Spanish mutinies in an earlier age

Adding to Geoffrey Parker’s classic account of mutinies during the Dutch Revolt, a new article from latest issue of Journal of Military History turns back the clock a bit.

Sherer, Idan. ‘“All of Us, In One Voice, Demand What’s Owed Us”: Mutiny in the Spanish Infantry during the Italian Wars, 1525–1538.’ Journal of Military History 78, no. 3 (July 2014): 893–926.
This article examines the main characteristics of mutinies in the Spanish tercios at the height of the Italian Wars (1494-1559), a surprisingly underresearched subject considering the high frequency of such upheavals in these core infantry units. Contrary to the severe legal and moral implications of modern military mutinies the dynamics of the mutinies in the tercios resembled more closely those of a modern workers’ strike, in that the soldiers were allowed room to organize, make representations, negotiate and reach relatively amicable conclusions. Generals and soldiers alike accepted the recurring mutinies as a way of maintaining the organizational status quo in a context of infrequent paydays and persistent supply problems.
Meanwhile, back in Metropolis…
As I suspected, Sumida’s recent index of Clausewitz’s On War in a previous issue has triggered a response from Peter Paret (“Translation, Literal or Accurate”), Paret being one of the editors/translators of the standard 1984 translation. For those who think this is a small squabble among just a few people, this website doesn’t pull many punches regarding the Howard/Paret version. All of which starts to sound a bit like theologians arguing whether Saint Jerome’s Vulgate is better than Luther’s new German translation. Yawn.

2 responses to “Spanish mutinies in an earlier age”

  1. jegrenier says :

    “On War is more often cited than read.” All you have to do is sit in a PME classroom. Funny how supposedly the US Military has read and mastered the Master, but it hasn’t won a war since 1945. Like the Germans of 1866-1945, it’s (sometimes) good at winning battles (against 5-rate opponents) and moving BCT and divisions around the battlefield, but grand strategy, which was putatively CvC’s big thing aka why we “defer to the commanders in the field,” escapes it completely. The fascination with early 19th-century German philosophy escapes me, just as much as the silliness of the USMC’s _Small Wars Manual_. I must confess, however, that I have not read _On War_ in its entirety (and certainly not in the original German … my 250 words of German and inability to master all those damn der die das den dem dings sets me up for failure). I have only cherry picked from it, so perhaps I should STFU. That said, I have read all the _Small Wars Manual_, several times. When dealing with this stuff, I think it’s best to remember that no matter how thin you slice it, baloney never becomes prosciutto.

  2. Erik Lund says :

    The “theologians debating versions of the Bible” thing sends me back to my Reformation reading kick, inspired by Cohen on the Scientific Revolution, where he seemed to give credence to absolutely the worst explanation for it ever. (Priestly celibacy makes Catholics dumber than Protestants.) Anyway, making up for holes in comps reading, I tackled McCulloch (who had interesting things to say about the very subject), and Benedict, who drove a Tiger –er, excuse me, Jamel, I mean, heavy charger– through the whole “Calvinist thing.”

    Relevance? Not much –until, much later and for quite other reasons, I was trying to sort out the whole “New LIght/Old Light” thing in early Eighteenth Century Connecticut. And found whole edifices of historical argument erected on the basis of who was Calvinist and who wasn’t. Throw away that easy pigeonhole, and the actually existing historical interpretation collapsed into incoherence. (IMHO)

    So the moral of the story is that if you leave this kind of thing to the theologians, you end up importing black boxes of explanation into your historical narrative which can well stand to be opened and examined. My experience is that you have something similar going on with Clausewitz, only in this case the black box is “German military excellence.” That you end up telling the same story as in the first case (race!) is a strong pointer to what is really going on –too many historians just want an excuse to talk about their obsessions, and ordering their intellectual furnishings in wholesale lots from other specialties is a means to an end.

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