Proof that early modern Europeans had war elephants

From the 1702.01.03-06 Flying Post:

This is to give Notice, That there is lately arrived a large Elephant, the biggest that ever was in Europe, and performs varieties of Exercise for Diversion and Laughter, viz. exercises the Musket, flourishes the Colours very nimble and swift in several Postures; he also bears two Persons upon his Trunck; two upon his Ears, and ten upon his Back; with several Varieties. Is to be seen at the White-Horse Inn in Fleetstreet, from 10 in the Morning till 5 at Night.




8 responses to “Proof that early modern Europeans had war elephants”

  1. Mark Danley says :

    Several armies in eighteenth-century India used elephants to pull those big artillery platforms that they brought into the field (unwieldy as they were).

    • jostwald says :

      Thanks. Of course it’s not nearly as amusing as picturing them in Europe, twirling their muskets and flags. But now I’m starting to wonder how to calculate their fodder rations…

      • Mark Danley says :

        Well, the sources are there for that question on elephant fodder as it pertains to the forces of various Rajput leaders. R. K. Saxena, The Army of the Rajputs (Udaipur: Saroj Prakashan, 1989) has a chapter on the elephant corps. His book is based on very intensive research in an number of Indian archives, principally the Rajasthan State Archives, Bikaner. (I’m not sure if the primary documents are in Rajasthani or Sanskrit?) He published his book in English, though, and gives example data of the food ration and monetary expenditures on an elephant in a footnote on p. 186 of the above work; it uses some abbreviations for Indian measures of weight that I don’t recognize right off, though, so I will have to dig around some more. During the eighteenth century Rajput armies used elephants, according to Saxena, to haul baggage, pull artillery, and actually *did* still use them in the battle line. I’m not sure if their main opponent in the eighteenth century, various Maratha chiefs, also used elephants. Nor am I sure precisely how eighteenth-century Bengali armies used them, though I know how late Victorian-era English popular chroniclers and illustrators *thought* the army of the Nawab of Bengal used them….an example of which is on the cover of Pat’s and my Seven Years’ War: Global Views.

        But back to the actual fodder, Saxena lists figures for Flour, Rice, Gur, Ghee, Salt, Haldi, Sooth, Black Pepper, Akar, and some other named provisions that I’m not sure about.

        You were thinking only in terms of amusement and while I appreciate the sense of humor, hey, this is an opportunity to make the point that there is a whole world of eighteenth-century warfare that lays untouched by mainstream academic military historians.

        The opportunities for comparative military history are quite large.

      • jostwald says :

        So when is your work on mid-18C British military book history getting published? 😉

  2. Erik Lund says :

    Elephants have huge forage requirements. It’s why they weren’t used in war outside the subcontinents after Hellenistic times: horses and oxen may not have the tractive density, but they eat a lot less. As to why elephants work in South and Southeast Asia, that goes to ecology but also agronomy.

    Intriquingy, African plains elephants have still larger requirements, which is probably why only forest elephants are used in war. (Cue arguments about “Asiatic” versus “African” elephants, Hannibal, and the Crossing of the Alps here.)

    BTW, the necessary information is in Wolseley, so there’s no need to become familiar with post-Nineteenth Century historiography. So good news for tenured academics! 🙂
    cf. also

  3. Mark Danley says :

    The work on eighteenth-century British military book history is in the works…there is a long road ahead. And, if you mean to suggest that my commentary above on Rajput military history exemplifies my succumbing to distractions that deter me from finishing that project, I’d simply point to the *integration* of comparative military history *into* the last project that (yes, though it took a while) I did eventually finish. 🙂

    • jostwald says :

      Just checking. My Rolodex of American scholars publishing on early modern European military history is getting pretty thin. In the next few weeks I’ll put up a post about the walls that separate us EMEMHians (that I mentioned in my SMH comments).

    • jostwald says :

      And let’s not hear any more about micro-states! 😉

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