Archive | November 2014

Bring out your dead

Recent article:

Gagné, John. “Counting the Dead: Traditions of Enumeration and the Italian Wars.” Renaissance Quarterly 67, no. 3 (September 2014): 791–840.
Abstract: Methods for counting war deaths developed alongside structural changes in the ways that states enumerated mortality (for both fighters and citizens) between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. This paper argues that an alternative way to interpret observers’ comments on the magnitude and novelty of war damages during the Italian Wars (1494-1559) is to trace the history of enumerating mortality from the fourteenth century, using the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death as departure points. Military heralds counted dead soldiers in Northern Europe and civic record keepers registered public mortality in Italy. Numbers carried cultural value. In war, disputants and observers used numbers rhetorically to argue political cases and to emphasize the scale of victories and defeats. By 1500, the proliferation of specific mortality numbers in public discourse–amplified by printed war reporting–forced observers to reckon with their meaning. The article concludes by illustrating how numbers entered memorial culture: monuments from the Italian Wars featured numbers as an index of the perceived magnitude of war in the sixteenth century.
How, you may ask, did I know that an article would be published on mortality rates? Just psychic, I guess.

Sense and Sensibility

New article on the psyche of mid/late-18C soldiers:

Shaw, Philip. “Longing for Home: Robert Hamilton, Nostalgia and the Emotional Life of the Eighteenth-Century Soldier.” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, December 1, 2014.
Abstract: This article focuses on Robert Hamilton’s The Duties of a Regimental Soldier (1787; rev edn 1794). The article places Hamilton’s case study of a common soldier suffering from nostalgia, a potentially fatal disease of the imagination arising in displaced young recruits and in young women removed from their families, within the broader contexts of the history of medical education, contemporary theories of the passions, ideas of military discipline and the culture of sensibility. Hamilton’s treatment of nostalgia raises questions about the relations between class and sensibility, between literature and science, and between medical professionalism and the gendered nature of military identity.
Fortunately, I think we now have a vaccine for nostalgia, thank god.

The smallest of wars

Recent issue of the journal Small Wars & Insurgencies includes two articles on early modern partisan sniping, as well as several more on the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period.

To wit:

Deruelle, Benjamin. “The Sixteenth-Century Antecedents of Special Operations ‘small War.’” Small Wars & Insurgencies 25, no. 4 (July 4, 2014): 754–66.
Abstract: The first conceptual, theoretical treatises about small war (la petite guerre) as special operations appeared only from the middle of the seventeenth century. The term is not used in the eighteenth-century sense of ‘special operations’ in older sources. The supposed absence of any treatment of the subject is surprising considering the obsession with the ‘art of war’ in the Renaissance, but other authors attribute it to a supposed antinomy between chivalric ideals and irregular warfare. But the absence of explicit manuals on the subject is not evidence of absence of advanced reflection on this kind of operations in the Middle Ages and in Early Modern times. We should thus look elsewhere, in other genres, for writings that contain and pass on military knowledge. Epics, romances, educational and military treatises, and memoirs in fact contain elements of a theory of special operations, even though these genres differ from our conception of rationality inherited from the Enlightenment.
Fonck, Bertrand, and George Satterfield. “The Essence of War: French Armies and Small War in the Low Countries (1672–1697).” Small Wars & Insurgencies 25, no. 4 (July 4, 2014): 767–83.
Abstract: In the late seventeenth century during the Dutch War (1672–1678) and the Nine Years War (1688–1697), French armies relied on small war for the accomplishment of essential tasks and as part of an overall strategy of exhausting their opponents in the Low Countries. The purposes of small war included the imposition of contributions on enemy populations, the destruction of the enemy base of operations, blockades of fortresses, and the general support of campaign armies. The expression ‘small war’ in the French language appeared with growing frequency in the 1690s. Small war can be viewed as both a cause and consequence of the characteristics of these wars. The limited policy goals of Louis XIV the king of France required a strategy that minimised risk and accomplished the goal of reducing if not eliminating the Spanish presence in the Low Countries that bordered the north of France. As French armies increased in size during this period, the demand for specialists at small increased in order to provide security and ensure supply. Small war in the late seventeenth century was thus not ideologically motivated insurgency, but in the minds of French commanders an essential component of strategy and the nature of war.
Personally, I’m waiting for someone to find a way to connect la petite guerre to la petite mort in a title. My feeble attempt:
“Does la petite guerre always result in la petite mort? Casualties in early modern skirmishes”
Feel free to leave a better title in the Comments.

Somebody finally wrote something about Renaissance Italy

A new book has been published on that age-old question of whether Italians were lovers or fighters.

Shaw, Christine. Barons and Castellans: The Military Nobility of Renaissance Italy. Leiden: Brill Academic Pub, 2014.
The military nobility – “signori di castelli”, lords of castles – formed an important component of the society of Renaissance Italy, although they have often been disregarded by historians, or treated as an anomaly. In Barons and Castellans: The Military Nobility of Renaissance Italy, Christine Shaw provides the first comparative study of “lords of castles”, great and small, throughout Italy, examining their military and political significance, and how their roles changed during the Italian Wars. Her main focus is on their military resources and how they deployed them in public and private wars, in pursuit of their own interests and in the service of others, and on how their military weight affected their political standing and influence.