What is the Kabinettskriege Era?

Dear Reader,

So far in this blog, I have tried to identify interesting themes about the Kabinettskriege era, informing you that it was an era of limited warfare. You might even know the events which bracket the Kabinettskriege era: the Thirty Years War and the French Revolution. However, I have failed (at least thus far) to adequately explain the prominent features of war in the Kabinettskriege era. In this post, I want to identify five crucial components of warfare from 1648-1789.

1. Limited Goals

During the Kabinettskriege era, army commanders, usually royal or noble commanders, attempted to take limited tracts of territory away from their opponents. Total domination of the European continent was never on the table for these commanders- they pursued limited expansion, designed to incrementally expand the power of their states, and preserve the European balance of power. It was hoped that a balance of opposing forces would make previous wars, like the Thirty Years War, an impossibility.  

2. Limited Prosecution

In this period of history, army commanders attempted to avoid popular involvement in warfare. European states professionalized their armies in order to avoid the atrocities which had dominated the Thirty Years War. By keeping warfare in the hands of professional soldiers, state leaders hoped to make warfare more civilized, while still vigorously pursuing foreign policy. 


3. Limited Battles

When compared with the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Kabinettskriege era displays commanders who were less able, and willing to wage decisive battles. The exception to this rule was the Prussian army under Frederick II of Prussia, who did not answer to any higher authority in his capacity as a general. Most eighteenth century commanders tended to be cautious, unless they were confident in their abilities, troop quality, and position. 

4. Limited Religious Involvement

Most eighteenth century conflict saw religion as a motivator for the working classes, not for the policy-makers. While religion, and religious motivation for conflict still played a role in soldiers' thoughts, enforcing religious change was not the primary reason for conflict. Policy makers looked at ways to strengthen the state, rather than religious factors. However, they continued to use religion in order to motivate populations to support their actions. 

5. Limited Resolution

As a result of the previous limitations on warfare, it should not come as a surprise that warfare in the Kabinettskriege era did not witness many decisive conflicts. Frederick II of Prussia's success in taking and holding Silesia provides historians with an exception, not a rule. Fortresses played a decisive role in limiting the progress of armies, and preserving the balance of power. Defending fortresses, and by extension, lines of communication, became vitally important. While on the fringes of the European world, in Scandinavia and North America, the balance of power radically shifted, for Western and Central Europeans living in the Kabinettskriege era, the limitation of warfare produced stability. 

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