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