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Can the changes in the conduct of warfare and its impact on society in the sixteenth century justifiably be described as a 'Military Revolution'?

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Introduction

Can the changes in the conduct of warfare and its impact on society in the sixteenth century justifiably be described as a 'Military Revolution'? In 16th century Europe, war became the mode for change and development in countries, and this increasing importance meant that very few people were left untouched by war. It is for these reasons that many people have described the events as a military revolution. Two factors contributed significantly to the changes in warfare, being the replacement of cavalry with the pike and musket and the new type of fortification that was developed. Previously, armies had consisted of large numbers of heavily armed knights, who had cost a lot of money due to their arms and had also required considerate amounts of training. It was because of this that armies began to use much more infantry than they had done previously, arming them with pikes and muskets. However, this early firepower was actually a 'retrograde step' 1 according to some historians because the longbow was superior in terms of speed and accuracy. The main advantage of both the musket and the pike were that they could be used with virtually no training, which is why they replaced the bow. The use of infantry also brought about changes in the structure of an army because it brought about new ranks and placed new emphasis on order and discipline. ...read more.

Middle

Siege warfare had 'profoundly altered the face of war' 9 and had many other implications since building new fortresses was a very costly process and also caused the wars to last far longer, meaning that these forts had a large part to play in the increase in cost of warfare. The increased costs that were so important to warfare at this time make it seem like any state that had money would be able to raise a successful army for either attack or defence. However, this was not always the case; one example is the state of Sienna in Italy which decided to build modern forts but found the costs so high that the work went unfinished and meant that they could not afford to raise an army, which led to it being invaded. A similar situation occurred in Ireland, where they were unable to keep up with the costs of the arms race. This shows the difficulties caused by the financial costs of the new warfare during this period, as attempting to modernise could leave a country or state in more trouble than they were previously. The increase in expenditure was not the only effect that this new warfare had on the state. State bureaucracy also increased during this period because of the need to recruit armies and raise money via the implementation of new taxes. ...read more.

Conclusion

The use of muskets and pikes meant that armies were now structured very differently to how they had been previously, with far more infantry than cavalry. This new firepower meant that soldiers required far less training and supply became much cheaper. This in turn led to the growth in the size of armies, both normal and standing, and this, along with the development of new forts meant that war was now conducted at a far slower pace. The increased army sizes and duration of wars, along with the desire to keep up with the arms race caused the cost of war to escalate massively and lead to the impacts on society that were caused by new taxes. Warfare changed European life during this period in many ways and had a great impact on society and so I believe that it is certainly justifiable to describe the events as a 'Military Revolution'. Endnotes: 1. D. Eltis, The Military Revolution in Sixteenth-Century Europe (1998), p7 2. J. R. Hale, War and Society in Renaissance Europe 1450-1620 (1998), p47 3. D. Featherstone, Armies and Warfare in the Pike Shot Era (1998), p27 4. Hale, op cit, p181 5. Eltis, op cit, p29 6. Hale, op cit, p47 7. Featherstone, op cit, p12 8. Eltis, op cit, p88 9. Eltis, op cit, p76 10. Hale, op cit, p251 11. Hale, op cit, p252 12. Hale, op cit, p179 13. Hale, op cit, p182 14. Hale, op cit, p218 15. Hale, op cit, p235 16. ...read more.

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