Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book Review: Warfare in the Seventeenth Century

Cover Art 
Dear Readers,

Today I am reviewing John Childs' Warfare in the Seventeenth Century. This book provides an excellent introduction to the period, at least in terms of European conflict. It fails to provide a good comparison with non-European styles of warfare, but Childs does not set out to provide a definitive global history. Rather, warfare and tactics in Europe interest him the most. The Ottoman Empire is as close to non-European history as the book attempts.

On the plus side, Childs gives an excellent discussion of 17th century warfare. While he continues to argue his thesis from Armies and Warfare in Europe: 1648-1789: that the Kabinettskriege era did not see any real changes from the Thirty Years' War, he has retreated from some of his more outlandish claims. When attempting to say that warfare just as cruel towards civilians, he prefaces his sentences with, "Perhaps."

As one would expect of a book directed by the Smithsonian, there are a huge number of wonderful pictures and artwork throughout the book, including some excellent maps. Childs covers the Thirty Years' War in great detail, discusses the English Civil War, and gives Vauban and Coehorn their due. He concludes with a discussion of the Wars of Louis XIV, and how warfare changed in the later half of the 17th century.

Despite the cover art showing the Raid on the Medway, the book lacks any real naval information. The Anglo-Dutch Wars have been given short shrift. It appears, then, that a better title of this volume might be: Land Warfare in Europe in the Seventeenth Century. That would give a better picture as to the focus of the book, and allow potential buyers to make a more informed decision.

However, this book does go into much greater detail about European warfare than Jeremy Black's contribution to the same series, Warfare in the Eighteenth Century. As opposed to Black's whirlwind tour throughout space, geography and time, Child's focuses on what he knows, and give the best possible book for beginners on European land warfare in this period.

Thanks for Reading,

Alexander Burns

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