New article on recruitment in Elizabethan England

Younger, Neil. “The Practice and Politics of Troop-Raising: Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex, and the Elizabethan Regime.” English Historical Review 127 (2012): 566-591.

The Oxford website doesn’t have an abstract, but here’s the first page to give you a flavor:

“BY the mid-1590s, Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, had emerged as the leading military figure in England’s war with Spain—a war entering its second decade with no end in sight. After beginning his military career under his stepfather Robert, earl of Leicester, in the Netherlands in 1585–6 and participating in the ‘Portugal voyage’ of 1589, he rapidly advanced to more senior positions. First given command of an army in Normandy in 1591–2, he led major amphibious naval attacks on Spanish territory in 1596 and 1597, and was ultimately given command of the unprecedentedly large English army sent to repress rebellion in Ireland in 1599.1

Unlike most of Elizabeth’s ministers, especially during the latter part of her reign, Essex was a genuine military enthusiast. He was interested in the science and practice of warfare, enjoyed both campaigning and the company of soldiers, and was increasingly recognised as the nation’s leading patron of soldiers.2 He also believed that aggressive prosecution of the war was in England’s interests, and that it might lead not merely to a settlement which would safeguard England’s security, but even to the ‘utter ruine’ of the tyrannical Spanish enemy.3 Thus, although Essex’s military exploits were expressions of service to the Queen and the country, Essex also had deep personal interests in them: they advanced his vision of the war, furthered his career and supplied the means to develop and sustain his personal clientele.

Essex’s ambitions, then, rested to no small degree on his military successes. Yet, in order to pursue them, he needed resources, and here he was dependent on the military supply systems put in place long before his emergence as a leading political figure. Despite the almost twenty years’ duration of the wars with Spain (1585–1604), England never established a standing…”



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2 responses to “New article on recruitment in Elizabethan England”

  1. David says :

    Interesting stuff. I recently discovered your blog and am quite pleased with the exposure you provide on Early Modern warfare. Most of my studies have been in more contemporary conflicts, so I am still being struck by the prominence of individual personalities in recruitment and army formation. Students of more modern wars, especially those in the 19th century, study differences between conscription and reservist policies between European states (Prussian Landwehr vs Russian long service, etc). The lack of “official” bureaucracy in the recruitment process during this earlier era shows how not-so-far removed from more feudal practices the early moderns were. A similar comparison can be made between the periods regarding the financing of wars.

    Anyways, enough out of me. Thanks for providing those of us with less background in the Early Modern Period a little peek into the trenches.

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