Martines (Fire in the City), best known for his work on the Italian Renaissance, makes a major contribution in this survey of war in “early modern Europe.” Challenging the conventional emphasis on diplomacy, bureaucracy, and technology in most military histories addressing the period, Martines describes medieval Europe’s wars as having been shaped by a Christianity that saw battle “as punishment for sin”; a Protestant Reformation that justified “killing for God”; and a quest for private gain that drove poorly paid and insufficiently supplied armies to wreak havoc on civilian populations. The sacking of cities was not uncommon even if negotiations had been formally arranged, and mutually miserable groups of soldiers and peasants destroyed settlements as they fought over the scarce resources of subsistence economies. As civil societies dissolved in the face of random and organized violence, “fragile, unruly” armies developed into a parasitic form of community whose numbers often dwarfed those of proper towns. The direct consequences of plunder and plague, Martines concludes, far outweighed any abstract economic stimulus generated by war. The burgeoning fiscal-military state, moreover, sustained war making by replicating armies’ behavior in drawing resources from their subjects by compulsion. The difference between monarchs and mercenaries, Martines shows, was merely a matter of degree. Agent: Kay McCauley, Aurous Inc. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/22/2012 Release date: 01/15/2013 Genre: Nonfiction
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