The Eighty Years War just got a whole lot longer

In a comment Averrones pointed out a recent (in historical terms) release of a new publication on the rise of the Dutch fiscal-military state. I like looking beyond the usual 1648 terminus; and if there was ever a case study that required a fiscal-military approach, and an author to do it, this would be it.

Hart, Marjolein ’t. The Dutch Wars of Independence: Warfare and Commerce in the Netherlands 1570-1680. London ; New York: Routledge, 2014.
In The Dutch Wars of Independence, Marjolein ’t Hart assesses the success of the Dutch in establishing their independence through their eighty years struggle with Spain – one of the most remarkable achievements of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Other rebellions troubled mighty powers of this epoch, but none resulted in the establishment of an independent, republican state. This book: tells the story of the Eighty Years War and its aftermath, including the three Anglo-Dutch Wars and the Guerre de Hollande (1570-1680); explores the interrelation between war, economy and society, explaining how the Dutch could turn their wars into commercial successes; illustrates how war could trigger and sustain innovations in the field of economy and state formation; the new ways of organization of Dutch military institutions favoured a high degree of commercialized warfare;    shows how other state rulers tried to copy the Dutch way of commercialized warfare, in particular in taking up the protection for capital accumulation. As such, the book unravels one of the unknown pillars of European state formation (and of capitalism).  The volume investigates thoroughly the economic profitability of warfare in the early modern period and shows how smaller, commercialized states could sustain prolonged war violence common to that period. It moves beyond traditional explanations of Dutch success in warfare focusing on geography, religion, diplomacy while presenting an up-to-date overview and interpretation of the Dutch Revolt, the Anglo-Dutch Wars and the Guerre de Hollande.
Check it out.

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6 responses to “The Eighty Years War just got a whole lot longer”

  1. Erik Lund says :

    Pfft. All wars that go on for more than four years are the same length, because that’s when the historians run out of steam and end their monumental history with, “And then a bunch of stuff happened. Rocroi, that Prince of Savoy you never heard of, a bunch of Ferdinands, some guy named Bernard? It’s all a great tapestry, I’m sure.”

    Frankly, it’s a miracle that we’ve ever even heard of Gustavus Adolphus and Joan of Arc, and I still have trouble remembering whether Spinola was a general or an atheist philosopher. (Seriously, Seventeenth Century? Are you messing with me?)

    • Averrones says :

      The unbeatable example was set up by one of Russian historians: N. Basovskaya has published a monograph about the Norman Invasion being the start of a long war between the ‘Lion’ and the ‘Lily’ in which the Hundred Years’ War is just an episode, wrongly separated.
      After that the idea of a sudden and impetuos 300-years long Military Revolution was like a breeze to my tempered mind.

  2. Chris Tubbs says :

    I have been looking for sources on how military forces of the Early Modern period were funded and wonder if this book might be a good fit. Does anyone know if this book covers how Early Modern states were able to afford to make war given the difficulties of raising taxes and borrowing money back then? Can anyone suggest other sources?

    It seems to me that seizing control of a province wouldn’t have been worth the cost of taking it in most cases (especially given the number of wars that ended up status quo ante bellum).

    • Averrones says :

      I’d suggest skipping that weak jingoist book and going for David Parrott’s Business of War and Drelichman and Voth’s Lending to the Borrower from Hell which are superb researches. Nothing beats them for the theme of finding money for wars in 1500-1600s.
      Another recommendation is to look for Nimwegen’s articles on the Dutch army as in Frank Tallett and D. J. B. Trim, eds, European Warfare 1350-1750 collection of articles.
      Another good collection is Exercise of Arms: Warfare in the Netherlands, 1568-1648 (1997) if you can find it…

      Yes, I agrree with you, there is hardly any major Early Modern war with net profits rather than losses.

      • Chris Tubbs says :

        Thank you for the information. I suspected that the readers of this blog would be able to help me with this.

    • jostwald says :

      I liked the details in James Tracy’s Emperor Charles V, Impresario of War: Campaign Strategy, International Finance, and Domestic Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

      Generally, most historians usually tend to focus either on the war side of the equation, the demand side, or the finance (supply) side, at least in individual works. For example, van Nimwegen’s works don’t focus much on the financial side, but much more on the campaign and military organizational aspects (not that there’s anything wrong with that). English historians (of Savoy, Spain, France…) do spend a lot of time on the financial questions, which are a pain to uncover in the early modern period.
      To take an example, Chris Storrs has a chapter on Savoyard finance in his War, Diplomacy and the Rise of Savoy, 1690-1720, a chapter on Spanish finance in The Resilience of the Spanish Monarchy 1665-1700; plus he edited a collection The Fiscal-Military State in Eighteenth-Century Europe. If you want the financial side, look for titles with “fiscal-military state” in them.

      Some broader comparative accounts are:
      Glete, Jan. War and the State in Early Modern Europe: Spain, the Dutch Republic and Sweden as Fiscal-Military States. London; New York: Routledge, 2001.
      Grummit, David. War, State, and Society in England and the Netherlands 1477-1559. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

      If you want to get into the weeds in the early 18C, you should look at:
      Rowlands, Guy. The Financial Decline of a Great Power: War, Influence, and Money in Louis XIV’s France. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
      McCollim, Gary B. Louis XIV’s Assault on Privilege. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2012.

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