Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Position Statements
>>Military Revolution

Controversy: military / gunpowder revolution
Position: -


* Tallett & Trim eds. 2010 p7 (Frank Tallett and D.J.B. Trim, "'Then was then and now is now': an overview of change and continuity in late-medieval and early-modern warfare," p1-26)
"First advanced in the 1950s by an historian of seventeenth-century Sweden, Michael Roberts, it was adapted in the 1970s by an historian of the Spanish Monarchy, Geoffrey Parker, to include a greater emphasis on the introduction of artillery fortresses (of the so-called trace italienne style) in the sixteenth century; later, in the 1980s, Parker ascribed the global dominance of the West to this model of the military revolution.  The Parker-Roberts thesis has since been heavily modified and attacked outright.  Jeremy Black and Clifford Rogers, for example, have argued for a sustained period of military evolution, rather than of revolution, potentially beginning in the late fourteenth century and not concluding until the eighteenth century; others have rejected the entire concept of a 'military revolution'.  The military revolution debate has now lasted for decades and has spawned an extraordinary number of publications, for both academic and popular readerships, but at times it has been remarkably fierce and it still generates historiographical controversy.  Yet while the geographic area encompassed has expanded [to include European overseas expansion], the conceptual frame of reference is still much the same."

* Childs 2001 p16-17
"Over the past fifty years, military historians of sixteenth- and seventeeth-century Europe have been obsessed with defining the nature and chronological location of a 'Military Revolution'.  Because of the length of wars, improvements in fortification design and advances in firearm technology, armies became larger, more permanent and better disciplined.  The resultant financial costs obliged princes and rulers to control their resources more effectively through the reform and improvement of their administrative and fiscal apparatus and the reduction of local interests and franchises.  Most governments, whether monarchical or republican, thus became more absolute and centralized.  In 1954 Michael Roberts reviewed these trends and suggested that they occurred and principally between 1550 and 1650, an era that he dubbed the 'Military Revolution'.  Subsequently Geoffrey Parker extended the concept to include the years from 1450 to 1800, stressing the contrubution of the new military methods to the European acquisition of overseas empire.  In contrast, Jeremy Black has restricted it to the second half of the seventeenth century, arguing that the adoption of the flintlock musket and socket bayonet by the new standing armies was the crucial, 'revolutionary' development.
"Although it served successfully to focus scholarly attention upon the military history of early modern Europe, the notion of a Military Revolution does not find favour here.  Advances in technology during the later Middle Ages resulted in new weapons that gradually modivied all aspects of war between 1450 and 1700, but revolutions are sharp, sudden events: they do not occur across 350 years, or even a century.  A revolution is often identified by its contrast with preceding and succeeding years, yet the nineteenth century saw huge and rapid military mutations whilst the stasis was hardly a feature of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
"Gradually and logically, by adopting best practice and rejecting less profitable innovations, practitioners altered the nature of seventeenth-century warfare: the flintlock musket replaced the matchlock; the pike gave way to the bayonet; infantry squares shrank into more linear formations; the standing army spread; the mercenary system altered; uniform became common; and cavalry regained some of its former importance.  These cautious and unspectacular changes were evolutionary, not revolutionary.  Designed specifically for fighting in Western Europe, the new techniques were adopted by neither Poland nor the Ottoman Turks whilst India and China, although partially receptive to firearms, did not embrace European organization and tactics.  Even with their enhanced machinery and methods, European states made only slight inroads into North America and Asia during the seventeenth century."

* Lorge 2008 p

* Ayton & Price eds. 1995 p

* Eltis 1995