Tag Archive | britain

Here we going again with the skulking

For those who get all their international news from CNN, they would’ve come across this article on the British (“Royal”) Navy keeping a close eye on Russia’s lone aircraft carrier as it chugs its way back to its Baltic home: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/26/europe/britain-russia-aircraft-carrier/.

The quote receiving attention abroad was the UK Defence Secretary saying that “We are keeping a close eye on the Admiral Kuznetsov as it skulks back to Russia, a ship of shame whose mission has only extended the suffering of the Syrian people.” Of course for me, the money quote was not the “ship of shame” line – to be honest, I had to think for a minute which shame to focus on: the mission, the carrier design, or its operational performance in the Eastern Med? No, I smiled at yet another example of the British accusing their opponents of skulking about – why can’t everybody just be brave and downright like the British?

So, is Vladimir Putin the new Louis XIV? Discuss.

Snowday 2016

Which gives me time to throw a quick blog post up into the Ether – now that we’ve finally gotten our electricity back, after six hours. I’ve been busy with teaching two grading-intensive courses (a senior seminar on the Age of Enlightenment and the Historical Research and Writing course), as well as my European Warfare 1337-1815, but also getting some overdue research done. So I might as well share little bits that are too long to publish in full.

As I’m nearing the completing of my long-delayed siege capitulation chapter, I came across this humorous piece illustrating a lot of the themes I’ve been exploring over the past few years. Without further ado, I bring you another episode in the rarely-boring Country-man and Observator Show, from 1706.

Cm: It pleases me and all good Christian Englishmen, Master, I have a whole Budget full of Victories.

O: What more Victories? New Ones, Roger?

Cm: Yes, Master, all Spike and Span New. Let me see, Master, I’ll lay ’em out before you in Mode and Form. First and foremost I present with the Surrender of Ostend, that’s the Place you wanted to have Taken, and so I hope you are pleas’d for One, especially since it was Taken in less time than you thought for [it defended itself for more than three years during the Eighty Years War].

As soon as my Lord Overkirk began to fling his Bombs on one side, and the English Fleet did the like on the other side of the Town, the French and Spaniards began to Squeak like so many Rats and Wessels between two Fires. Ah, Master, ’tis a sad thing to be Roasted at that rate; and while a Body is turning upon the Spit to be Basted with huge ugly Bombs and stinking Carcasses [an incendiary bomb]; ’tis enough to Fright any Body. I’ll warrant it the poor Frenchmen Drip’d more T—- [Turd] than Tallow; the heat of the Fire shrivel’d their poor thin hunger-starv’d Carcasses.

But there is one thing I observ’d upon the Papers that seems very Chomical, I cou’dn’t forbear Laughing at it: Master Mothe [La Mothe-Houdancourt], the French Governor in the Town, when it was Surrender’d, excused the Bravery of his Men, which he said Was quite lost in Defending a Ravelin; but he did not attribute it to a Natural Cause, but to Witchery and Devildom, and said All his Men were Bewitch’d. Aye, thought I, and so was thy Master Bewitch’d too, when he sent a Mothe [i.e. a moth] to take Care of the Cloathing of such a Town as Ostend. The Notion of Witchery is a poor excuse for Cowardice, and being over-match’d in Bravery and Skill in Martial Affairs.

But, Master, I foresee this Notion of Witchery will spread a great way; Anjou he’s coming Home Bewitch’d and Bedevil’d. Bavaria and Collogn, the two Brothers of Treachery, they are Bewitch’d and Hagg-Riden out of their Country. Prince Eugene he has Bewitch’d poor Vendosme, as I’ll tell you By and By. But the Duke of Marlborough he has Bewitch’d all Flanders, as the Earl of Peterborough has done all Spain. Bless me, Master, was there ever such Witchery, such a parcel of Martial Necromancers ever known at one time in the World? One would think that all the English Forces had been rais’d in Lancashire [the Pendle witches 1612], and were the Legitimate Issue of Teague O Devilly, begotten on Mother Demdyke [one of the Lancashire witches].

….

But Master, it rejoyces my Heart to see this Witchery as Monsieur Mothe calls it, go on o’the other side of the Water. Dendermond is Bewitch’d already; and a Spell is lay’d upon Newport, that will be actually Bewitch’d in twelve or fourteen Days time; nay, I heard some of our Coffee-House Wizzards say, That before the Campaign is ended Dunkirk will be horribly Bewitch’d. Ha! thought I, will it so? Then the Prophecy that I remember I read, concerning the French King, may come to pass.

Lorrain you Stole, by Fraud you got Burgundy,
Dunkirk you Bought, and you shall Pay for’t one Day.

Obs: He has Pay’d for’t long ago.

Cm: Aye, Master, to a Corrupt Minister that had no Power to Sell it and Receive the Money; and, I think the English Nation were Bewitch’d at that time, that they did not Hovel-Post that Minister. But now, Master, is our time to make the French King pay for Buying Stollen-Goods; and I foresee we shall do it with a Vengeance.

There’s another great piece of Witchery coming on the Stage too: The Earl of Rivers is going to Bewitch a Power of People somewhere or other; and the French King, tho’ he is an Old Wizzard, and has his Familiar, Goody Maintenon, always about him, he can’t tell whether they are going: But they are going to Bewitch some of his People, that’s for certain; because they carry with ’em Mortars, Bombs, Great and Small Guns, and other Instruments of War, the Spells with which the Duke of Marlborough has Bewitch’d so many Towns and People in Flanders. And what is most inconsolable to the French King is, that 12000 of those very Wizzards that Bewitch’d all Flanders are Ship’d off at Ostend, and wait only for a Wind to joyn in this Expedition.

Well, for my part I would give a Pot of October [brew] to see how the French King himself is Bewitch’d at this News. What are become of all his Little Imps that us’d to Creep into the Cabinet of Princes, even thro’ the Little Key-Holes? That when we had an Expedition forwarded, as at this present, could tel him it was to be at Camaret? [Did Tutchin know that Marlborough is traditionally credited with spilling that particular secret?] That when we had sent a Spy to France he was so effectually told of it, that when the Vessel Arrived, his Officers could come to Her side and ask for Lame Puckle? Master, I fancy the French King is Bewitch’d, because his Devils have lost their Power, because our Devils, with whom they held a Correspondance are Exorcis’d, and render’d Incapable of doing us any more Mischief. Tar-box for that.

Obs: Indeed, Honest Country-man, the little Shifts that are made use of by the French King, his Ministers and Generals, to excuse their Bankrupcty of Power, are so very Weak, that none but the Vassals of France, who must have their Eyes put out for Seeing can help Laughing at them. ‘Tis but t’other Day the French Kings Minister at Madrid told the Grandees of Spain, Asembled for that purpose, That his Master would rather call Home his Grandson, the Duke de Anjou, than that such Sacriledges should be Committed in a Catholick Kingdom by Wicked Heretics. This is the specious Pretence for calling Home his Spanish PERKIN; but who can believe the sincerity of the French King in this Point, who has, himself, been the most Sacrilegious Monster that ever Europe Bred? That has spared neither Religious-Houses, nor their Inhabitants, or the Lands Given and Settled to Pious Uses, when it has been his Interest to Seize them; and had he not been Diverted by a War in Eighty Eight, he had Wag’d War upon his Holy-Father, the Pope, at that time.

Monsieur Mothe’s Whim of Witchery is Comical enough. A good Excuse for being Beaten. This strange Reflux of French Valour cannot proceed from any Natural Cause; no, by no means. The French Courage can never be decay’d in its Nature, ’tis some Evil Planet Governs, and the French Troops are certainly Bewitch’d.

I might here assert that ’tis Natural for Men, so much beaten as the French has been of late every where, and in all Engagements, to be Cow’d and Disspirited, that ’tis also Politick for Men when they find the Dice of War run against ’em to leave off Playing at Soldiers. But to attribute the want of French Courage to Witchcraft, is in so many Words telling the World, That the Devil Reigns in the Year 1706, and that his Ancient Alliance with the French King is come to a Period.

Honest-Roger, all this is the Work of the Almighty, he gives Courage and he Disspirits Men; God is against that Wicked Tyrant, that Grizly Oppressor of Mankind, that Bloody Butcher of Protestants, and can he then Prosper? Who can withstand the fixt Resolves of the Eternal Being? Or can Humane Force over-come the Almighty Arm? No, Roger, ’tis Providence, and not Witchcraft has Disspirited the French Forces; and the same Providence may, and will do the same by us, if we don’t own that High Hand by whose Influence we Conquer, and make suitable Returns for such Auxiliaries of Divine Power.

Cm: Now, Master, out of my Budget I pull a Notable Victory, obtained by Prince Eugene over the Duke D’Vandosme. The French Forces in Italy are also Bewitch’d; this Magick Spell fles a great way: I fancy some or other of our Side has got Pandora’s Box, and opens it at every turn when he pleases, and let his Poisons fly to taint the Frenchmen with Cowardice. Master, in short we han’t yet got the Particulars of the Fight in Italy, but of this we are certain, that there has been a Fight and that the French Army is Routed Horse and Foot, and that Vandosme is Mortally Wounded, so that he’ll hardly be in a Condition to Act against the Duke of Marlborough.

And now what wil become of the Something of Orelans that was to have Vandosme’s Post? I fancy Vandosme was a Malicious Fellow, and being Incens’d at the French King, for putting Orleans over his Head, he carried his Bewitch’d Army to Prince Eugene to have ’em Kill’d, and so that Orleans, when he came, might have no Army to Command. Those Frenchmen are Spiteful, let ’em be Bewitch’d or not Bewitch’d.

Obs: That Prince Eugene, the most Neglected of any general, has done the greatest Exploits in War that ever any Age could produce, always out-Number’d, out of time Recruited, Troops Ill Paid, and yet always Victorious. Unrewarded, and yet Faithful to his Trust; and what is yet more Glorious, as Poor now, after being General so many Campaigns, as at first when he held the Truncheon of Honour. Covetousness is the worst Vice a General can have, a Covetous Man can never be so true to his Trust as he that despises Money, and seeks nothing but the Good of his Country in the Service of it; a Covetous Captain is a Rent to a Kingdom, you must purchase his Fidelity at so high a Rate as the Enemy may’nt out-bid you for his Treachery. But Brave Prince Eugene has not sought himself, but the Interest of his Master, and the Common Good of Europe, and has made such a Stand in Italy as future Ages will wonder at.

Cm: Master, they say the Emperor will give him part of the Duke of Bavaria’s Country, and so Reward Fidelity and true Merit with the Forfeitures arising by Treachery.

Obs: If he had all Bavaria I should rejoyce exceedingly. But, Roger, when the account of this Victory comes confirm’d it will prove a Glorious Stroke on Behalf of the Confederates. The Duke of Savoy will by this means joyn the Imperial Forces, the Seige of Turin will be raised, and the Country of Savoy will be cleared from the Vermin that now Infect it; and so, Roger, let us go to Bed with a good Health to Prince Eugene.

God, I love The Observator.

One more bit of background: using witchcraft to (satirically) describe an otherwise-inexplicable military victory was an old trope – see, for example, A Letter from a Trooper in Flanders, to His Comerade: Shewing, that Luxemburg is a Witch, and Deals with the Devil (1695).

SMH2016 Ottawa sneak-peak

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 commentate.

French Cowardice and English Vigor

… was my shorthand working title for a book chapter that’s finally been released. Selected papers from the 2012 Louis XIV Outside In conference have just been published in a collection that should be read by everyone interested in France, Britain and the Netherlands during Louis XIV’s reign.

Claydon, Tony, and Charles-Edouard Levillain, eds. Louis XIV Outside In: Images of the Sun King Beyond France, 1661-1715. Farnham, Surrey, UK, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishers, 2015.
Abstract: Louis XIV – the ‘Sun King’ – casts a long shadow over the history of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe. Yet while he has been the subject of numerous works, much of the scholarship remains firmly rooted within national frameworks and traditions. Thus in France Louis is still chiefly remembered for the splendid baroque culture his reign ushered in, and his political achievements in wielding together a strong centralised French state; whereas in England, the Netherlands and other protestant states, his memory is that of an aggressive military tyrant and persecutor of non-Catholics. 

In order to try to break free of such parochial strictures, this volume builds upon the approach of scholars such as Ragnhild Hatton who have attempted to situate Louis’ legacy within broader, pan-European context. But where Hatton focused primarily on geo-political themes, Louis XIV Outside In introduces current interests in cultural history, integrating aspects of artistic, literary and musical themes. In particular it examines the formulation and use of images of Louis XIV abroad, concentrating on Louis’ neighbours in north west Europe. This broad geographical coverage demonstrates how images of Louis XIV were moulded by the polemical needs of people far from Versailles, and distorted from any French originals by the particular political and cultural circumstances of diverse nations. Because the French regime’s ability to control the public image of its leader was very limited, the collection highlights how – at least in the sphere of public presentation – his power was frequently denied, subverted, or appropriated to very different purposes, questioning the limits of his absolutism which has also been such a feature of recent work.

I presented two different versions of this chapter at the SMH and the Maison française d’Oxford conference. In a nutshell, I argue that popular English perceptions stereotyped France’s military strategy as barbaric, deceptive, cowardly and criminal, in contrast with their own idealized ‘downright’ embrace of field battle. Of course this was baldly one-sided and selective history, but identity is like that, most especially during wartime. Hello, cult of vigor! This cultural preference for battle is a theme I’ve referenced on this blog again and again; this is my first published formulation of a part of the broader argument I’m exploring in my book project on the English cult of battle.
The other chapters are also quite interesting (as was the Oxford conference as a whole), and well worth a look. To wit:

Introduction: Louis XIV Upside Down? Interpreting the Sun King’s Image 1
Tony Claydon and Charles-Édouard Levillain

  1. Image Battles under Louis XIV: Some Reflections 25
    Hendrik Ziegler
  2. Francophobia in Late-Seventeenth-Century England 37
    Tim Harris
  3. ‘We Have Better Materials for Clothes, They, Better Taylors’: The Influence of La Mode on the Clothes of Charles II and James II 57
    Maria Hayward
  4. The Court of Louis XIV and the English Public Sphere: Worlds Set Apart? 77
    Stéphane Jettot
  5. Popular English Perceptions of Louis XIV’s Way of War 93
    Jamel Ostwald
  6. Louis XIV, James II and Ireland 111
    D. W. Hayton
  7. Lampooning Louis XIV: Romeyn de Hooghe’s Harlequin Prints,
    1688–89 133
    Henk van Nierop
  8. Foe and Fatherland: The Image of Louis XIV in Dutch Songs 165
    Donald Haks
  9. Amsterdam and the Ambassadors of Louis XIV 1674–85 187
    Elizabeth Edwards
  10. Millenarian Portraits of Louis XIV 209
    Lionel Laborie

Thanks to Tony Claydon and Charles Levillain for putting the conference, and the volume, together. Hopefully this won’t be the last book in Ashgate’s Politics and Culture in Europe, 1650-1750 series!

 

Now why didn’t I think of that?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3210506/Serial-conman-posed-Duke-Marlborough-Fawlty-Towers-type-scam-running-10-000-bills-posh-London-hotels-admits-ten-counts-fraud.html

(Sometimes I’ll let the URL do the talking. First day of school and all that.)

Once again, I’m late to the party. I probably could’ve saved some money in England if I’d pretended to be the Duke of Marlborough. Would it have worked? Depends on whether much changed between the First and Twelfth Dukes.

Bonus points for the Fawlty Towers reference!

Now they tell me…

For those planning on going to the British Library, it looks like they’ll be allowing photography in the Manuscripts room soon. If I can quote from the personalized email that I received:

Following the initial roll-out of self-service photography in several of our Reading Rooms in January, we are pleased to tell you that this facility will be extended to the following Reading Rooms in March 2015: Asian & African Studies
 Business & IP Centre
 Manuscripts 
 Maps 
 Rare Books & Music

Our curators have been working hard behind the scenes to identify material that can be photographed. With over 150 million items in our collections this is a huge task that will take some time to complete. From 16 March 2015 a significant amount of additional material will be available for photography for personal reference purposes and curators will continue to identify more material appropriate for inclusion.

Items which cannot be photographed include (but are not limited to): those that have not yet been assessed as appropriate for photography; restricted or special access material; items at risk of damage; and items where there may be data protection, privacy or third party rights issues. This will be a small proportion of our overall collections. Of the material ordered across all of our Reading Rooms in 2014, more than 95% of those items would now be available to photograph.

You may use compact cameras, tablets and mobile phones to photograph material and any copies made must not be used for commercial purposes. As with our current copying services, copyright, data protection and privacy laws must always be adhered to.

Before using your device to take photographs, we kindly ask that you view our Self-service Photography Video. This video outlines the new policy, along with information on copyright, data protection and collection handling.

A handout, available in the Reading Rooms, explains this facility and if you need further advice or assistance, please speak to our Reading Room staff.

Best wishes,
Reader Services

Boy I could’ve used that three years ago.

Text Creation Partnership available

For those who like to poke around in early modern holes and corners, the digital texts of about 25,000 English publications from the late 15C up to c. 1800 are now freely available. The collection is reported to include works from Early English Books Online, Eighteenth Century Collections Online, and Evans Early American Imprints. I think there are one or two works on military history in there somewhere, if you’re willing to look.
Currently hosted at the Oxford Text Archive.

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

Elizabeth’s wars

Just finished teaching my Elizabeth I section in Tudor/Stuart England. As usual, it’s hard for students to keep straight all the pertinent historical details when reconstructing a narrative – most of the places, people and events are new to them. The same is true for me as well, since almost every course I teach covers at least two centuries (and usually more than one country), which means I teach hundreds of narrative arcs from one year to the next, and frequently have to jump from England to France to Spain to Germany to Italy and beyond. Last time I taught Tudor/Stuart was 6 years ago, with a lot of other periods, topics and countries in between, so it’s been awhile since I delved into the Tudor details.

Preparing for these lectures, then, I rediscovered that historical narrative is, for me at least, one of the hardest ‘types’ of historical knowledge to remember. You can create broad narratives of various thematic topics by, for example, remembering that the ratio of pike to shot gradually declined over the course of the 17C and then rapidly disappeared by the time of the War of the Spanish Succession. There are very few moving parts, if you will, in such stories. And such thematic developments are also relatively simple to explain: maybe it’s about the gradual increase in the rate of fire and the improved accuracy of the weapons, etc. Of course there are far more complications if you start to explore the details, as Bert Hall’s Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe suggests, or if you start comparing specific countries and theaters, or consider the possibility that the “progress” from pike to musket isn’t necessarily linear or inherently moving from less effective to more. But most people, even historians, tend to remain at the much more generalized level. And there usually isn’t that much variation from year to year, or, if there is, we tend to focus and expect linear progression that smooths out the variations over several centuries. In other words, we’re generally interested in the trend line rather than the specific events in the dot plot. Individual cases will be chosen because they are deemed representative of the larger trend.

Red trend line: pattern Blue dots: specific events

Red trend line: pattern
Blue dots: specific events

But then we’ve got political and diplomatic and military narratives, which are a bit more complicated because they almost always focus on the specific events themselves, rather than the trend line – a lot more data, and a lot more connections between the points. We can certainly generalize from these narratives to create a thematic argument, e.g. one could argue that Elizabeth’s wars were driven (from the English perspective) by a combination of religious conflict, unstable and potentially hostile neighbors, and economics: Catholic internal and foreign plots + English desire to support the Protestant International + instability and foreign influence in Scotland and Ireland + inviting Spanish overseas trade…. That’s relatively simple, and most early modernists are familiar with such an argument, and it’s an important question to discuss. But we really need to have a handle on the narrative of what actually happened as well. It’s quite another matter to remember the order in which specific events occurred, particularly when there are dozens and dozens of events, each of which was precipitated by other events, and which in turn might precipitate other events.

Admittedly, we could keep it really simple: England fought two wars in the 1550s and 1560s against France but lost their last continental foothold of Calais nonetheless; they also had the occasional intervention against faction-riven Scotland, and from the 1560s on sent support to the French Huguenots and Dutch rebels, becoming directly involved in the war against Catholic Spain (fought in the Netherlands and at sea) from 1585 to the end of Elizabeth’s reign, along with more serious intervention in Ireland during the Tyrone rebellion (the original “Nine Years War”). This might be enough for a very general understanding of the period, though it’s a purely descriptive summary of English military involvement.

Yet as most of us who teach know, most historical textbooks (at all levels) tend to focus on what I’ll call event narratives (suggestions for a typology?). Especially if you’re focusing on English history, or use English-authored works. And that’s where it gets complicated. One option is to focus on particular key individuals. Take one example: the role of Mary Queen of Scots in English foreign policy. So you need to know who she was in the context of Anglo-Scottish-French relations: infant daughter of Scottish King James V (who died, possibly of despair, right after the English crushed his forces at the battle of Solway Moss); an infant princess whom Henry VIII tried to coerce into marriage with his son Edward, aka the Rough Wooing, before she was married off to the French prince Francis, thanks to the connections established by the ‘Auld Alliance’ between France and Scotland; a young Scottish-French princess then Queen consort raised at the French Court under the influence of the ultra-Catholic Guises, widowed in 1560 and returned to Scotland, where “her” kingdom had been ruled by her French mother Mary of Guise, but which was now being Calvinized thanks to John Knox et al (Calvinist missionaries who’d learned their theology in Geneva, and would eventually found the Presbyterian church in Scotland); a queen of Scotland who within 6 years would be forced to abdicate to her infant son James VI (raised by Protestant regents) and flee to England, which made things difficult for her cousin Queen Elizabeth, because various Catholics (English and otherwise) hatched plots to eliminate Elizabeth and thus put the next in line, one Mary Queen of Scots, on the English throne, and hopefully reCatholicize England as a result, an outcome Anglicans had feared ever since their last Queen (Mary) married Philip II of Spain and burned a couple hundred Protestants at the stake. Several plots later (one of which saw the defeated rebels flee to Scotland for refuge, which precipitated another English intervention), Elizabeth finally conceded that Mary’s continued existence served as an inevitable center for intrigue, and she was executed. But of course Elizabeth would die without issue, and the now-grown King James VI of Scotland would end up inheriting the English throne as James I of England, leading to a personal union of the two crowns. Any questions?

And that’s just a simplified version of the Scottish-French angle (admittedly leaving out most of the Scottish and French details) for only the first half of Elizabeth’s reign, with only the most proximate causes mentioned and all the juicy bits about murdered husbands and Virgin Queens left out. We should probably include the Cecils and the Dudleys, and we might as well talk about English relations with Ireland and Spain while we’re at it. Damn that web of history!

Fortunately there have been some very good books published on the subject – I’d recommend Paul Hammer’s Elizabeth’s Wars in particular. Such works made it relatively easy to create a reference timeline to track key events. Assuming you are driven to invest the effort needed to create such timelines, that is. Personally, I came quite late to the utility of timelines, since I was always underwhelmed with the boring two columns found in most books, and, frankly, I tended to think more in sweeping thematic arcs. (Probably the opposite of why many history buffs fall in love with the subject.) Perhaps as a result, one of the big lessons I drew from my graduate school experience was that thematic arguments about the Military Revolution and the like were worth little unless you knew the background narrative. Why such practices and technologies evolved the way they did might even have something to do with when, where and how specific countries fought. Such historical minutiae might, for example, explain why a country might make no “progress” in the military art for 50 years if it was, for example, fighting a particular kind of war (say a civil war) in a particular kind of theater. To mention just one specific example, recent research on early modern fortifications offers very local reasons for the uneven adoption of the trace italienne.

I only began creating linear chronologies when I started teaching full-time, but I’d like to think I’ve caught up and even made one or two improvements to the genre. But you can decide for yourself, if you want to compare the examples I post here (and in previous posts) with the historical timelines in Rosenberg & Grafton’s Cartographies of Time.

So here’s the “simple” version, though it could certainly be made simpler.

Elizabeth's wars*

Elizabeth’s wars

Here’s the more complicated version. As you can tell, it’s framed from the English perspective (in the large English column, domestic events to the left and foreign-influenced events), with an indication of when England was involved with various wars (the shaded semi-opaque red areas, with each country its own column), but it also tries to give a general sense of the other wars western Europe was engaged in (the narrow columns on the far left).

Elizabeth's wars in more detail

Elizabeth’s wars in more detail

The above timelines are obviously at the highest, strategic, level. Which means they don’t include any operational details about the wars themselves, other than the occasional mention of a fortress surrendering. That would require a whole separate timechart, or else one in which you drill down or click on links.

My timeline philosophy, then, emphasizes:

  • Efficient layout: use as many of Bertin’s variables as possible.
  • Consistent iconography: see the blog page on my most frequently used Symbols. I try to use orientation and fill to record additional information. Icon symbols replace words, which means there’s more space and you can quickly skim for shapes (battles, plots, deaths…) rather than having to distinguish event words from all the other words.
  • Consistent colors: I use specific colors for each country, and maintain that throughout all the visualizations.
  • Consider creating both a detailed and an abbreviated version of the same timeline – particularly useful for teaching if you want to simplify things for the students.

 

Soldiers and violence – who woulda thunk it

The latest issue of History 99, no. 336 (July 2014) has a collection of articles on violence in early modern Britain, revolving specifically around the intersection between violence and human rights. Those interested in the topic should consult all the articles, but those more narrowly focused on military matters might be particularly interested in:

1) Malcolm Smuts, “Organized Violence in the Elizabethan Monarchical Republic,” pp. 414-443.

Abstract:

This article argues that the Tudor concept of England as a Protestant commonwealth normally implied a belief in the legitimacy and necessity of armed violence against enemies of God and the public good. In the absence of a standing army the instruments of such violence had to be mobilized partly through the voluntary efforts of subjects who regarded warfare as a form of public service. The article goes on to explore how ideas and practices of armed violence shaped government policies in England and Ireland. In England the privy council constructed a system of county militias under the control of a cohort deemed loyal to the Protestant state, and toyed with schemes for using martial law against vagrants and other groups who threatened public order. But in the absence of a successful invasion or major rebellion, this machinery of military control was never fully mobilized and a reaction eventually set in against its potential abuse. By contrast in Ireland linguistic and cultural divisions, weaker institutions of civil government and the preponderance of Catholicism created situations in which brutal military coercion sometimes appeared the only effective method of maintaining ‘civil’ governance and Protestant control. The weakness of royal supervision over the captains who carried out government policy on the ground also enabled freelance violence. Elizabethan brutality in Ireland was not simply a product of colonial rule; it reflected the dark underside of commonwealth ideals of civility, political initiative and godly rule. 

2) Vincent Carey, ‘”As lief to the gallows as go to the Irish wars”: Human Rights and the Abuse of the Elizabethan Soldier in Ireland, 1600–1603,’ pp. 468-486.

Abstract:

This essay explores the treatment of the Elizabethan soldier in Ireland under lord deputy Mountjoy from 1600 to 1603, the years of the most atrocious violence of the conflict. Coming at the experiences of the ordinary soldier in these years from the perspective of human rights forces the historian to a set of rather uncomfortable conclusions. For while many of these soldiers inflicted horrific violence on the native non-combatant population, their own experiences were determined by a set of forces and practices that left them vulnerable to some of the most extreme abuses of the age. While this essay will address the question of human rights and the implications and applications of the terminology for Elizabeth England, it will do so within the context of a war that abused the ordinary soldier as much as it abused the non-combatant Irish. Yet the abuse of these men is worth re-examining as it provides us with an insight to the state’s attitude to the subordinate classes and their basic rights. For in examining the recruitment, equipping and treatment of the ordinary soldiers in the field, we find a brutalized mass whose only option was to endure or flee. A mass whose fundamental rights as subjects of the English crown or indeed as humans were badly abused. They were often masterless men unsuitable for combat and ultimately the victims of ‘social cleansing’, victims of class and coercion. The wretchedness of their conditions of service was thus forced, inevitably downwards, on the helpless non-combatant Gaelic Irish.