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What are some good books for 18th century warfare?

Discussion in 'World History' started by nokmirt, Dec 3, 2011.

  1. nokmirt

    nokmirt Emperor

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    I am having trouble finding a book that deals with warfare and military history from 1700-1815. There are several all encompassing books dealing with the whole of history, but none that encompass this time period. Do any of you have any book recommendations for me?

    I have some generalized books like Battle, Battle at Sea, Commanders, Military Commanders and their Campaigns. They are all good books, but they lack in depth info.

    1.) I am interested in commanders, battles and tactics of the time.

    2.) The development and evolution of weapons, including land and naval technolgoy during the time period. For instance, musket development and evolution. Or the evolution of cannon and ship designs, things like that.

    I have one question what muskets were used in 1700 by the armies of Europe?

    Thanks for any help or advice on where I may find some more in depth military related info for this time period.
     
  2. flyingchicken

    flyingchicken 99 117 110 116 115

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    I think the more interesting questions are about organization and recruitment rather than technical mumbo jumbo but those are interesting too also I am ignorant so please add these vague non-questions to the pile
     
  3. Bugfatty300

    Bugfatty300 Buddha Squirrel

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    Flintlock muskets of varying design and caliber. Hard to name any specific models because they differed from unit to unit. At most there would be a specified caliber to simplify logistics.

    However it wasn't long until governments began adopting the first mass produced standardized musket models which dominated European battlefields during most of the 18th century and a good chunk of the 19th century as well. The Charleville and the Brown Bess models would be the basic archetypes for most standard European infantry muskets of this era.

    I should also note that there was very little development of standard infantry muskets in the 18th century. The muskets carried by soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars would have differed very little from the one's that had been issued to their great-grandfathers. (And in some cases they could have been the very same musket!)
     
  4. Verbose

    Verbose Chieftain

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    I seem to recall the Prussian army shortening the barrel of their muskets around mid 18th c., to cut down reloading time (every fraction of it counts kind of thing), but that would possibly be the extent of musket design advancement.:hmm:

    At least after the big shift away from pikes for some to bayonets for all in the first decades of the 18th c.
     
  5. Dachs

    Dachs Intelligence Officer

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    warfare changed one hell of a lot during the relevant period

    usually, on the institutional side, the Longman series is very good: their works on The Northern Wars (Robert Frost) and The Wars of Louis XIV (John Lynn) have good coverage on the early part of the period in Europe

    for the midpoint, the focus is obviously on Friedrich II, and Dennis Showalter's The Wars of Frederick the Great is probably the best single-volume modern overview work that doesn't get bogged down in stuff and manages to avoid either loving Fred (as, say, Christopher Duffy does) or loathing him (as, say, Franz Szabo does)

    and when you get to the Napoleonic Wars, that's a whole different beast

    incidentally, Roger Chickering wrote an excellent piece on the mutually exclusive "military revolution" grand narratives that clash in the eighteenth century, the Roberts/Parker Military Revolution (15th-18th centuries) and the Total War narrative (late 18th century to the modern day), that would be worth looking at

    unfortunately I have forgotten the piece's name as I am wont to do
     
  6. nokmirt

    nokmirt Emperor

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    I bought a book which I started reading Battle for Europe: How the Duke of Marlborough Masterminded the Defeat of the French at Blenheim by Charles Spencer. This should give me an overview of the early part of warfare in Europe at the turn of the 18th century.

    Then I will look into getting your suggestions for further reading.

    Thanks Dachs and thanks everyone else for the feedback thus far.
     
  7. Bugfatty300

    Bugfatty300 Buddha Squirrel

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    There were a few interesting experimental developments. I think my favorite is the repeating Ferguson rifle because it actually saw some limited use in battle during the American Revolution.

    The impact of rifles in that century tend to be grossly overrated because of the myths surrounding the American revolution.

    So yeah not much firearm evolution during this period.
     
  8. Dachs

    Dachs Intelligence Officer

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    Ugh. That title really does not make me confident in that book.

    Thing 1: "Battle for Europe". The title makes it seem as though the Battle of Blenheim decided the fate of a continent: either to be dominated by Louisine France or, uh, not. Which is not true at all. Blenheim was in itself part of a fairly limited campaign to try to liberate some of the territory of France's Bavarian ally and get them back into the war. The French were not thinking about dismembering the Austrian empire or anything of the sort. Utter tripe. While a title like that could be an editor's decision - trying to spice up the book and improve sales by making the engagement seem like the balance point for the future of Europe - I have to believe that the author himself tries to say something similar to that as well. That doesn't bode well.

    Thing 2: "How the Duke of Marlborough Masterminded the Defeat of the French at Blenheim". Lots of things wrong with this one. Both armies fighting at Blenheim were coalition forces: the English, Dutch, Austrians, and various Imperial states on the one side, and the French, Bavarians, and various Imperial states on the other side. The title makes it seem like it's just England versus France, mano a mano. Which plays into the British exceptionalism myth. Britain is supposed to have defeated Louis all by her lonesome (which is comically far from the truth but whatever), then again in the Seven Years War, and finally again during the wars of the Revolution and Napoleon, in which Britain "forced" the European states to form coalitions against France with their own money until Parliament got tired of seeing no results and sent Wellington to Spain to do things right blah blah blah Waterloo. Even the part about the duke of Marlborough is bad. All of the literature on Blenheim, Malplaquet, and Ramillies focuses on the fact that Marlborough was able to work very well as a team with the Habsburg general Eugen von Savoyen Eugene de Savoy. At Blenheim, Eugene's forces engaged a much larger number of French troops for hours, tying them down so Marlborough could make the grand assault across the river in the central part of the battlefield. If we're going to get into the Great Man School and fellate generals, don't just leave Eugene hanging out there while giving Marlborough the lion's share of attention.

    None of this is to say that the English were not important to the war effort, that Marlborough didn't matter, or that Blenheim was a meaningless battle. But the way that that title portrays all of those pieces makes me think that the book is fitting them into the irksome narrative of British exceptionalism, and that's infuriating.
     
  9. nokmirt

    nokmirt Emperor

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    Yes, it is understandable since the book is written by his lordship 9th Earl Spencer. :lol:
    The book is rather interesting at the outset and seems to read rather well. The narrative begins in around 1670 and from there leads up to the outbreak of the War of Spanish Succession In any case, I'll read it and take what I care from it. The thing is that I have not been able to find too many books on the the time period in question.

    Of coure while looking for reviews for Battle of Europe, I found another book. The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo by Russell F. Weigley this goes from 1631-1815.

    I found this review to be the most informative. Hopefully this is a worthwhile read.

    "Weigley's The Age of Battles covers the era of European warfare starting with the emergence of Gustavus Adolphus in the Thirty Years War and ending with Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo in 1815. The author's main theme is that although this age of battles offered more hope for decisive outcomes as a result of a single battle, with expenditures in lives and resources commensurate with the intended goals, than any other era, the battles of this era nevertheless failed to deliver this decisiveness.

    Weigley also states these lesser themes: 1) The rise of military professionalism: talent vs. birth 2) The limitation that technology of the time placed on command and control 3) The necessity of a mobile arm (cavalry) for any hope of decision, and 4) Growing restrictions during the age of battles upon making war against non-combatants.

    As another reviewer has stated, the reader should judge for himself to what extent Weigley demonstrates his various themes. For my own purposes, as a military history enthusiast without military training or academic credentials, I found Age of Battles most valuable simply because it is a concise but elucidating history of this most colorful era of warfare. This period of gunpowder weapons, with combined cavalry and infantry, but before the appearance of rifled weapons, brought the art of war to its zenith after its rebirth in the seventeenth century. Although lagging the official renaissance by a couple of centuries, this renaissance had its own set of masters starting with Adolphus, then the Sun King's generals, Marlborough, Eugen, Frederick the Great, and finally culminating with Napoleon. Although clearly writing for academics and professionals, Weigley's engaging writing style nevertheless makes accessible to the general reader this most creative epoch of warfare in Europe."
     
  10. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    I'm very interested to see what Weigley has to say about European warfare.
     
  11. Dachs

    Dachs Intelligence Officer

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    I love Weigley to death, but the characterizations of "age of battles" and "age of sieges" is dead in modern military-historical discourse.
     
  12. ParkCungHee

    ParkCungHee Chieftain

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    Well he had to talk about something to pad out the Europeans-definitely-not-practicing-total-war.
     
  13. Antilogic

    Antilogic --

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    Having read the book in question recently, I can confirm the pro-English bias is not confined to the title. :)

    The portrayal of Louis XIV is colorful at times, and tries to make him out as a complete and utter monster. Germany is much more of a backdrop than anything else, the major focus is on John Churchill and the armies. And yes, the English are on a messianic quest to save their poor Continental neighbors from themselves. :rolleyes:

    To the author's credit, he did summarize Eugene of Savoy's career and give him some credit for his contributions. The portrayal of Eugene and John Churchill is almost like two college buddies sneaking off for some midnight fun and leaving their ally Ludwig von Baden to sit around, which was funny in its own way (and on the mark as far as tactics were concerned--Ludwig was too slow and conservative). Spencer doesn't overtly criticize Eugene for giving his troops a break after the battle (no condition to pursue and route, they were spent). I was expecting some blame to be placed on Eugene and John Churchill to be even more exalted at the end of the battle, so I was pleasantly surprised.

    However, your perspective is mostly over the shoulder in the English camps. That imparts its own bias to the account, as I feel like the decisions taken by the Franco-Bavarian forces were done hastily--I'm not sure if it's up to the modern historiography for their side. Another complaint was that he used several terms without definition, for example battalions of infantry, squadrons of cavalry, etc. I was already familiar with the size of each unit in this era so I could estimate troop numbers, but a reader who wasn't already familiar with them might have some trouble at first. But never fear, he defines them... halfway through the book after he has used them three or so times. Sloppy editing, I guess.

    The TL/DR: taken with a little humor and knowing the author's bias, it's a decent-enough read. You'll get the battle and a good narrative out of it, but you may need to read it with a cup of Earl Grey and a monocle for full effect.
     
  14. Bowsling

    Bowsling Chieftain

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    Frederick the Great by Gehard Ritter is a decent read. You're probably better off with Dach's suggestion, as this book is rather brief and spends lots of time dealing with his personal life, but if you're in a hurry or something, you may want to consider it.

    Beware though, he is obviously trying to push his opinions while presenting them as a general history.
     
  15. Haig

    Haig Chieftain

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    Here's a book that tells about the swedish campaign to Russia that climaxed with the battle of Poltava that basically ended the Swedish Empire, it's a bestseller by swedish historian Peter Englund.
    http://www.amazon.com/Battle-That-S...8479/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1326007880&sr=8-3

    I know that it's not a general book about 18th century warfare, but from all history books I've read, it has simply the greatest descriptions on how the battles were fought during that time. Englund's book makes the reader really feel the cannons' grapeshots in their belly, the book describes everything from cannons, pikes, muskets and bayonets to the sieges of forts and of the manners of generals and looting etc.

    Actually I'll recommend the book to all history fans, it's easily one of my favorites.
     
  16. Verbose

    Verbose Chieftain

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    And Englund's great inspiration for his book was John Prebble's "Culloden" from 1963. Also a good read.:)

    He's written a couple of largish volumes about the Swedish 17th c. wars apparently also translated into English, and I know his description of the Swedes' Polish adversaries in the 1650's has anniyed the hell out of a number of Poles on the internet.;)

    Though what probably can be recommended without reservations is his latest WWI title "The Beauty and the Sorrow".
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/11/books/the-beauty-and-the-sorrow-by-peter-englund-review.html
     
  17. Haig

    Haig Chieftain

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    Now I've read it. DAMN it was good! Easily one of the best history book I've read, really felt like those people experiencing the World War one came to life infront of my eyes. Kind of poignant as some of them died during the book too..

    Peter Englund seems not to fail.. :goodjob:
     
  18. Verbose

    Verbose Chieftain

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    Glad you like it.:)
     

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