Italian warrior wannabes

New publications, continuing the saga of Italian nobles and their declining predilection for military violence:

Hanlon, Gregory. The Hero of Italy; Odoardo Farnese, Duke of Parma, His Soldiers, and His Subjects in the Thirty Years’ War. Oxford University Press, 2014.
The Hero of Italy examines a salient episode in Italy’s Thirty Years’ War with Spain and France, whereby the young duke Odoardo Farnese of Parma embraced the French alliance, only to experience defeat and occupation after two tumultuous years (1635-1637). Gregory Hanlon stresses the narrative of events unfolding in northern Italy, examining the participation of the little state in these epic European events.

The first chapter describes the constitution of Cardinal Richelieu’s anti-Habsburg alliance and Odoardo’s eagerness to be part of it. A chapter on the Parman professional army, based on an extraordinary collection of company roster-books, sheds light on the identity of over 13,000 individuals, soldier by soldier, the origin and background of their officers, the conditions of their lodgings, and the good state of their equipment. Chapter three follows the first campaign of 1635 alongside French and Savoyard contingents at the failed siege of Valenza, and the logistical difficulties of organizing such large-scale operations. Another chapter examines the financial expedients the duchy adopted to fend off incursions on all its borders in 1636, and how militia contingents on both sides were drawn into the fighting. A final chapter relates the Spanish invasion and occupation which forced duke Odoardo to make a separate peace. The volume includes a detailed assessment of the impact of war on civilians based on parish registers for city and country. The application of the laws of war was largely nullified by widespread starvation, disease and routine sex-selective infanticide. These quantitative analyses, supported by maps and tables, are among the most detailed anywhere in Europe in the era of the Thirty Years’ War.

For a short snippet, there’s always:
Hanlon, Gregory. “An Italian Aristocracy in Arms: The Duke of Parma Goes to War 1635–1637.” European History Quarterly 44, no. 2 (April, 2014): 205–22.
When the Duke of Parma, Odoardo Farnese, summoned his noble subjects to join his army with a view to joining the French alliance against Spain in 1635, he was gratified by a turnout of astonishingly high proportions. Not nearly enough of them had personal experience of modern war, and so the prince appointed military nobles from much of northern Italy to fill the cadres, alongside the French officers whose contingents on loan from Louis XIII made up a third of the infantry. Unlike Spanish nobles, Odoardo’s subjects were even willing to serve in the ranks, while waiting for their advancement. The two brief campaigns turned out to be a disaster for Odoardo and his subjects. War quickly receded from Parma’s horizon, but the experience reveals that Italy’s aristocrats had not yet consigned their weapons to display cases.

 

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One response to “Italian warrior wannabes”

  1. Erik Lund says :

    Doesn’t really say very much about Hanlon’s decline of the Italian military aristocracy, though. It’s the eighteenth century, the century of darkness, that needs a look in. Hanlon’s claim for a decline is solidly rooted in local prosopography –it’s just that his results don’t always seem to corroborate my top-down ones. (On the other hand, it is a contemporary trope, but that just makes me the more suspicious, as it is a trope that goes back to Machiavelli.)

    My gut intuition is that the Italians don’t so much lose their taste for martial glory as their access to preferment. Venice, which continued to operate a well-funded military through the end of the eighteenth century, does not seem to have suffered from a lack of Italian officers.

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