Tag Archive | 18C

Now it’s your turn

The first week of the Spring semester, and as usual I’m behind already. I’m teaching the Historical Research and Writing course, a senior seminar on Late Stuart England, and my Religion, War and Peace in Early Modern Europe – tomorrow’s lesson: the Old Testament!

So I’ll just throw this out there until I have time to compose a real post:

A colleague wants to know what the latest consensus is (if one exists) about the old saw that British red coats in the American Revolution stood up proud and tall in nice straight linear formations while American militiamen fired at them behind trees and rocks with their rifles.

I’ve read Spring’s With Zeal and With Bayonets Only and Grenier’s First American Way of War and a couple of the recent works on Native American warfare, but since several skulkers focus on the American Revolutionary era and since I have enough trouble keeping up with works on Europe between 1650 and 1750 while doing my own research, I thought I’d check to see what the current status of the topic is. So for this post only, consider this EMEMH blog temporarily a EMAMH blog.

Comment away!

Another missed book

Guess I need to check with Liverpool University Press more often. This one slipped through the cracks of my existing Google alerts and publisher email notifications:

Linch, Kevin, and Matthew McCormack, eds. Britain’s Soldiers: Rethinking War and Society, 1715-1815. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2014.
Abstract: The British soldier was a fascinating and complex figure in the century between the Hanoverian accession and the Battle of Waterloo. The ‘war and society’ approach has shed much light on Britain’s frequent experience of conflict in this period, but Britain’s Soldiers argues that it is time to refocus our attention on the humble redcoat himself, and rethink historical approaches to soldiers’ relationship with the society and culture of their day. Using approaches drawn from the histories of the military, gender, art, society, culture and medicine, this volume presents a more rounded picture of the men who served in the various branches of the British armed forces. This period witnessed an unprecedented level of mass mobilisation, yet this was largely achieved through novel forms of military service outside of the regular army. Taking a wide definition of soldiering, this collection examines the part-time and auxiliary forces of the period, as well as looking at the men of the British Army both during their service and once they had been discharged from the army. Chapters here explore the national identity of the soldier, his sense of his rights within systems of military discipline, and his relationships with military hierarchies and honour codes. They also explore the welfare systems available to old and wounded soldiers, and the ways in which soldiers were represented in art and literature. In so doing, this book sheds new light on the processes through which soldiers were ‘made’ during this crucial period of conflict.
Chapters include:
Introduction: Kevin Linch and Matthew McCormack
PART 1: Nationhood
1 ‘The eighteenth-century British army as a European institution’, Stephen Conway
2 ‘Soldiering abroad: the experience of living and fighting among aliens’, Graciela Iglesias Rogers
PART 2: Hierarchy
3 ‘Effectiveness and the British Officer Corps, 1793-1815’, Bruce Collins
4 ‘Stamford standoff: honour, status and rivalry in the Georgian military’, Matthew McCormack
PART 3: Discipline
5 ‘“The soldiers murmered much on Account of their usage”: military justice and negotiated authority in the eighteenth-century British army’, William P. Tatum III
6 ‘Discipline and control in eighteenth-century Gibraltar’, Ilya Berkovich
PART 4: Gender
7 ‘Conflicts of conduct: British masculinity and military painting in the wake of the Siege of Gibraltar’, Cicely Robinson
8 ‘Scarlet fever: female enthusiasm for men in uniform, 1780-1815’, Louise Carter
PART 5: Soldiers in Society
9 ‘Disability, fraud and medical experience at the Royal Hospital of Chelsea in the long eighteenth century’, Caroline Louise Nielsen
10 ‘Making new soldiers: legitimacy, identity and attitudes, c. 1740-1815’, Kevin Linch

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.

Jacobites bite back

Recent book out:

Oates, Jonathan. The Jacobite Campaigns: The British State at War. Pickering and Chatto, 2011.

The military aspects of the Jacobite campaigns in eighteenth-century Britain are considered in this study. Taken from the viewpoint of those loyal to the Hanoverian Crown, the three mainland campaigns of 1715–6, 1719 and 1745–6 are examined, using research based on primary sources: memoirs, diaries, letters, newspapers and state papers.

Oates looks at how the eighteenth-century military machine operated in a domestic context, as well as its effectiveness. Such a focus adds a new dimension to the study of this period, and allows for further questions as to the uniqueness of the Jacobite rebellions.

Now 75% off if you subscribe to their email list. Or, I suppose they could buck the trend and only charge $25 for the book in the first place. But that horse has already left the barn, as they saw.

Now you see the problem

Just got my login info for the e-version of the latest Journal of Military History, and skimmed through the early modern section of its Recent Journal Articles. This type of resource used to be critical in the pre-digital age – every journal seemed to have its own listing of recently published works. Before online databases and the Internets, you were pretty much limited to the journals your library subscribed to, the good ol’ Historical Abstracts, a few rare bibliographic journals (remember that War and Society newsletter Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen used to publish?), any citation indexes you could get your hands on, and of course pillaging the citations of the latest articles and books. Maybe you even traded citations within your scholarly network. OK, so maybe it’s not that different today.

But even back then, looking through the Recent Articles section, you’d notice how haphazard the selections were – some journals that you knew of weren’t included, others were included one year and not the next, and undoubtedly they’d list some new article in a journal you’d never think to explore, or even heard of before. All this serves not only to remind us that there are extremely few journals that specialize in EMEMH, that there is no central “go-to” source, but it also serves as a way to introduce an article of interest in a journal that’s really not been on my radar screen:

Buchan, Bruce. “Pandours, Partisans, and Petite Guerre: The Two Dimensions of Enlightenment Discourse on War.” Intellectual History Review 23, no. 3 (September 2013): 329–347.
During the Enlightenment period a certain notion of war came to prominence in European thought. This notion, which I here refer to as ‘civilized war’, centred on the idea that European war-making in the eighteenth century was characterised by humanity and honour. This image of European war-making was sustained by a variety of intellectuals and even some military practitioners who reflected not only on the practice of war in Europe in this period, but on the practice of war among supposedly less ‘civilised’ peoples in other parts of the world and in Europe’s barbaric past. In these other places, among other peoples, and at other times, warfare was characterised as altogether less ‘civilised’, less ordered, less humane and honourable, and was thus considered more ‘savage’. I will argue in this paper, however, that there were at least two dimensions to the Enlightenment discourse on civilised war: the first dimension stressed the moral qualities of civilised war, its honour and humanity above all; the second dimension emphasised its technical or rational qualities that gave European war-makers a decisive military advantage over non-European war-makers. These two dimensions applied to conventional or symmetrical war between sovereign militaries contending by massed fire power on the field of battle. They were less easily applicable to petite guerre, that is, unconventional, asymmetric or partisan war. Here, the two dimensions of the idea of civilised war were shadowed by persistent anxieties about the status of both dimensions of civilised war.
But wait, there’s more: nowadays the web allows us to descend further into the rabbit hole. Googling such articles tends to send you to the author’s homepage, which often mentions other articles of note. To wit:
Buchan, B. “Civilized Fictions: Warfare and Civilization in Enlightenment Thought.” Alternatives: Global, Local, Political 36, no. 1 (February 1, 2011): 64–71.
In range of recent articles, Barry Hindess has explored the intellectual foundations of European perceptions of other peoples as different from and in need of European models of government and society. In particular, he has focused on the European “conceit” of superior, more rapid, and more sophisticated historical development or civilization. In this article, I will take up Hindess’ view of European civilization as a conceit, and explore its deployment in relation to the influential idea of civilized war in Enlightenment political thought. In particular, I will trace the articulation of this conceit in Voltaire’s account of the battle of Fontenoy on May 11, 1745. I will argue that Voltaire’s account of the battle shows that the European notion of civilized war was not only a conceit but a fiction.
Another article of interest illustrates yet another complication. I’ll let you identify the problem:
Green-Mercado, Marya T. “The Mahdī in Valencia: Messianism, Apocalypticism and Morisco Rebellions in Late Sixteenth-Century Spain.” Medieval Encounters 19, no. 1–2 (January 1, 2013): 193–220. doi:10.1163/15700674-12342129.
Prophecies and apocalyptic prognostications circulated widely among the Moriscos—forcedly baptized Muslims in sixteenth-century Iberia. Messianism, however, is a phenomenon which had hitherto never been attested in traditional sources of Morisco history. This article studies the interrelated phenomena of apocalypticism and messianism among the Moriscos of the Crown of Aragon in the second half of the sixteenth century. Through a case study of a 1575 inquisitorial transcript, it analyzes an obscure messianic figure named Abrahim Fatimí, who was accused of attempting to lead the kingdom to rebellion, casting himself as the expected deliverer of Morisco tradition, el moro Alfatimí. The discovery of this case sheds light on the political and social implications of apocalyptic and messianic ideas among Moriscos in the late sixteenth century.
The problem? Those damn medievalists squatting on early modern land! A journal with a title like Medieval Encounters is pretty far down my list, but this article would fit nicely in my Religion, War and Peace course. Ever vigilant!
Venturing to that journal’s website pulls up other possible articles of note:
Coleman, David. “Of Corsairs, Converts and Renegades: Forms and Functions of Coastal Raiding on Both Sides of the Far Western Mediterranean, 1490-1540.” Medieval Encounters 19, no. 1–2 (January 1, 2013): 167–192.
Historians have long debated whether or not the cultures of the Mediterranean constitute a singular unit of geo-historical analysis. The Alborán Sea—the Mediterranean’s far western corner that narrowly separates the Iberian Peninsula from Africa’s northwestern shore—has long been an important “frontier” zone in which arguments for and against Mediterranean unity are put to the test. This essay contends that endemic practices of corsair activity and coastal raiding played analogous functions on both sides of this “frontier” in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. While the fact of systematized conflict in the form of raids lends some support to the notion of an enduring “clash of civilizations,” the parallel forms and functions of such raiding within the societies from which the corsairs came argue at least as persuasively for a significant degree of fundamental similarity and continuity. The Alborán corsairs along both coasts, for instance, typically received patronage and organizational aid from local and regional elites, and their raiding activities proved central to both economies. On both sides of the frontier, moreover, the world of the corsairs allowed a surprising degree of mobility and participation to converts and renegades of Muslim, Jewish and Christian origin alike.
And for those who need to be reminded that the British Empire existed in the 18C as well as the 19C, we have:
Muller, Hannah Weiss. “The Garrison Revisited: Gibraltar in the Eighteenth Century.” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 41, no. 3 (2013): 353–376.
In the 1940s, scholars across a variety of disciplines started using phrases such as ‘garrison state’ and ‘garrison mentality’ to describe societies where military imperatives predominated. They frequently argued that a perpetual sense of threat and a profound feeling of isolation shaped the outlook of residents in these communities. Such terms continue to surface in contemporary scholarship and popular media, where ‘the garrison’ often remains a stock image. Evidence from eighteenth-century Gibraltar, however, suggests that traditional readings of the garrison as an insulated fortress should be reconsidered. The survival of this strategic outpost actually required that colonial administrators rely on an array of foreigners to keep it supplied during times of both war and peace. At Gibraltar, the garrison was neither isolated from its surrounding environment nor perpetually threatened by its cosmopolitan residents—instead, inescapable dependence on a motley local population often rendered administrators willing to accommodate the alien in their midst and to acknowledge the interconnections between military and civilian.
And finally, for the sake of completeness, I should also give a hat tip to Wayne Lee’s Review Essay in the most recent JMilH on three of Jeremy Black’s recent works: “Military History in a Global Frame.” [Insert your preferred joke about Black’s publishing fecundity here.]
When do we get our EMEMH bibliography aggregator?

A Military Enlightenment?

A comment by Campmaster in a previous post prompted the following speculation regarding whether EM contemporaries adopted past or future models when pushing for military change.

I think there’s something to the Military Enlightenment, i.e. an 18C shift from backwards-looking reform to forward-looking reform, especially post-1713. Whenever someone explains everything by simply applying the zeitgeist, say the Enlightenment, I see that as a bit lazy and over-determined. But there is good evidence for a Military Enlightenment. Not only do you have institutionalized technical developments (e.g. the professionalization of the various technical branches, the growth of academies…), but you also have some new, significant theoretical developments that seem quite different from the previous century. Given the relative peace after 1713, there was a lot of free time for military thinkers (veterans of recent wars) to assess past military performance, e.g. the War of the Spanish Succession and the Seven Years War for France, the Austrian Succession for Britain. The results were often reform programs, sometimes proposing wide-scale changes. To mention a few examples: the chevalier de Folard (who admittedly drew from the Ancient past but through the prism of the Spanish Succession) and the ensuing column-line debate, Guibert, the Liechtenstein/Gribeauval developments in artillery (with the earlier failed precedent of the nouvelle invention cannon under Louis XIV), the Montalembert attack on trace italienne fortifications, theories of mountain warfare, the development of the divisional system…

There also seems to have been a more general systematization of military practice in the field. For example, when comparing French archival documents from 1702-1712 and 1745, I’ve been struck by how much more systematic the 1745 documents were; English histories and manuals published right after the Spanish Succession (e.g. Bland) are also distinctly different from late 17C manuals – there was much more of an effort to systematize knowledge, and quantification as well. I’d guess the bureaucratization of the military (particularly in the field) is a modern mindset, and really seems to take off in the 18C. Administratively, the Dutch were probably ahead of their time (and possibly other republics like Venice, à la Mallett and Hale’s The Military Organization of a Renaissance State), but the English and French only seem to have rationalized their military administrative structure later (perhaps much later) in the 18C, possibly Austria too. War always makes a mess of grandiose plans, so I think the relative peace probably made a big difference, and we should always expect backsliding in wartime, as well as asychronous developments in different countries and regions. We could also talk about the role of increasing State control over its military forces, the increased training and subordination of its officer corps, etc. etc.

Similarly, there’s a strong contrast between the theoretical military literature of the 17C and 18C century. The 17C English manuals focus on basic “fundamental” tactical skills an army needs: battlefield maneuvers and weapons drills, and basic geometry for siegecraft (I’ve already discussed the significant changes between Vauban’s 1672 siege treatise and his 1704 edition, which was only published in the 1740s). The 17C manuals that do address the higher levels of war, particularly the art of commanding an army, are largely generic retreads of Ancient advice on the subject, although you do start to see some criticism (historicist and practical) of various Ancient authorities, just as you do among 17C academics. It’s like 17C Europeans were focusing on the basics, and only later, once they had learned how to walk (march and shoot), could they focus their attention on the higher levels of war, the grand tactical and operational in particular. You clearly see military change occurring in the 17C, but it is slow and, more often than not, rarely discussed publicly if at all. The shift from matchlock to flintlock, from pike and shot to fusil and bayonet, the development of firing systems like platoon fire, the systematization of Vaubanian siegecraft, as well as various administrative changes are all important, but they seem much more haphazard and tenuous. And perhaps they were all necessary preconditions for the Military Enlightenment.

When you get into the 18C, you see full-blown systematization and wide-ranging explicit debate, a broader range of subjects covered in more detail. Ira Gruber’s work on British military libraries (Books and the British Army) shows a clear move away from the Classics by the second-half of the century, although how contemporaries used the Ancients is as important as whether they used them or not. Even Folard’s excursus on Polybius and Puységur’s comparison of Turenne and Caesar is far more detailed and thoughtful than anything I’ve read from the 17C. I am not clear exactly what we should conclude from this difference, other than to avoid, as Stephen Jay Gould emphasized, a knee-jerk teleological Whiggish “today is better” view.

But then there I go, claiming “first.”

Agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Too much to cite, but the Military Enlightenment has been discussed (in various guises) by people like David Bien, John Lynn, J.A. Houlding, Armstrong Starkey, Ira Gruber, Pat Speelman, as well as a whole French school discussing more general issues of how French nobles and technicians defined ‘merit’ (Jay Smith, Ken Alder, Rafe Blaufarb, et al)…