While the official program for next April’s Society for Military History conference won’t be out until early next year, I can report that there will be at least one panel on Louis XIV’s last two wars (or is it William III’s last two wars?).
If I can quote from the brilliantly-crafted proposal overview:
Crossing the Channel: Anglo-Germanic Military Relations in the Age of William and Anne
England has always had a complicated relationship with the rest of Europe. Neither the ‘English’ Channel nor the wooden walls of the Royal Navy have prevented invasions from the sea, yet English self-identity has long prided itself on its separation from the Continent. Historians are well aware of the permeability of the Channel and North Sea: Julius Caesar, Norsemen and William the Conqueror, Lancaster and York are only a few of the early successful examples. Nevertheless, England’s peripheral location generally allowed Tudor and Stuart monarchs a freedom of action regarding continental entanglements. After William of Orange’s successful invasion of 1688 forced the island nation into a full-scale continental commitment, the immediate question arose of how England’s forces would contribute to the two ensuing conflicts against Louis XIV’s France (the Nine Years War, 1688-1697, and War of the Spanish Succession, 1701-1714). English troops, commanded first by King William III and then by the Duke of Marlborough, campaigned across Flanders and Iberia, while English diplomatic attentions ranged throughout Europe. Central to William’s vision of a pan-European anti-French alliance were the Germanic states of northern Europe: his own United Provinces of the Netherlands, the German princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and the crown lands of Austria. By 1714, the coalitions constructed by William had humbled the Sun King, and elevated Britain to the status of a great power. How England incorporated its own forces into this larger coalition effort is the focus of this panel.
The three papers provide complementary perspectives on the resulting military relations between England (Britain from 1707) and these continental allies, the compromises and tensions inherent in such coalition endeavors. Thomas M. Nora (University of Hull, Ph.D. candidate) focuses on the administrative and diplomatic groundwork necessary for the English to participate as full members of the Grand Alliances of 1689 and 1701 – their reliance on German auxiliaries. John M. Stapleton (West Point, Associate professor) examines the English reliance on Dutch operational logistics within a Flanders coalition army. Caleb Karges (University of St. Andrews, Ph.D.) explores the question of how the English sought to shape their Austrian ally’s grand strategy.
Together these contributions illustrate how the multi-national forces of two Grand Alliances crossed not just physical and state boundaries on campaign, but necessarily violated borders often considered sovereign and inviolate – crossing the frontiers of individual states’ fiscal, administrative and command structures. These papers explore the extent to which English exceptionalists were forced to become more “continental” when fighting within grand coalitions against a hegemonic France.
Me? I’ll just be along for the ride to chair and to comment
The conference on Louis XIV’s last two wars (Le grand tournant) was held at the Service historique de la Défense (Vincennes) without a hitch – the Sun King refuses to be eclipsed by the dark clouds of a few Islamic terrorists. I’m sure Phil McCluskey could find some irony in there somewhere. The first day saw an almost full house, 50+ attendees, while the second day (a Friday, with fewer presentations) saw probably 30 in attendance. Quite a success, given that many Parisian academic conferences/meetings scheduled for that week were cancelled altogether, and given the fact that Paris was still technically in a state of emergency.
Like most European academic conferences that I’ve attended, there was little premeditated commentary. The chairs largely served to introduce each presenter, though occasionally they might make some brief commentary at the end. This means, of course, that the presenters have until the day of their presentation to write their talk – not sure if this is generally a good thing or a bad thing. All this differs from the American academic conference culture, where the papers are due weeks before the conference, so the commentator has time to draft a more considered response to each paper, and combine the papers together thematically.
The program follows, with my briefest of summaries of each paper:
Des pratiques guerrières en mutation, prés. Bertrand Fonck (SHD)
D’une guerre à l’autre, le double retard de l’infanterie française (1688-1715), par Boris Bouget (musée de l’Armée).
Discussed the technological and tactical limitations on French infantry weapons and tactics.
«Le bras droit des armées»: la cavalerie dans les dernières guerres de Louis XIV, par Frédéric Chauviré (CERHIO)
Good summary of the many roles cavalry played in the wars of the period.
Pour une histoire-campagne, prés. Hervé Drévillon (Université Paris 1)
Le duc de Vendôme en Italie (1702-1706), par Fadi El Hage (IHMC/Université Paris 1)
Argued that Vendôme was fortunate to get recalled from Italy before Eugene relieved Turin and exposed Vendôme’s poor planning for the theater.
A l’aube de la campagne: l’impact du quartier d’hiver dans le déroulement de la campagne de Flandre de 1712, par François Royal (SHD)
Interesting paper discussing the diplomatic, logistical and preparatory operations of the French army in Flanders during the winter 1711-1712.
Batailles, sièges et usages de la violence, prés. Olivier Chaline (Université Paris-Sorbonne)
Au cœur de la bataille: l’expérience des combats de la guerre de Succession d’Espagne, par Clément Oury (Centre ISSN International)
Described the psychological responses to battle by officers and soldiers.
Louis XIV aimait-il trop la bataille?, par Jamel Ostwald (Eastern Connecticut State University)
Thought-piece on Louis’ willingness to order relief battles despite his oft-stated “fear” of battle.
Le sort des vaincus pendant les guerres de Louis XIV: les limites de la culture de la reddition honorable, par Paul Vo-Ha (Université Paris 1)
All the ways in which Louis’ armies didn’t play nice: devastations, bombardments, expulsions…
Regards croisés, prés. Guy Rowlands (University of Saint-Andrews)
Louis XIV, ennemi de la Chrétienté. Le roi noirci par ses adversaires pendant la guerre de la Ligue d’Augsbourg, par Isaure Boitel (Université de Picardie – Jules Verne)
Analyzed several Allied (English, Dutch) anti-Louis illustrations.
Repenser la Boyne : regards croisés, France-Irlande, par Nathalie Genet-Rouffiac (Ministère de la Défense)
Présentation de documents d’archives et de la bibliothèque du SHD
Exhibition of variety of documents from the archive’s holdings, including numerous maps and contemporary engravings.
Les contraintes stratégiques et logistiques de la guerre, prés. Michèle Virol (Université de Rouen)
Les enjeux géostratégiques des différents théâtres d’opérations de la France sous Louis XIV, par Jean-Philippe Cénat
Good overview of the fundamental geostrategic considerations in each theater of war (Flanders, Germany, Italy, Spain).
The Failure of Bourbon Empire in Europe: the Logistics of French Defeat and Survival in the War of the Spanish Succession, par Guy Rowlands (University of Saint-Andrews)
Interesting analysis of the economic/logistical collapse of France by late war – elicited some good discussion of how desperate France really was by 1712.
Un temps de reconfigurations géopolitiques, prés. Jean-Philippe Cénat
L’histoire d’un déclin ou les limites de la puissance? La France face aux reconfigurations géopolitiques de l’Europe du Nord, au tournant des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, par Eric Schnakenbourg (Université de Nantes)
Summary of the politics and diplomacy of the Baltic during the period.
Le théâtre atlantique durant la seconde partie du règne louis-quatorzien: bilan naval et colonial, par Philippe Hrodej (Université de Bretagne Sud)
Thorough discussion of the blue water and raiding warfare at sea.
Discours et représentations de la guerre, prés. Charles-Edouard Levillain (Université Paris-Diderot)
La «désolation du Palatinat» (1688-1689): du scandale à l’évènement, par Emilie Dosquet (Paris 1)
Analyzed the contemporary media debate over the French devastation of the Palatinate. Prompted some good discussion on the laws of war and propaganda.
Peindre la guerre, 1688-1715, par Bertrand Fonck (SHD)
Survey of the main painters of Louis’ wars, and the role of patronage. Louis liked landscapes.
The conference ended with Hervé Drévillon introducing John Lynn as the scholar most responsible for reinvigorating the military history of Louis XIV’s reign with his Giant of the Grand Siècle (1997). Lynn then provided an égo-histoire (intellectual biography) of his career up to the drafting of his Wars of Louis XIV.
All in all, ‘twas an excellent conference. (And I even understood 90%-95% of what each speaker said!) Its main organizers – Hervé Drévillon and Bertrand Fonck – deserve congratulations. It’s made me decide to discuss French historians and historiography on this blog more. There’s a whole crop of new scholars (many under the tutelage of Drévillon) who are providing detailed, archivally-based analyses of Louis’ armies and wars. Their work deserves to be disseminated beyond la Francophonie. So stay tuned.*
* There’s a plan to publish the actes (i.e. proceedings from the conference) sometime in the next year or two. There are even rumors that video of the conference will be posted on YouTube. Depending on whether the videographers got my good side or not, I might even post the link.
A new book (soon to be released) from John Childs, building off of his earlier work on the Williamite Wars in Ireland.
Wienand Drenth of British Army Lineages notifies us of a new book :
Galster, Kjeld Hald. Danish troops in the Williamite army in Ireland, 1689-91. Four Courts Press, 2012.
This unique account of the Williamite War in Ireland focuses on the Danish troops who fought on the Williamite side. Comprising fifteen per cent of William III’s army at the Battle of the Boyne, this Danish force was to play a crucial role in some of the key engagements of the Williamite War. The author, Kjeld Hald Galster, who has served with the Danish Royal Life Guards (whose predecessors played a key role at the Battle of Aughrim), follows the Danish troops through the course of their Irish campaign, and, using a wide variety of Danish and British sources, illuminates the leading personalities and key events of the war. Galster also examines the various military strategies pursued by the leaders on both sides, and shows to what extent the Principles of War, as they are understood today, relate to that military campaign.
Wienand gives a review of it at his blog.
I’ll have another Christmas post shortly, but in the meantime I can’t resist including this excerpt from a rather odd Christmas-day Pindarick ode from 1693 printed in the Athenian Oracle (an interesting paper if you have the time to look at it). Pindaric odes were all the rage during Queen Anne’s reign, often used to celebrate a victory, or, in this case, a birth. I’m no poet, or even an appreciator of poetry, but I find this one of the more interesting Christmas poems I’ve read. No roll-call of reindeer with alliterative names, but instead it starts with someone named Herbert – an English poet actually. After an epigram by said poet George Herbert, the first stanza notes that poor Herbert is dead (d. 1633), or at least he has left the Thames for “Jordan’s well known stream.” You hate to see a character killed off in the first act, but that’s only an appetizer. Entrée Jesus. The second stanza describes “David’s mightier Son” descending from the Heavens, with lots of celestial imagery. But it gets interesting (in a military sense) in the third stanza, where the suddenly all-grown-up Jesus dukes it out with the Prince of Darkness:
“As when some General, Father of the War,
Singles his haughty Rebel from afar,
He bids his Host give back, who press in vain,
And shoots himself away, across the trembling Plain;
His Eyes like Lightning, his lost Foe confound,
His Spear like Thunder nails him to the Ground;
So, single comes our Lord, again to try
The Force of his once vanquish’d Enemy:
The Wine-press he alone will tread,
Displays a Banner strangely Red,
By which Captivity is Captive led.
The Banner of the Cross, in which he knows,
He soon shall Conquer all his Fathers Foes:
With this on fatal Golgotha he stood,
Earth’s Heavn’s, and Hell’s united Force he bears,
Nor once gives back, nor once Despairs,
His Limbs all torn with Wounds.”
This isn’t the first time Jesus is compared to the Great Captains, and won’t be the last either. The succeeding verses bring up David and Goliath, include more gratuitous falling stars, transform Jesus-as-General into a “mean Mechanick’s son” laid in a cave incognito, and generally describe a battle between Good and Evil, the latter embodied by “proud Lucifer” with his “seven-plated Shield” and “Adamantine Arms,” kinda like Wolverine.
I would’ve thought a Christmas poem would want to focus more on Jesus and his birth, but no lowly manger for this Sun-god. Maybe the author had just read about the English taking it on the chin at the battle of Landen/Neerwinden and needed to work out his frustrations?
In short, it’s not like many of the carols I sang as a kid, but I kinda wish it was.