Tag Archive | 30YW

Italian warrior wannabes

New publications, continuing the saga of Italian nobles and their declining predilection for military violence:

Hanlon, Gregory. The Hero of Italy; Odoardo Farnese, Duke of Parma, His Soldiers, and His Subjects in the Thirty Years’ War. Oxford University Press, 2014.
The Hero of Italy examines a salient episode in Italy’s Thirty Years’ War with Spain and France, whereby the young duke Odoardo Farnese of Parma embraced the French alliance, only to experience defeat and occupation after two tumultuous years (1635-1637). Gregory Hanlon stresses the narrative of events unfolding in northern Italy, examining the participation of the little state in these epic European events.

The first chapter describes the constitution of Cardinal Richelieu’s anti-Habsburg alliance and Odoardo’s eagerness to be part of it. A chapter on the Parman professional army, based on an extraordinary collection of company roster-books, sheds light on the identity of over 13,000 individuals, soldier by soldier, the origin and background of their officers, the conditions of their lodgings, and the good state of their equipment. Chapter three follows the first campaign of 1635 alongside French and Savoyard contingents at the failed siege of Valenza, and the logistical difficulties of organizing such large-scale operations. Another chapter examines the financial expedients the duchy adopted to fend off incursions on all its borders in 1636, and how militia contingents on both sides were drawn into the fighting. A final chapter relates the Spanish invasion and occupation which forced duke Odoardo to make a separate peace. The volume includes a detailed assessment of the impact of war on civilians based on parish registers for city and country. The application of the laws of war was largely nullified by widespread starvation, disease and routine sex-selective infanticide. These quantitative analyses, supported by maps and tables, are among the most detailed anywhere in Europe in the era of the Thirty Years’ War.

For a short snippet, there’s always:
Hanlon, Gregory. “An Italian Aristocracy in Arms: The Duke of Parma Goes to War 1635–1637.” European History Quarterly 44, no. 2 (April, 2014): 205–22.
When the Duke of Parma, Odoardo Farnese, summoned his noble subjects to join his army with a view to joining the French alliance against Spain in 1635, he was gratified by a turnout of astonishingly high proportions. Not nearly enough of them had personal experience of modern war, and so the prince appointed military nobles from much of northern Italy to fill the cadres, alongside the French officers whose contingents on loan from Louis XIII made up a third of the infantry. Unlike Spanish nobles, Odoardo’s subjects were even willing to serve in the ranks, while waiting for their advancement. The two brief campaigns turned out to be a disaster for Odoardo and his subjects. War quickly receded from Parma’s horizon, but the experience reveals that Italy’s aristocrats had not yet consigned their weapons to display cases.


A sign of things to come?

Derek Croxton’s general narrative of the history of the treaty of Westphalia has finally been published.

Croxton, Derek. Westphalia: The Last Christian Peace. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

The Peace of Westphalia, which brought to a close the Thirty Years War, is arguably the most important treaty signed before the twentieth century. It was a signal event of the early modern era, thoroughly of its time even as it prefigured the radical political developments of subsequent centuries. This sweeping, exhaustively researched history is the first comprehensive account of the treaty and its wider significance to appear in the English language. Bringing together the latest scholarship with an engaging narrative, it retraces the European situation leading up to the Congress of Westphalia, exploring its political and intellectual underpinnings and placing it in a broad global and chronological context. In doing so, it definitively fills a massive lacuna in the scholarly literature while offering fascinating insights into the long historical transition to modernity.

In addition to being envious that Derek’s published yet another book, I was also a bit taken aback by the book. Not the content mind you. But the context. Let me explain.

So here we have a narrative on the Peace of Westphalia, surely the most well-known peace conference of the early modern period – even present-minded political scientists are familiar with it, Westphalia often being described as a turning point in modern Western diplomatic history, the beginning of the modern international state-system. Given its name recognition, it’s not a surprise that it would be published by a hybrid academic-popular publisher like Palgrave Macmillan.

What did surprise me, however, is its cost. A narrative history of probably the most famous early modern peace treaty, providing the only recent full-length narrative history of the peace that I can think of. Yet this book lists at $115. From Palgrave Macmillan – not a press I normally think of as giving Brill pricing a run for its money. In fact, it’s priced only $10 more than Derek’s 2001 edited dictionary on the peace, by Greenwood. What’s going on here?


  • Academic publishers are in a world of hurt, and even books like this mandate a $100+ price tag. I suppose the 400 pages may have increased the price, but I wouldn’t think by that much. Would a 250-page book have decreased the price by $60? Somebody should calculate how many more dollars your book will cost for every year you delay its publication.
  • Diplomatic history is in trouble. If this is what a book on Westphalia costs, I shudder to think of how much they would charge for a history of the peace of Rijswijk (Ryswick)!
  • Early modern European history is in trouble. It’s not just this book. All sorts of books on early modern European history, by a variety of presses, are regularly selling in hardcover for $100 these days. Is this because English-reading audiences don’t care about the period?

All of these theories happen to be backed up by other data, whether it’s the number of faculty research in the fields, the number of job postings in the fields, the number of publications and presentations in the field…

My assumptions (that may not be correct, and haven’t really been clarified in past Publishing discussions):

  • List price is a signal for the popularity of a book, a calculation made by the publisher to make a profit while not pricing the book out of the market.
  • Some topics will not be published at all, since publishers aren’t willing to charge the astronomical amount that would be required for them to get their money back from the printing.
  • Price is largely driven by the format: hardcover vs. paper. Hardcover books are much more expensive, and if your book is only published in hardcover, that’s an indication that the publisher doesn’t think it will sell many copies regardless of the price.


30YW Participants timechart

An inevitable challenge for historians is how to mix narrative with analysis in their courses. I teach an upper-level undergrad course on European Warfare 1337-1815, and it’s no surprise that when you cover an entire war in 2-3 hours of classtime, it’s hard to ensure that students understand both the narrative (how the events unfolded) as well as why the events unfolded the way they did, and what these events teach us about the warfare of the period. This can be particularly difficult for many early modern wars, where a dozen or more combatants might be involved at different times, and even switch sides on occasion. The 30YW is particularly difficult in this regard. Geoffrey Parker’s Thirty Years War book attempts to address this by including a chart of participants by year (p. 138). I created my own, pimped-out version, taking advantage of color.

Note that this type of chart allows you to:

  • see at a glance what periods have the most wars
  • see at a glance the geographical spread of wars
  • trace one country’s pattern of war and peace (follow column down)
  • trace one year’s pattern of war and peace (follow row across)
  • quickly look up the state of war and peace in any given year for any given country
  • distinguish when participants join or leave a coalition (e.g. Saxony in 1619)

Let me know your thoughts on this type of chart: if there are any mistakes in this one, and if you have any suggestions for improvement.

Timechart illustrating combatants by year and their opponents

Here is the symbol key.


Lützen 1632

In the twelve years since the Austro-Bavarian army had defeated Bohemian hopes of independence at White Mountain, the Catholic forces of central Europe had continued on the offensive. The Austrians had gone on to chase the Palatine Elector Frederick V from his Palatinate holdings, and then beat up on the Duke of Brunswick who prematurely sided with the Protestants. Christian IV of Denmark took his turn as Habsburg whipping boy from 1625-1629. By 1630 the specter of a recatholicization of the northern Empire, along with expanding Austrian influence along the Baltic coast, led the Swedish “Lion of the North”, Gustavus Adolphus, to declare war. His army of Swedish conscripts and mercenary troops decisively defeated the Austrian forces at Breitenfeld in 1631, and proceeded to rampage throughout central Germany. In the following year, on this day,* another major battle would be fought at Lützen in Saxony. Once again the Swedes would be victorious, but it was a Pyrrhic victory, for their King Gustav Adolf would be killed in the fog of battle. The loss of their leader crippled the Swedish cause, and would force the French to bankroll the Swedish war effort, and eventually enter the war themselves.


Idealized map of Battle of Lützen (16 November 1632) with Habsburg tercios and Swedish brigades

Less remarked upon in the annals of history is that a logging town on the North Shore of Lake Superior (Minnesota) would take on the name of Lutsen from its Swedish settlers, and that a century after that, a budding EMEMHian from the Twin Cities would vacation there, at the Lutsen resort. Small world indeed.

* Given the difference between Old Style and New Style calendars (post to come), the Swedes still commemorate Gustav Adolf’s death on 6 November. You might be able to make it out in the legend on the lower-right corner of the map above.

This Day in EMEMH

On this day, 391 years ago, an Austro-Bavarian army defeated the Bohemian rebels (and by extension their Winter King Frederick) at the Battle of White Mountain. Bohemia was overrun and the Catholicization and Habsburgization of the region began.

La Bohémienne (1868): Still bummed about White Mountain

Suggested Readings:
Wilson, Peter H. The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009.
Guthrie, William. Battles of the Thirty Years War: from White Mountain to Nordlingen, 1618-1635. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.