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War in European History, 1494–1660

War in European History, 1494-1660 by Jeremy Black. Potomac Books, 2006, 118 pp.


War in Europe is relevant for the modern strategist, even as far back as the fifteenth century and beyond. History is some combination of continuity and change, and it behooves the aspirant leader to improve his or her understanding of which is which. Often, building analogs with other centuries will do a bit to reveal the solutions to the reader.

Jeremy Black, a professor at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, is one of the first rank of military historians. He is very widely published and certainly has an imaginative mind. The book at hand is one of a great many he has published and certainly is a demonstration of that imagination.

The period in question is doubtless important because it does encompass important changes in politics and war. Obviously, it includes the expansion of European influence beyond the seas. It also covers the period during which the shift from feudalism to the mature nation state was largely completed. One dimension of this was the early part of the development of well-financed standing armies and the initial moves towards military professionalism. Black is an authority on all of these things and clearly recognizes that the picture that written history projects is far from perfect and therefore the assumptions about the conditions conducive to success in war and politics are often not valid. He also understands the role of technology in military history and that it is not unfailingly decisive.

This book is written for an audience other than that of the Strategic Studies Quarterly. It is a bibliographical essay that would be a must for a graduate student in preparing for his orals who has one field in early modern Europe. Thus it is about books and interpretations relevant to specialist historians and is not very useful for the practicing twenty-first-century strategist. William McNeill’s more general Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force and Society since 1000 AD or Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, 1500–2000 are both cited by Black and would probably serve the needs of this journal’s readers better.

David R. Mets, PhD

Air Force Research Institute

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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