Read The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800 by Geoffrey Parker Free Online
Book Title: The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800|
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Reader ratings: 3.7
The author of the book: Geoffrey Parker
Edition: Cambridge University Press
Date of issue: September 29th 1989
ISBN 13: 9780521376808
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 27.26 MB
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Like a lot of people, I've always been intrigued by how and why Europe - which for most of history comprised a few backwater dukedoms in an extension of the Western side of the Asian continent - could suddenly rise to dominate the world. This author's answer to this question is that, beginning in the early Renaissance, Europeans developed a few, key military innovations that kickstarted an (ongoing) technological revolution. According to the author, the process went something like this:
1. Improved cannon technology made castles obsolete.
2. In response, Italian engineers created a better type of fortress, the trace italienne.
3. This improved type of fortification changed the nature of continental warfare because larger and larger armies were required to subdue them.
4. At the same time, these larger armies began using musketry volleys to great effect, while on sea broadside attacks using improved cannon ushered in a new era of naval warfare.
5. The high level of organization that these massive armies and navies required encouraged the growth of centralized bureaucracy, leading to the modern European nation-states as we know them.
Overall, I felt that the author had a tendency to lose the forest for the trees; over and over again he seemed to get distracted by his own examples to the extent that his thesis seemed a little forgotten. Whole chapters - particularly chapter 2 - seemed to be mainly historical fact after historical fact, with little reference to his central argument.
In addition, he doesn't really discuss why these technologies developed in Europe in the first place, so the central question above remains largely unanswered. Probably realizing this, near the end of the book he (somewhat hastily) suggests the following two reasons:
1. Early modern Europeans thought of warfare as a means to conquer land, whereas other contemporaneous cultures thought of warfare as a way to conquer their enemies and make them slaves. Thus, Europeans had no compunction about killing their enemies in battle, while people in the rest of the world hesitated to do so, since they would be killing potential slaves.
2. The intense military competition between the embryonic European states created a technological arms race (but didn't people compete militarily in other parts of the world?).
I'm no historian, but these reasons seem to provoke more questions than they answer. Still, this book is worth reading for the interesting historical facts it recounts as well as for its copious notes.
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