30YearsWar: 17th Century Warfare Episode 14

Our war is nearly over, but we still have some matters to discuss! Here we summarise what we’ve learned over the last few episodes, and pave the way for the narrative to come. There is much we still don’t know about warfare in the 17th century, simply because there is so darn much to know! However, over the last several episodes, we’ve given a very good grounding in what 17th century warfare was all about. We saw how important the theory of the military revolution was, because it shaped debate about how warfare changed during the 17th century. Indeed, the military revolution thesis led to historians producing counterarguments at a rapid rate, to the point that more material than ever before on the period was released in the last fifty or so years. This is of course great news for us, and means that we haven’t exhausted the well of sources just yet.


Here we revisit some of the most important lessons we came across. The trace italienne was arguably the most important, since this technological development facilitated the creation of more impressive armies to adequately besiege and take them down. In addition, more advanced siege techniques led in turn to the creation of more effective defensive bastions, in a kind of arms race between defender and attacker which resulted in an explosion of experimentation and architectural marvels. The French, arguably, benefited from this the most, as Louis XIV harnessed the defensive potential of fortresses to hold the numerous enemies of France at bay at critical times.


If the French gained the most from the use of the fortress, arguably the Dutch were the most impressive pioneers with musket drills in the beginning of the century, as Maurice of Nassau searched for new ways to combat the core of tercio professionals which Spain boasted. Speaking of Spain, the Spanish were by no means the useless, wasteful dolts that historians have sometimes portrayed them as. Well into the 17th century as we saw, Spain maintained its reputation for military supremacy, while across the continent, its cousins in Austria were experimenting with new ways to maintain an army all year round, and anticipating the benefits this could bring. In addition, to the east, the Turks were also throwing their considerable weight around, and were far from insignificant, as is often claimed.


In short, we’ve learned a lot about warfare in the 17th century – be it through the eyes of different states, when we examined certain case studies, or analysed given terms like the trace italienne and fire by rank mass volley musket tactics. We saw the English trade the longbow for the musket, and discovered how the Ancient Roman legionnaires managed to contribute to the Dutch military theories of the day. It’s been a great ride, so I hope you’ll join me here as we attempt to wrap it up.


Sign up for a fiver or less a month on Patreon to support the show, support Zack and support history - in return you'll get some fantastic audio content which you can't listen to anywhere else! Currently, we're preparing the way for Poland Is Not Yet Lost!

For information regarding your data privacy, visit acast.com/privacy