Archive | July 2012

SMH 2013

Just a reminder that the 2013 Society for Military History conference will be in New Orleans on 14-16 March, 2013. The theme of the conference is “War, Society, and Remembrance,” and the deadline for panel proposals is October 1. The conference organizers “invite papers that examine societies at war and the remembrance of conflict. We particularly encourage papers that reflect on these historic anniversaries. As per tradition, the program committee will also consider all panel and paper proposals dealing with significant questions in the field of war and society/military history.”

To all the EMEMHers academics out there, think about submitting a panel – it doesn’t necessarily need to focus on remembrance, but entire, pre-formed panels (with commentator) are always preferred. If necessary, this blog can help facilitate setting up panel(s).

I read the news today, oy vay, Pt. III

The connection between print and manuscript. One intriguing question is the extent of overlap between these (often anonymous) newsletters being sent from foreign locales and what ends up getting published in the English newspapers. Before the last decade, this question was of minimal importance since few people had access to the large number of newspapers published in the early 18C. But newspaper databases have now made the question more relevant to scholars. The degree of correspondence between print and manuscript is particularly important since we often assume that archival sources are more ‘reliable’ than contemporary published news accounts. But is it always better to find the archival version? Are newspaper accounts as good as the archival versions, if only because they are more easily accessible, and because they were read by a much broader public than most archival documents? Perhaps newspaper accounts might even have information unavailable in the archives? Inquiring minds want to know.

Stevensweert (Schenk)

To expand our vision a little further in this regard, we can return to our example of the English report of the capitulation of Stevensweert. Here are a few of the printed accounts of the conclusion of the siege, just to give an idea of the amount of detail available to the English public at the time.

First, from the London Gazette of Sept. 24-28, 1702:

London Gazette on Stevensweert surrender

This account is almost exactly the same as the newsletter sitting in the archives, which we quoted in the previous post, and far more detailed than the excerpt included in Marlborough’s Letters and Dispatches. The verbatim quotation is only natural: the original newsletter was sent to the Secretary of State, in whose office the Gazette was produced.

A similar account was published in the Daily Courant on the same day (September 28):

Daily Courant on Stevensweert

The London byline, the fact that the account was published in the Daily Courant on the same day as it appeared in the London Gazette, as well as the fact that almost all of the details are exactly the same in both (including the number of men and barrels of powder) all suggest that the original newsletter’s content was shared by the Secretary of State’s office with the publisher of the Courant. A more detailed investigation of the publishers/editors of the paper might elucidate the connections further. A more sustained analysis would be useful in identifying the amount of overlap between the various papers.

An account from the Post Man of Sept. 26-29, 1702, published a day later, likely came from a slightly different account. The byline is different, the town is referred to as “St Stevenswaert,” and the account leaves out a few details present in the other version, but also includes the terms of the surrender:

Post Man on Stevensweert

Note as well that the London Gazette and the Post Man illustrate the mixed terminology used: the Allied camp vs. the Confederate camp. My sense is that the term ‘confederate’ was much more common in the 9YW and ‘Allied’ in the WSS, but I haven’t explored the matter in great detail. In the secondary literature historians almost always use “Allied,” possibly because “Confederate” is so closely linked to the American Civil War?

Several other papers (the Flying Post, the English Post) failed to mention the surrender at all, at least that I could find in my quick search, while the Post Boy has only a passing reference in an unrelated news item. But the lack of coverage shouldn’t be too surprising. Stevensweert was a relatively minor siege, as is suggested by the frequency with which reporting on the siege was combined with news of the near-contemporary siege of Roermond (Ruremond).

The above reports also offer slightly different perspectives: letters from the army camp (themselves reporting news received from the siege camp before the town), and a letter written in London summarizing several accounts from the army camp. There were four English regiments serving at the siege, but apparently none of them wrote accounts back home, or at least not to people who could quickly put them in the papers.

For comparison, we can see how this minor siege was treated in other accounts published soon after. First, a campaign journal from 1704 (A Short but Impartial Account of the most Remarkable Occurrences and Transactions of the two last Campaigns in the Netherlands) provides the most detailed treatment:

“…. The 16th, Lieutenant General Count Noyell, the Right Honourable Earl of Orkenay, Major General; Brigadier Withers, with the Honourable Lieutenant General Stewart’s Regiment, and Collonel Howe’s, were detached to the Siege of Stevenswaert, a small Town, but naturally strong, being surrounded with the River Maese, here very rapid, besides all that, such Scituation might make requisite, Art fully supply’d.

The 18th our Batteries Play’d, and on the 20th it Surrender’d. The Garrison consisting of two Batallions.
This Siege was carry’d on by Barron Troigny Ingeneer. The loss we sustain’d at both Towns was inconsiderable.”
This journal was intended as a self-standing campaign narrative, thus spent more time setting up the relative strength of the town while truncating the details of the siege itself. As is often the case, this English account only bothered to mention the English-pay regiments participating in the siege. Its identification of the engineer Trognée by name is relatively rare among English accounts. Another journal, An Exact Journal of the Actions of the Allies this Campaign in Flanders (published 1703) disposed of Stevensweert by merely mentioning that it withstood twelve days of siege.

Other published summaries of the 1702 campaign spanned hundreds of pages, yet spent even less time on Stevensweert. Abel Boyer’s History of the Reign of Queen Anne for 1702 (published 1703) included only the briefest summary of the siege: “… Stevenswaert, a fortified Place, seated on the Maese, about 5 miles from Ruremond, to the South, was taken also by Capitulation…” David Jones’ A Compleat history of Europe for 1702 was equally dismissive of the event: “During the Siege of Ruremond, Stevenswaert, a Town strongly fortified, and standing upon the Maes, about Five Miles from Ruremond to the South, was also taken by Capitulation upon honourable Conditions much to the same effect with those that are usually given in the like Cases, and so we need not repeat them in this Place.” [The Present State of Europe paper, essentially an English version of the semi-official Dutch Europische Mercurius monthly, used Jones’ wording almost exactly, indicating another connection between that newspaper and later accounts. Whether this borrowing was approved or not, plagiarism was rife in the period: Boyer’s History of the Reign of Queen Anne (published 1715) justified his compilation with the complaint that others had “made free with about two thirds of my History of King William, without either a compliment to me, or the least Alteration, to palliate the Plagiarism.”]

For contrast, our personal correspondence provides more insight into the opinions of our subjects than what is available in most official news accounts. Adam Cardonnel’s note to the under-secretary of state dated 2 October is one example, possibly even the cover letter under which our original newsletter was sent: “I am very glad to send you now the good news of the taking of Stevensweert which might have held out for a great deale longer if they had had a competent garrison.” Here we seem to have an interesting little tidbit about Cardonnel’s view of the competency of the garrison’s defense. But not so fast. In a separate letter to Blathwayt (Secretary at War) on the same day Cardonnel clarifies what he likely meant by “competent garrison,” i.e. a “sufficient” one (an earlier letter also noted the small size of the garrison). Not quite an example of an early modern archaism, but another reminder nonetheless to look at several versions before reading too much into the specific language used in one account. Sometimes the letters sent out to different recipients on the same day are the same, but sometimes they have minor differences that might be of significance.

We could continue on, doing what historians do: track down other accounts of the siege in the various archives, not only English but Dutch, French and Spanish. We would need to do so if we hoped to answer the broad questions that started this post. But what we can conclude from this random example is that the relationship between archival and contemporary published accounts is not as clear cut as one might expect at first glance. Archival documents, if sent to the right person, could be quickly published in order to quench the English public’s thirst for news, perhaps they were even drafted for a broad public audience. And their content might be further modified in the printing process. Broadening our scope, it appears that Englishmen and women who read widely encountered competing and overlapping views of the same event. Quite different sources would be needed to gauge the impact of these convergences and contradictions.

Article on 18C literary views of soldiers

Parkes, Simon. “Wooden Legs and Tales of Sorrow Done: The Literary Broken Soldier of the Late Eighteenth Century.” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies (online 15 June 2012).

Abstract: The literary character of the Broken Soldier is a cathartic presence in much eighteenth-century writing. In works by authors such as Oliver Goldsmith, Henry Mackenzie and Robert Bage we find the figure of the Broken Soldier as the smashed recipient of society’s self-conscious benevolence. He is a sacrificial figure deflecting the realities of conflict and violence from the home front via his play-acting and sanctioned tales. The horrors of war that seep back into society are diffused by encounters with the Broken Soldier, allowing echoes of violence to be contained within these literary texts and broken bodies.

Literary scholars of the 18C sure have been active of late, analyzing portrayals of military men in literature.

[Anybody know how we’re supposed to cite these ‘early view’ journal articles? Should we privilege the print version when it comes out?]

Recent article on military finance

Swart, Erik. “‘The field of finance.’ War and taxation in Holland, Flanders and Brabant, ca. 1572-1585.” Sixteenth Century Journal 42 (Winter 2011): 1051-1071.

Abstract: The Dutch province of Holland has solicited much research in the context of the link between war and political development, an important theme in early modern historiography. During the Dutch Revolt in the late sixteenth century it became the core and financial bedrock of a new, powerful, and very prosperous polity: the Dutch Republic. Why Flanders and Brabant, larger and traditionally wealthier, failed where Holland succeeded and were retaken by King Philip II’s army has never been explained. One difference was the structurally narrower political base in Brabant and Flanders; compared to Holland fewer people had a part and stake in the government. But the main problem in the former provinces was a structural lack of finances. From 1578 the war was right on top of them, which made the collection of newly introduced taxes impossible and attempts at administrative reorganization fruitless. War destroyed the tax base in Brabant and Flanders, while Holland’s taxes were the foundation of its success.

I read the news today, hoo boy, Pt. II

The volume of English newspapers from the decade 1702-1712 is almost overwhelming: probably 20,000 or more data points, once you count up the individual news stories. Yet one of the more humbling realizations from my recent archival jaunt was how much more information was coming into these figures than I had appreciated, on top of the daily newspaper accounts. From previous forays into the Blenheim papers I had seen the vast amount of intelligence being sent to the Duke of Marlborough – a dozen volumes of newsletters, in addition to all of the incoming correspondence from identifiable individuals. The Duke was, after all, Captain-General of English forces (and of the joint Allied army under his command), as well as Master-General of the English artillery, as well as occasional coordinator of English diplomacy for the Netherlands and Germany.

As I prepared for my research trip, however, my investigations beyond the Duke uncovered a number of other archival lodes, many of which have been ignored by the Marlborough literature. (The key, I quickly learned, was to investigate the biographies of the other English politicians of the era. And it doesn’t hurt that most of the British Library’s catalogues are full-text searchable online.) John Churchill was the military center of England’s war effort, certainly, but he was not the only major English figure to profit from a network of agents. Theoretically, anyone of means had their own network based off of patronage, friendship and obligation. Most genteel folk back in England knew someone who was ‘over the hills and far away,’ and undoubtedly they received the occasional account of happenings over there. (The reports of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts are full of such letters.) More robust were the networks created by those at the center of political power. Politicians and ministers in the cabinet, particularly the Secretaries of State (and their under-secretaries), received incoming reports from a whole variety of diplomats and agents. It appears that these networks were somewhat fragile, however, at least the voluntary correspondence dependent on the patron’s position and its perks. One can even, on occasion, pick up the trail across patrons, witness the English agent in the Netherlands who first offered his services to the earl of Nottingham (Secretary of State for the southern department into 1703), and then when Nottingham was put out of office and lost his ability to distribute largesse to his clients, this agent offered his same services to a new Secretary of State, Robert Harley. His son needed a job after all. Read More…

Boydell & Brewer titles

As our previous analysis of EMEMH publishers would predict, Boydell’s catalogue has a whole slew of titles. I won’t cite them all here, but they range from books on medieval martial display 0n the battlefield (possibly of relevance to our discussion of battlefield possession) to the English press during the 30YW, to early modern European armor and weapons.

I read the news today, oh boy, Pt. I

My recent explorations of England’s military experience in the War of the Spanish Succession have been eye-opening. First, my initial training in Louisquatorzian France poorly prepared me for the plethora of documents created by late Stuart England’s vigorous public sphere. Early bibliographical works (William Morgan’s A Bibliography of British History (1700-1715) with Special Reference to the Reign of Queen Anne and Robert D. Horn’s Marlborough: A Survey. Panegyrics, Satires and Biographical Writings: 1688-1788) gave us a glimpse of such riches, but only a few scholars had the time and resources to attempt more than a sampling. The explosion of digital sources (both printed and manuscript) has finally allowed historians today to actually catch up to these early bibliographical catalogs. Given enough time, we can read more published material on the time period than almost all of those alive at the time were able to do. We not only have access to a wide range of archives from many perspectives, but also comprehensive collections of publications saved in disparate libraries around the world. This isn’t the same as truly understanding how contemporaries thought about every issue (and leaves us particularly uncertain about the divergence between print and oral culture), but it does allow us to reconstruct their worldview much more accurately and comprehensively than ever before.

But it also drowns us in information – early modernists can now begin to appreciate what modern historians have always had to deal with. The digital corpus I’ve managed to accumulate over the past decade allows a quick quantification of the English materials (dated between 1701-1712): Read More…

Horsing around with scale bars

Apropos a previous post on the different measurement systems used in early modern cartography, I just came across this example that is unique (to me at least).

Carte d'une partie de Piemont

Carte d’une partie de Piemont

I’m not positive, but it looks like the top bar indicates the distance one can travel in an hour on horseback, i.e. 2 heur[es] de ch[eval]. Of course it’s annoying that they don’t left justify the two bars, so you can directly compare the 1 hour to the number of Piemont milles.

Other interpretations?

Notice how the French text beneath the bars also lets the reader know that four Piemont milles (“miles” or “thousands”) equal two French lieus (leagues), each of 2500 toises. It ain’t easy being an early modern.

Siege of the sexes

It’s always interesting to come across metaphors in historical research. Metaphors attempt to describe and explain a relationship or activity by associating the unknown (or poorly-known) with an already-known concept. The simile’s more sophisticated sibling, a metaphor is inherently complex and one never knows quite how far to stretch it without exceeding the breaking point (we’ll talk about the war-as-sports metaphor in a later post). They also require both sides to understand the known quantity in the same fashion; and lest we forget, metaphors should be shaken, not mixed.

The metaphors people choose to employ, therefore, give us some insight into their period, whether it be the ‘body politic’ of the middle ages, the clockwork metaphor of the early modern period, the machine of the 19th, or the digital/computer of the late 20th century. In previous posts we’ve speculated on the intimate familiarity agricultural metaphors must have had for early moderns.

If you’ve read Christopher Duffy’s Siege Warfare, you saw his discussion of various ways in which sieges and their technical terminology were used in other fields. Given that the period included interminable wars of religion, and that the Bible itself used a variety of military metaphors to depict the struggle between Good and Evil, little surprise that contemporaries would associate the lengthy struggle for religious uniformity with siegecraft:

  • Warmstry, A countermine of union to the Jesuites myne of division, whereby they contrive the blasting of the work of mercy, and the return of a flood of ruine and desolation upon this church and nation: being a short platform of expedients for peace, for the preservation of all and for the repair of the great distractions that have bin upon us, by an happy reconciliation of the differences that are amongst us, directed to the honourable Council of State (1660)
  • Nalson, The countermine, or, A short but true discovery of the dangerous principles and secret practices of the dissenting party, especially the Presbyterians: shewing that religion is pretended, but rebellion is intended: and in order thereto, the foundation of monarchy in the state and episcopacy in the church are undermined / by one who does passionately wish the prosperity of the church, his King and country (1677).

Rider of White Horse a-Crusading

While conflicts between religions may go back to the wars of the Ancient Near East, even older is the eternal struggle between Man and Woman, Adam and Eve.

To quote one example from the 18th century (a letter from the libertine Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke circa 1735), providing advice to a friend on courting a Parisian actress:

“With all ladys, with those particularly, good Engineers proceed by assaults, not sappes. If you have enjoyed [her], stick to her close, work yourself hard, she will like you the more and you will like her the less. Whilst I loved much, I never loved long, but was inconstant to them all for the sake of all.” (H.T. Dickinson, Bolingbroke, 6.)

Not only is this an interesting example of the timeless battle siege of the sexes, it also provides yet another example of the distinction between Vaubanian-style siegecraft (i.e. proceeding à la sappe) and vigorous storms. The evidence keeps piling up.