Sometimes you just gotta go back to the original

Another minor example reminding us of the need to go back to the full source at least occasionally.

Most of you are probably familiar with the quote by the earl of Orrery: “Battells do not now decide national quarrels, and expose countries to the pillage of conquerors, as formerly.  For we make war more like foxes, than like lyons; and you will have twenty sieges for one battell.”

This quote comes from his A Treatise on the Art of War (published 1677 but written in the early 1640s I believe) and is often used to indicate how early modern warfare was dominated by siegecraft. While historians love those pithy quotes (search “make war more like foxes” in Google Books if you don’t believe me), and historians far too often just rely on someone else’s quotation without tracking down the original, I was curious as to the context of foxy war-making. So I downloaded the EEBO version of Orrery’s Treatise, found out from a footnote the page that the quote is on (p15), and looked it up. And this is what I found (from the text version, but it’s the same for the image pdf):

“[13] with truth be said of many other Nations, if of any; This last  particular, was observed by that great Captain Sir Francis Vere, at the  Battel of Newport; where the English, under his Conduct, by the  Appointment of the Prince of Orange, did endure the heat of that dayes  Action, and, under God, chiefly obtained the Victory for the States of the  United Provinces; but to purchase it, were often disorder’d, and routed:  yet Sir Francis Vere would still ask, Had they lost, or flung away their  Arms? And being answer’d, No: He said, Then I’ll warrant you, I’ll make  them fight again; and did so, so often, till the Spanish Army was intirely  defeated. I beg the Readers pardon, if the Affection I have for the Truth,  and for the Honour of my Countreymen, has led me into this short  digression; out of which I will hasten, to consider, since the Romans, and  Greeks, were no more Warlike than we, and yet Prest not their People to  the War, why we Press ours; some of the Reasons seem to me to be these.  First, The Romans needed not to Press, because by their Laws, all from  Seventeen, to Forty five years of Age, were to be Inlisted; so that in  effect, War was, as it were, their Vocation. Secondly, None was capable of Civil Employment in their Commonwealth, that  had not served Ten years in their Armies; nor any capable to be of the  first Fourteen Military Tribunes, that had not Five years served in the  Field; nor of the last Ten Military Tribunes, that had not served Eleven  years in the Foot-service, or Fifteen years in the Horse-service; which  were Incentives that more Prest their Peoples Minds, than our  Press-masters do the Bodies. Thirdly, Since War was the onely Ladder by which their People could climb  to Civil Authority, or Military Power, they needed not Pressing. Fourthly, The Art of exactly Fortifying places, was little known, and less  practised in those times, whereby National Quarrels were decided by  Battel, and one gain’d, did usually, as the consequence thereof, carry an  intire Province or Kingdom; in the over-running of which, their Soldiery  got ten times more than their Pay, by the Pillage; which has not only  often enriched the Conquerors, but their Posterities also; besides, being  brought up from their Childhood to Arms, and […] [16] but alas, how few of  them are for Soldiers. But were all of them for that use, yet the Plaister  would be much too narrow for the Sore; and would be rather a sign of the  thing, than the thing itself.”

You probably figured it out – the most famous quote from this work (p15) and its immediate context (p14) is on the two pages that are missing from EEBO’s copy of the work! That’s useful.


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