Early modern movie battles

I’m thinking about making a few minor changes to my European Warfare, 1337-1815 course next semester. Past versions have focused a fair amount on the narratives of various wars: out of the 38 class meetings (50 minutes each), I devote one class meeting each on the 100YW, the Ottoman wars, the Wars of Italy, the French Wars of Religion, the Dutch Revolt, the 30YW, L14’s wars, Frederick the Great’s wars, the French Revolutionary wars, and the Napoleonic Wars. The rest are topical.

This time I’ll be condensing a few of the war narratives and warfare topics into a single class (sorry Dutch Revolt, sorry French Wars of Religion). Thus I’ll focus on the Italian Wars, the 30YW, Frederick’s wars, the Revolutionary/Napoleonic wars, but more and more Louis XIV’s wars. This will give me more space to read a few of the new French books out, and focus a bit more on the actual process of campaigning, Louis XIV-style. This includes dedicated classes on small war, professionalization (military ranks/organization…), maybe even the fiscal-military state. Shockingly, I hardly mention the Military Revolution in the course – I’m not a big fan of sweeping historiography at the undergrad level. Even in a course that covers almost 500 years of European military history!

But to the reason for my post: Any suggestions for good early modern combat sequences from movies? I’ll include a few scenes from Alatriste, and there are a few things on YouTube, but if you have any other favorites, let us know in the comments.

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12 responses to “Early modern movie battles”

  1. Wayne Lee says :

    Barry lyndon; last of mohicans (siege scene)

  2. jostwald says :

    Ah yes, Barry Lyndon. Christopher Duffy was a consultant, if I recall correctly.
    I’ve been recommended Last of the Mohicans as well, though I must not have watched far enough – the only siege scene I remember is when it’s dark and you can’t see anything. Which I suppose could be an accurate depiction all the same.

    Truth be told, nothing compares to the billion contemporary illustrations we now have access to. But my Crusades students liked Kingdom of Heaven, so I must provide them with moving pictures.

    There are a couple of 17C East European movies too: 1612…

    Thanks.

  3. Rick Herrera says :

    The French cavalry charge at Eylau in Colonel Chabert is quite good, a number of scenes from Master and Commander are also very good. Tagging on to Wayne’s suggestion about LoM, the siege has nice details with saps and parallels, gabions, and gun laying, while the ambush scene does a good job with illustrating “locking,” steadiness and command under fire (for a time), and the surrender scene plays well to the broader cultural norms of EM armies.

  4. J de Jong says :

    The opening scene of Winstanley (advised by Andrew Mollo, no less) is a battle scene https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMSL7UsIu00

  5. Gavin Robinson says :

    Have you seen The Last Valley? I haven’t but it’s set in the 30 Years War so might be worth a try.

    If you’re going up to 1815, Waterloo is pretty good but not perfect.

    I wouldn’t recommend Cromwell as I seem to remember it’s a bit silly in places.

    • Martin Gibson says :

      Was Michael Caine in the Last Valley? If so, I don’t remember it containing any battle scenes, though it’s 30+ years since I saw it. He leads a company of mercenaries who come across the only unravaged village in Germany and proceed to ravage it, if I remember correctly.

      • Gavin Robinson says :

        Yes, that’s the one, so not worth looking at for battle scenes. I only know about it because Fraser Hines had a small part in it and mentioned it in his autobiography.

  6. Clive says :

    War is about logistics; do you deal with the logistic challenges that generals had to face and overcome in their adventuring?

    • jostwald says :

      Yes – we have a class dedicated to it, and it comes up throughout the semester in the context of different wars/campaigns.
      Check out the blog’s logistics tag for past discussion here.

  7. jostwald says :

    I broke down and spent $5 on a used copy of Last of the Mohicans – Wayne and Rick owe me $2.50 each if I’m disappointed! But if I don’t like it, I can always get the Mohican Master 2000: https://youtu.be/yaAC3OppG94.

    And why are there no Half-Price Books in the eastern US? Annoying.

    Ben Trotter also likes the recent Broadside: Emerging Empires Collide.

    • Wayne says :

      The siege scene is a bit dark, but if you watch closely and pause to point out to students, you can see the French digging their approaches, and the English gunnery officer looking for them during illumination bursts, and then directing fire against the diggers. After some narrative breaks, you also get a discussion of the approach of hte mortars, and their effects on the interior when they arrive, as well as a great surrender negotiation.

  8. jostwald says :

    For those interested, I found on YouTube a montage of horse charges/combat spliced from various movies – everything from samurai and medieval to a few early modern to Polish hussars to Napoleonic to the Lord of the Rings.
    At: https://youtu.be/eQZGvxM_Dq0

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