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April 2003 · Historically Speaking response to firearms is best understood not in terms ofmilitary progress, or administrative sophistication, orculturalsuperiority, butrather as a response to the different tasks and possibilities facing die armies ofthe period, widiin a context in which it was far from clear which weaponry, force structure, tactics, or operational method were better. To stress varietyis not a "cop out," but, rather, a reminderofdie flaws of schematic interpretations, and an attemptto recreate dieuncertaintyandconfusion widiinwhich choices and changes occur. Jeremy Black isprofessorofhistory at the University ofExeter. He is theauthorof America as a Military Power, 1775-1865 (Praeger, 2002). Thinking about Military Revolution Dennis Showalter From the relatively humble beginnings of a lecture delivered in what was a secondary British university, and a pamphlet published in a city dien hardlynoted as an intellectual center, the concept of "military revolution" has metastasized. It has metastasized semantically, subdividinginto die "militarytechnological revolution," which focuses on weapons systems; die "revolution in military affairs," involving related but not comprehensive bodies ofinnovation in warmaking ; and the "military revolution" pur, a comprehensive upheaval, "uncontrollable, unpredictable, andunforeseeable," diatbrings systemic changes not merely to armed forces but to states and societies. "Military revolution " has metastasized historically. From its original location in the late 16th and early 1 7th centuries it has been extended backward into dieMiddleAges, and forward to die contemporaryera with stopovers in the mid-19di and early 20th centuries. "Military revolution " has metastasized geographically. Its initial location in northern Europe, specifically die Nedierlands and Sweden, has expanded first to most ofthe continent including the British Isles, then to Asia, Africa, and the Ottoman Empire. And finally, "military revolution " has metastasized conceptually. Its original paradigm ofan episodic processwith relatively clear beginnings and ends is being challenged by an alternate concept ofdevelopment over centuries, widi particular actions and reactions less significant than die underlyingpattern ofsteadymodernization. In the more extreme version ofthis diesis, military revolution becomes forpractical purposes military evolution, and invites incorporation into dieWhig/Marxistviewofhistoryas progress. The disputatio betweenJeremy Black and Geoffrey Parker presented here involves intellectual adversaries who invite preliminary categorizing in the context of Isaiah Berlin's famous dichotomy. Black is a fox: a wide-ranginginvestigatorwho in die context ofwar studies takes dieworld forhis province and challenges traditional wisdoms regarding "the West and the Rest." Parker is a hedgehog. No less wide-ranging intellectually , his scholarship and his reasoning alike remain solidly based in die Western experience of the 16th and 17di centuries. Black's argument is that military revolution, however it is defined and wherever it appears, depends ultimately on militaryorganization. Organization is institutional, by its nature favoring the long term and die slow hand. Its totemic gas is nitrogen. Parker, on the other hand, makes his case fordie centralityto military revolution oftechnology-based innovations and the research bases and mentalities underpinning diem. These innovations energize . They inspire "aha" moments. By their nature theyare episodic, involvingdie kind of paradigm shifts discussed byThomas Kuhn. They have die impact ofoxygen. Oxygen: the musket and the countermarch can both be more or less pinpointed in time. Nitrogen: die regiments diatbrought these innovations into battle effectively defy such precise locating. Even die Spanish tercio, whose historyhas been so well delineated by Parker himself, was in good part a product of evolution, in die sense of dozens of modifications introduced in a basic structure over a longue durée. And thereby, perhaps, a way emerges notto reconcile the respective arguments presented here, but to synergize them—or perhaps, in Hegelian terms, present them in dialectical rather than confrontational contexts. On die one hand, military organizations regard technical innovation, the entering edge ofmilitary revolution, instrumentally. Organizations can—and do—persist independendyofmaterial changes, sometimes for centuries. Limited space constrains me to offer a simplistic example, albeit one culturally appropriate for our two principal contributors : Britain's Household Cavalrytraces an unbroken institutional history from the mid-17di century. Its primary technologies, however, have ranged from a half-dozen and more types ofsword, through Lee-Enfield rifles and (in a briefWorld War I avatar as part ofthe Guards Machine-Gun Regiment) Vickers heavymachine guns, towheeled scout and armored cars, to tracked reconnaissance vehicles. And through it all they have remained die Guards. From Sweden to India...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6438
Print ISSN
1941-4188
Pages
pp. 9-10
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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