Tag Archive | Ottomans

Short post on Vienna trip

Just got back from a two-week excursion to central Europe, with a quick turnaround for other familial obligations.

But lest you think I was merely reading Georg Scherer’s sermons at a Viennese café while drinking my Wiener Melange (more like eating apfelstruedel mit schlagobers and reading reports of yet another act of hate/terrorism/gun violence in the U.S.), I was actually hard at work, traipsing across the historical flotsam and jetsam of what once was the crown jewel of the Austro-Hungarian empire. But that’s for another time.

To tide you over, in case you’re in Vienna over the next couple of months, and are interested in all things Karl V, the Kunsthistorisches Museum has a top-floor exhibit on Charles V’s capture of Tunis in 1535. There are apparently some tapestries of his successful North African campaign in the Prado, but Vienna has the “cartoons” (the paintings which were the basis of the tapestries) currently on display.

Detail from Vermeyen cartoon of Tunis 1535 campaign

Detail from Vermeyen cartoon of Tunis 1535 campaign

For a brief (English-language) overview of the exhibit, you can look here.

The KHM also has a (German-language) catalog of the exhibit. Which makes me think there really should be some art museum listserv to alert interested parties to military history-themed exhibits. Though something like this might be a start.

Recent publications

Here are some recent publications that illustrate pretty well the trends in EMEMHistoriography: mercs, military fiscs and infidels, oh my! Leaven with the occasional campaign history.

Murphy, Neil. “Henry VIII’s First Invasion of France: The Gascon Expedition of 1512.” The English Historical Review 130, no. 542 (February 1, 2015): 25–56.
Abstract: Historians have paid little attention to the Gascon expedition of 1512 in their examinations of Henry VIII’s foreign policy. This is a considerable oversight, as the 1512 campaign was Henry’s first attempt to recover his ancestral lands in France. This study offers an evaluation of England’s European relations in 1512. It provides an in-depth examination of the young king’s efforts to make his mark on the international stage, and considers how far Tudor armies were able to compete in continental warfare. The article also explores the extent to which Henry’s French ambitions in the early years of his reign differed from those of his predecessors. It argues that the Gascon expedition was a significant event, and that it provided valuable lessons for Henry’s subsequent campaigns in France.
Boterbloem, Kees. “Dutch Mercenaries in the Tsar’s Service: The Van Bockhoven Clan.” War & Society 33, no. 2 (April 25, 2014): 59–79.
Abstract: Historians have pointed out that the Dutch played a key role in Europe’s Military Revolution. Neither the Dutch role as the foremost international arms traders of the seventeenth century nor the significance of Dutch officers in seventeenth-century militaries has been very much studied. This essay suggests that the Dutch were rather more influential in Russia’s adoption of some of the key innovations of the Military Revolution than the historiography of late Muscovy has acknowledged. It does this by investigating the importance for Russia’ military modernization of a Dutch officers’ clan, that of the van Bockhovens. They provide a telling case study of the extent of this Dutch influence.
Dutch mercenaries? Who woulda thunk it? Join the club, plenty of room.
And what would a bibliographic roundup be without some of that good old fiscal-military statism?
Thiele, Andrea. “The Prince as Military Entrepreneur? Why Smaller Saxon Territories Sent ‘Holländische Regimenter’ (Dutch Regiments) to the Dutch Republic.” In War, Entrepreneurs, and the State in Europe and the Mediterranean, 1300-1800, edited by Jeff Fynn-Paul, 170–92. Brill Academic Publishers, 2014.
Graham, Aaron, and Jeff Fynn-Paul. “Public Service and Private Profit: British Fiscal-Military Entrepreneurship Overseas, 1707-1712.” In War, Entrepreneurs, and the State in Europe and the Mediterranean, 1300-1800, 87–110. Brill Academic Publishers, 2014.
Among other chapters.
Apologies if I already posted these – they all start to run together for me after a while.
McCluskey, Phil. “‘Les Ennemis Du Nom Chrestien’: Echoes of the Crusade in Louis XIV’s France.” French History 29, no. 1 (March 1, 2015): 46–61.
Abstract: Throughout the second half of the seventeenth century, the Mediterranean remained the pre-eminent arena for the projection of French power and prestige. A time of considerable change in the government’s Mediterranean policies, this period also saw a sustained evolution in French attitudes towards the Ottomans, resulting from intensified commercial, diplomatic and cultural contacts. Yet older ideas persisted among certain sections of French society. In particular, many among the nobility continued to pursue a religious-chivalric model of their role in the Mediterranean. During French expeditions against Islamic adversaries in Hungary, Crete and North Africa in the 1660s, Louis XIV’s government attempted to capitalize on this by frequently invoking the language of holy war. This article offers an examination of the intersection of this ‘crusading’ rhetoric and the evolution of the French state, through the lens of these military engagements and those who were involved in them.
War, violence and religion seem to be a thing these days too – and border conflicts are always a draw.
Since I’m again teaching my Religion, War and Peace in Early Modern Europe course (first taught when I was still a postdoc at George Mason a decade ago), I’ll offer a free visual from my Powerpoint slides:
Ottoman Attacks and Christian Response

Ottoman Attacks and Christian Response

And did I mention I’m teaching a Crusades course in the fall? I figure one or two students might be interested.
The year after that I’ll finally submit to my fate and teach a French Revolution/Napoleonic Wars course.
You’ll really know things are bad when I teach a European Warfare, 1815-1945 course.
But now I must return to grading students’ analyses of Luther’s evolving response to the German Peasants’ War. Thieving and Murdering Hordes of Peasants indeed!

Understanding wars – the visual way!

For those keeping track, I give you yet one more example of my desire to replace reading text with seeing icons (check the blog’s graphics tag for other examples). Turns out I can trace my fascination with visualizing info to my teen years. My first recollection of being amazed at the visual organization of lots of information was my high school periodic table of the elements. It was a fancy two-side sheet brimming with colorful detail – I can’t find that particular version online, but here’s an example:

Periodic Table of Elements element

Periodic Table of Elements element

In addition to the way in which the elements were organized into periods and groups, other info (in a smaller font, as above) was included as well. One side of the sheet included the atomic mass and many other numeric values for each element, while the other side illustrated some kind of 3D shape/structure associated with each element (haven’t taken chemistry since high school, so I don’t know what it would have been exactly, but I think it looked kinda like the shape of a crystal, or a molecule). I remember being excited, literally excited, at how much information was grouped into that little space – a very efficient micro-macro reference device.

Eventually (as a sophomore in college) I became a historian. What a let down in the visualization department (with the exception of those wacky Annalistes). So let’s talk one of the most frequent ways historians summarize historical info: the timeline. I hope I’m not the only one who hates simple two-column timelines that waste space by spelling out Battle of Mohács, Siege of Vienna… Not only does it take up a lot of extra space, but you can’t include any other info in the list with text alone (who won the battle? which sides were involved? what did it lead to?…). You can of course use a limited number of font style options to add one or two more dimensions to the info in the timeline, but why not use icons, which can manipulate Bertin’s visual variables of shape, orientation, color/hue, value, size, position and texture? Lots of permutations there. This ability to include much detail in a small amount of space is also the motivation behind Tufte’s sparklines, which would be awesome to include in campaign narratives: march rates, casualty rates, army size fluctuations… Yet such things almost never appear in military history, despite our heavy reliance on maps. It’s particularly odd how historians expect these kinds of symbols on maps, but don’t think about using them elsewhere. (Not that I’ve got anything against maps, mind you.)

Thus my mantra: Condense the info and add more, dammit! And, lest you fear, notice that a lot of this info doesn’t even require BIG DATA and massive quantitative datasets – it’s simple nominal and ordinal data.

But back to my timechart-of-the-day (wait for it), which illustrates the major military events of the Ottoman Empire in the first half of the 16C. It probably has a lot of mistakes, but it’s not my fault you see. When you try to create such campaign overviews for most early modern wars, you quickly discover that historians love to mention big events like major battles and sieges, but rarely do they mention the operational context, and they happily skip over entire years when there may (or may not) have been fighting. Half of the time we can’t even be bothered to specify the year: “Several years later the Turks returned…”. Yet even if every combat and campaign doesn’t merit narration, they could at least be included in an appendix or table/chart. (Note to publishers: I would gladly pay an extra $20 for a book that included such basic information, data absolutely critical to judging the quality of an author’s argument. Or I’d pay $20 for digital versions of the kinds of timecharts I post here. Am I the only one?)

So this chart (wait for it) provides yet another example of the challenge non-experts and experts alike face trying to assemble a systematic overview of a campaign based off of spotty narratives that leave out all sorts of details and important information. Reminds me of grad school, where I quickly realized that we could argue about Roberts’ or Parker’s Military Revolution (how much change? when did it change? how did it change?), but since we didn’t know the details of all the various battles/sieges and campaigns, it was a pretty speculative discussion, and not incredibly worthwhile. Now if we had systematic empirical evidence to back our hunches up rather than a decontextualized quotation or two…

In other words, I haven’t found the perfect source that provides Ottoman campaign narratives by year – most of what I have are thematic works by the likes of Rhoads Murphey, Gabor Agoston (apologies for the lack of accents), and Virginia Aksan.

So check out the Symbol page for my icons if you haven’t memorized them by now. And finally, without further ado, I give you the Ottoman wars chart.

Ottoman Wars timechart, 1505-1547

Ottoman Wars timechart, 1505-1547

So was it worth the wait? I think it works as a good reference sheet, but I won’t say too much about its content, other than to suggest that it does a decent job of illustrating how the Ottomans had to juggle expansion (and defense) along several different frontiers, from North Africa and the Mediterranean, to southeastern Europe and Hungary, to Persia to the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Palace coups, revolts, plagues and fires, raids, battles and sieges – they sure were busy!

Feedback (corrections especially) appreciated. And please make your own timecharts and share them; feel free to use my iconography if it helps (I think it does, needless to say). As usual, feel free to use this chart (no publication), as long as you properly attribute it to this blog.