Colonel Irwin and another officer, both of Ingoldsby’s regiment, happening at that instant to pass by, caught him in the fact, seized and gave him into the custody of the provost, where he remained till the duke, who had left the army, returned, when he was tried, condemned to the gallows, and executed accordingly. …. The mare which this officer was enamoured with, was shot; but the duke first paid the poor woman who owned her, the full value.”

My Pretty Pony

The Mother Ross narrative has been attributed to Daniel Defoe, but everything written between 1700 and 1730 seems to have been attributed to that prolific author at one point or another, so I’m not sure of the current consensus. In any case, I’m tempted to try to find the court martial account of that trial. If it really happened and an officer of the Guards was involved, you’d think it would’ve been a topic of conversation.
But even if Defoe did make it up, it was certainly in the air. I came across an interesting blog entry awhile back that suggests that shooting the horse in such a scenario was in fact not unheard of:
But, lest you worry about your rights being trampled upon and the victim being punished, it’s still legal in CT!

War, Warfare, Military and Early Modern Europe

New title just released:

Parrott, David. The Business of War: Military Enterprise and Military Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge University Press, 2012.

This is a major new approach to the military revolution and the relationship between warfare and the power of the state in early modern Europe. Whereas previous accounts have emphasised the growth of state-run armies during this period, David Parrott argues instead that the delegation of military responsibility to sophisticated and extensive networks of private enterprise reached unprecedented levels. This included not only the hiring of troops but their equipping, the supply of food and munitions, and the financing of their operations. The book reveals the extraordinary prevalence and capability of private networks of commanders, suppliers, merchants and financiers who managed the conduct of war on land and at sea, challenging the traditional assumption that reliance on mercenaries and the private sector results in corrupt and inefficient military force. In so doing, the book provides essential historical context to contemporary debates about the role of the private sector in warfare.


Apropos our discussion about logistics, this book will hopefully provide an overarching framework for something early modern military historians have been exploring in their own areas for the past several decades. The broad claim isn’t particularly new (among others, Parrott illustrated it in his earlier Richelieu’s Army) but hopefully he’ll have a detailed argument that integrates more than just France in the mid-17C.

Early modern historians tend to see the late 17C-18C as the period when the central state began to take over (Lynn’s “Army Styles” has been the most recent broad framework). But even then, as we’ve already discussed, combatants still relied on lots of private financiers and companies for credit (secured by future tax receipts), which was then paid to other private contractors and their subcontractors to provide bread and (during winter quarters) fodder for the troops and horses, as well as transport. Even the regiments themselves were ‘owned’ by their colonels and the companies by their captains, which was yet another way the central state could rely on others’ wealth to raise, clothe and feed its troops. The same was true for the navy. Although fleets were increasingly composed of ships dedicated to military service, many of them were still constructed in private shipyards, and in some cases were even lent out to privateers when naval costs became too high, not to mention the permeable boundary between naval service on board a Royal Navy vessel and aboard a merchantman. The war on enemy trade was furthered by recruiting private privateers (full-time as well as opportunistic vessels issued letters of marque). Heck, the same was true for diplomacy, as we can find diplomats constantly begging their political masters back home to reimburse them for their expenditures incurred in the line of duty. It really is amazing how much effort was put into fighting these early modern wars, and how successful governments were in getting other people to put up their money towards the venture.

Happy New Year!

Or maybe not, depending on how old school you are.

OK, that makes sense: Dec. 29, 1711 and Jan. 1, 1712

Wait, what year is it?

Header of Post Boy newspaper from 300 years ago

Oh, I get it now

Speaking of horses…

An outrageous story from the NYTimes on the high number of horse deaths on U.S. racetracks – 24 horses die PER WEEK racing or training – 3,600 over the past three years, or 5.2 per 1,000 starts. Owners dope up the horses (steroids, painkillers…) and there’s almost no regulation for most race tracks, particularly casino-operated ones. Quarter horses (i.e. sprinters) are more likely to get injured than thoroughbreds.


(May be behind a paywall).

Looks like Gavin should come to the U.S. with a camcorder if he needs more footage of horse collisions…

Zotero group bibliography

I just recreated the Logistics bib from a previous post in Zotero and created a group library. I didn’t mess around with the tags – most of the titles were drawn from Google Books, so they have have an eclectic mix of keywords in them.

You should be able to see it by clicking (there is also a permanent link in the right-hand margin). If you use Zotero yourself, you should be able to sync those entries with your own Zotero library. And add your own if you’d like.

Some of the entries include the Google Book links, which means older works will be full-view, and you don’t need to search Google Book’s metadata to find it.

I’ll try to transfer other citations I’ve put on the blog up as well.

Logistics at last

Earlier I’d promised some space to discuss logistics, so this spot right here looks good. I’ll provide a cursory overview of early modern logistics to start off the discussion.

The old saying goes: “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics.” I’m not a professional military man, but if the sources I’ve looked at are any indication, this saying certainly reflects the reality in the early modern period. Read More…

Map of southern Germany

Regarding a previous discussion we had on mapping the military past, Wienand Drenth of British Army Lineages kindly mentioned his access to software that provides topographical maps of Europe. He has one posted on his blog showing William III’s march from Torbay in 1688, and he created this one for those who are interested in the often-indescript geography of Germany, indescript without the rivers and terrain, that is.

So feel free to use the map for your personal non-profit purposes, crediting Wienand of course.

Rhine area (Wienand Drenth)

New EMEMH bibliographies online

Oxford Bibliographies just published their Military History module, with 54 bibliographies up already. There are several EMEMH articles thus far: on Poltava, Cromwell, the Seven Years War, Cavalry since 1500, oh yeah, and one on the wars of Louis XIV – I’ll let you figure out who contributed that article. Each article should have between 100 and 150 annotated entries.

Future article topics will include Frederick the Great and the War of the Austrian Succession, as well as more general entries on Fortifications and Siegecraft, Early Modern French Armies, and Military Revolutions.

(Unfortunately full access is by subscription only, but the first ‘page’ is free.)

More to Come

I finally caught up on the comments, so if any of you were dying with anticipation to read my pearls of wisdom, wait no longer! (Check the Recent Comments on the right.)

Coming soon: logistics, football as war, what an academic e-book would need to look like, and how to explain why one side won a war.

More old maps

I don’t think I knew about this before (perhaps somebody mentioned it in the comments?), but there is a new website that serves as a portal for old maps in various libraries. It sends you to the host library interface, where most allow you to zoom in and pan around. Depending on the library, you may not be able to download the maps, but it does allow you to search for place names, and it looks like even small villages shown on maps are indexed, so that’s pretty powerful.

It’s OldMapsOnline, at