Did the Development in European Warfare During the Sixteenth Century Amount to a ‘Military Revolution’?

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Did the development in European warfare during the Sixteenth Century amount to a ‘Military Revolution’?

By the Sixteenth century, Luther had successfully challenged the Catholic Church from 1517 and Copernicus had declared a solar- centric universe in 1543. These are both historical events in early modern Europe. The dramatic changes in Military warfare are also seen as key to European developments in separating the medieval society from the Modern. The military developments change that art and organisation of warfare effecting the development of the early modern European state. The Sixteenth Century brings about new technology, weapons, tactics and armies that some see a resulting in a European ‘Military Revolution’.

The Sixteenth Century brought a change in warfare compared that of the previous hundred years. Knights lost their value and gave way to infantry and artillery as a result of the development of pike and musket warfare. Military engineers also designed stronger defensive fortifications, trace italienne, therefore leading longer siege warfare. Generals became the standard leaders of armies as warfare became more technical and strategic. As tactically warfare became standard, infantry also became more discipline, trained to march in step and drill in formations of rank and files. Along with these military developments there was also an increase in the importance of military education and military academics such as Maurice of Nassau.

The Military revolution of early Modern Europe is said to have taken place in many different areas of warfare. Technological developments such as pike and gunpowder firearms by 1520 changed the format of war itself. An important European military development of the sixteenth century was the use of Gunpowder and muskets on the battlefields. It brought new excitement, power and dangers to the European battlefield. Although gunpowder was not a necessary a new development as it was used in China, India and the Middle East, in Europe it brought a radically new kind of warfare with gunpowder weapons that Thomas Arnold described as ‘European Military Renaissance’ as it caused a new wave of warfare throughout Europe.

There were developments in tactically warfare shown by the square pike man of the Swiss armies in the defeat over Charles the Bold’s Burgundian forces1. With these successful technical and tactical developments came changes in the structure of military armies. Generally army size became bigger and the proportion of infantry to cavalry increased. So the military revolution theory is made up of tactics, strategy, army size and overall impact. All these elements of military developments in tactics strategy and size were evident in the Thirty Years War between 1618-1648.2

Maurice of Nassau the captain-general of the army of the Dutch Republic was one of the first in Europe to create a standing army.3 By introducing a Standing army troops could be train in the new tactics and technology of both weapons and discipline. They could be seen as revolutionary in military Europe, as a standing army was a major imitate threat to any surrounding nations. Also during this time period nearly all armies were made up of mercenaries. It is importance to consider the mercenaries roll in the European ‘military revolution’ for example Maurice of Nassau’s reforms may not have been possible with out them. Due to the amount of professional skill needed, the extent of to drills it would have created difficulties with a citizen militia. Therefore the idea of a standing army was revolution as it offered a sense of graver loyalty to the state, which they fought for as it offered a stable and secure job.

The introduction of standing armies may not have been a development of revolutionary military tactic and warfare. It was a possible out come of the increased population and economical progress of Europe at the time. It was also seen by some as a method for Princes to provide employment...
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