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Historically Speaking April 2003 Military Revolutions: A Forum InJanuary 1955 MichaelRoberts deliveredhis inaugurallecture, "TheMilitary Revolution, 1560—1660," at the University ofBelfast. Roberts arguedthat the changes wrought byfirearms andthe tactical reforms of Maurice ofNassauandGustavus Adolphus ledto larger, moredisciplined, andmoreexpensivestandingarmies. Supporting thesearmies necessitatedbureaucratic mechanisms that ledto more centralizedandcomplexgovernments . Putsimply, late 16th-century tactical reforms helpedto bringabout the modern nation-state. Almostas soon as it waspublishedin 1956, Roberts's thesis was incorporatedinto accounts ofearly modern military and political history. In 1916, however, Geoffrey Parker modifiedthe originalformulation ofthe Military Revolution by calling attention to the importance ofsiege warfare in the 16th century. Thefortifications developed to resist artillery assaultfirst in Italy andthen all over Europe were the real keys to the Military Revolution andwere ultimately responsiblefor the increasedsize ofEuropean armies. In 1988 Parkerexpandedthe concept ofthe Military Revolution to include naval Warfareandthe experience ofEuropean militaries in colonial settings with thepublication ofThe Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise ofthe West, 1 500-1800, 3rded. (Cambridge University Press, 2000). The overseas expansion ofEurope, Parkerargued, wasprimarily afunction ofits superiorarmies andfleets. The Military Revolution debate continuedthrough the 1990s withJeremy Black andCliffordJ. Rogers, among others, contributing major critiques. Whilehistoriansdebatedthe natureandextentoftheMilitary Revolution in early modern Europe, advances in weaponssystemssuchasthoseshowcasedin the 1991 GulfWarwerepromptingmilitary experts toproclaim the emergence ofa "revolution in military affairs" (RMA). In thefollowingforum, severalprominent military historians weigh in on both the historiographicalandpolicy debates involvedwith these military revolutions ofyesteryearandtoday . Geoffrey Parkerbrings theMilitary Revolution debateup to datebyaddressingJeremy Black's more recent concernsas wellas discussing the relevance ofhistoricalunderstanding to contemporarypolicy matters. Black, along with Dennis ShowalterandJeffrey Clarke, respond,followedby Parker's concluding reply. Military Revolutions, Past And Present1 Geoffrey Parker Acouple ofyears ago, a friend and I were cruising the shelves ofLondon University 's magnificent bookstore, Dillons (now merged into Waterstones), in which "History " occupied an entire floor. After passing "World History," "European History," and "Women's History," we lingered over "Military History" (reassuringly large), and then found ourselves in front of some shelves labeled "BlackHistory." "Oh no!" myfriend exclaimed. "Not an entire section filled witii Jeremy's books!" Jeremy Black has certainly been prolific. He has 2 1 3 entries to his credit in die current bibliography of the Royal Historical Society. Last summer one of his students hosted a party for him, entitled "Convergence ," to mark die fact diat die number of books he has written equals his age. Several oftiiem deal widi military history in general and a few widi military revolutions in particular . Most recendy, in War: Past, Present &Future, Blackargues diat militaryrevolutions are not driven byresearch and technology , as some ofus had supposed, but radier stem primarilyfrom "militaryorganization": "Organization" can be understood in a double sense: first, die explicit organization of die military—unit and command structures—and second, organization as an aspect of, and intersection and interaction with, wider social patterns and practices, leading to die social systematization oforganized force.2 Black criticizes historians like me who have argued diat an important militaryrevolution , based on technology and research, occurred in early modern Europe. On die one hand, he claims, we fail to offer empirical research, instead "employing individual April 2003 · Historically Speaking cases as illustrations more dian evidence"; on die odier, he dismisses earlymodern Europe's Military Revolution as a chimera. While acknowledging diat "Europeans created die firstglobal empires" in die 16di and 17di centuries , Black denies diat diese empires were die fruits ofa "technologicallydrivenMilitary Revolution." Furthermore, he even denies that diese empires exercised military dominance over die rest ofdie world's peoples.3 These denials overlook diree important developments diat took place between 1500 and 1650. First, superiormilitarytechnology and combat effectiveness enabled relatively small groups ofSpaniards to dominate diousands of square miles of Central and South America; second, diose same assets enabled equallysmall groups ofRussians to create die largest state on earth; finally, several groups ofWestern Europeans achieved masteryover die world's oceans dianks to a ledial combination of "guns and sails" devised by shipwrights along Europe's Adantic coast.4 I contend diat a military revolution did occur in early modern Europe; that it reflected advances in research and technology , not "military organization"; and diat it played a crucial role in die rise ofdie West. To avoid die accusation of"employing individual cases as illustrations more...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6438
Print ISSN
1941-4188
Pages
pp. 2-7
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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