Warfare and Society in the Baltic 1500–1800

  • Knud J. V. Jespersen
Part of the Problems in Focus Series book series (PFS)


In the early spring of 1628 the Swedish forces in Livonia suffered a series of minor defeats in their current, intractable war with Poland. This temporary setback prompted the Swedish king Gustav II Adolf to contemplate the situation in general and the ongoing war in particular. In a letter of 1 April to Axel Oxenstierna, his loyal chancellor, he reflected on the general pattern of conflict in Europe:

things are come to this pass, that all the wars that are waged in Europe are conmingled and become one, as is shown by the actions of the Papists in Germany, and the help given by the Spaniards to Rochelle, and last summer against us in Prussia, as well as by sundry consultations holden at the Emperor’s court, where, as it is certainly reported, it was resolved to press on, by the occupation of these Scandinavian lands, to that tyranny over body and soul which they lust after.…1


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Axel Oxenstiernas skrifter och brefvexling (Stockholm, 1888-), vol. II. 1, pp. 395–400; quotation in translation from Michael Roberts, Gustavus Adolphus. A History of Sweden, 1611–1632 (London, 1958), vol. II, pp. 362–3.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Stewart Oakley, ‘War in the Baltic, 1550–1790’, in Jeremy Black (ed.), The Origins of War in Early Modern Europe (Edinburgh, 1987), pp. 52–71.Google Scholar
  3. A more extensive treatment is offered in Goran Rystad, Klaus-R. Böhme and Wilhelm Carlgren (eds.), In Quest of Trade and Security. The Baltic in Power Politics 1500–1900. Vol. I (1500–1890) (Stockholm, 1994).Google Scholar
  4. The general context, unfortunately in a somewhat disorganised shape, is provided by David Kirby, Northern Europe in the Early Modern Period. The Baltic World 1492–1772 (London, 1990).Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    The following survey of the Baltic conflicts is based mainly upon the works listed in note 2.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    The classical European great power system is thoroughly described in Derek McKay and H. M. Scott, The Rise of the Great Powers, 1648–1815 (London, 1983).Google Scholar
  7. The Swedish wars are outlined and interpreted by Göran Behre, Lars-Olof Larsson and Eva Österberg, Sveriges historia 1512–1809. Stormaktsdröm och småstatsrealiteter (Stockholm, 1985), pp. 261 ff.Google Scholar
  8. Cf. also Gunnar Artéus, Krigsmakt och samhälle i Frihetstidens Sverige (Stockholm, 1982) andGoogle Scholar
  9. Gunnar Artéus (ed.), Gustav III:s ryska krig (Stockholm, 1992).Google Scholar
  10. Denmark’s situation in the eighteenth century is best described in Ole Feldbæk’s volume 4 of Gyldendals Danmarks historie (Copenhagen, 1982), covering the period 1730–1814. For the repercussions of those wars upon the military organisation in Denmark, seeGoogle Scholar
  11. Knud J. V. Jespersen, ‘Claude Louis, Comte de Saint Germain (1707–1778): Professional Soldier, Danish Military Reformer and French War Minister’, in Abigail T. Siddall (ed.), Soldier-Statesmen of the Age of the Enlightenment (Manhattan, KS, 1984), pp. 305–21.Google Scholar
  12. 5.
    Michael Roberts, The Military Revolution, 1560–1660 (Belfast, 1956);Google Scholar
  13. reprinted in slightly amended shape in Michael Roberts, Essays in Swedish History (London, 1967), pp. 195–225.Google Scholar
  14. 6.
    Geoffrey Parker, ‘The “Military Revolution, 1560–1660” — a Myth?’, in his Spain and The Netherlands, 1559–1659. Ten Studies (London, 1979), pp. 86–103;Google Scholar
  15. further elaborated in the same author’s The Military Revolution. Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500–1800 (Cambridge, 1988);Google Scholar
  16. cf. J. M. Black, A Military Revolution? Military Change and European Society, 1550–1800 (London, 1991);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Brian M. Downing, The Military Revolution and Political Change. Origins of Democracy and Autocracy in Early Modern Europe (Princeton, 1992) andGoogle Scholar
  18. Clifford J. Rogers (ed.), The Military Revolution Debate (Boulder, CO, 1995).Google Scholar
  19. For the repercussions in Denmark, see Knud J. V. Jespersen, ‘Social Change and Military Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Some Danish Evidence’, The Historical Journal, 26 (1983), pp. 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 7.
    H. Landberg, L. Ekholm, R. Nordlund and Sven A. Nilsson, Det kontinentala krigets ekonomi. Studier i krigsfinansiering under svensk stormaktstid (Kristianstad, 1971);Google Scholar
  21. Lars Ekholm, Svensk krigsfinansiering 1630–1631 (Uppsala, 1974) and Klaus-Richard Böhme, ‘Building a Baltic Empire’, in Göran Rystad et al. (eds.), In Quest of Trade and Security, pp. 177–220.Google Scholar
  22. 8.
    Paul Douglas Lockhart, Denmark in the Thirty Years’ War, 1618–1648. King Christian IV and the Decline oftlie Oldenburg State (Selinsgrove, 1996);Google Scholar
  23. cf. Gunner Lind, Hceren og magten i Danmark, 1614–1662 (Odense, 1994);Google Scholar
  24. Finn Askgaard, Christian IV — Rigets Væbnede arm (Copenhagen, 1988) andGoogle Scholar
  25. Jens Carl Kirchmeier-Andersen, ‘Christian IV som taktiker’, Vaabenhistoriske Aarbøger, vols. 33–4 (Copenhagen, 1987–88), pp. 63–157, 5–107.Google Scholar
  26. 9.
    Gunnar Artéus, Till militärstatens förhistoria. Krig, professionalisering och social förändring under Vasasönernas regering (Stockholm, 1986);Google Scholar
  27. Sven A. Nilsson, På väg mot militärstaten. Krigsbefälets etablering i den äldre Vasatidens Sverige (Uppsala, 1989) and,Google Scholar
  28. for the navy, Jan Glete, Navies and Nations: Warships, Navies and State Building in Europe and America, 1500–1860, 2 vols. (Stockholm, 1993).Google Scholar
  29. 10.
    Cf. Lind, Hœren og magten i Danmark and E. Ladewig Petersen, Christian IVs skånske og norske fæstningsanlæg 1596–1622’ (Danish) Historisk Tidsskrift, 95 (1995), pp. 328–41.Google Scholar
  30. 11.
    Frede P. Jensen, Danmarks konflikt med Sverige 1563–1570 (Copenhagen, 1982), pp. 149ff.Google Scholar
  31. 12.
    Knud J. V. Jespersen, ‘Slaget ved Lutter am Barenberg 1626’, in Krigshistorisk Tidsskrift (Copenhagen, 1973), pp. 80–9.Google Scholar
  32. 13.
    Finn Askgaard and Arne Stade (eds.), Kampen om Skåne (Copenhagen, 1983), pp. 194–247;Google Scholar
  33. on Nördlingen, see Theodore K. Rabb, The Struggle for Stability in Early Modern Europe (New York, 1975), p. 122.Google Scholar
  34. 14.
    Jørgen H. Barfod, Niels Juel. A Danish Admiral of the 17th Century (Copenhagen, 1977), pp. 73–88.Google Scholar
  35. 15.
    On the wars of 1657–60 in general and Charles X Gustav’s lightning attack on Copenhagen in particular, see Finn Askgaard, Kampen om Østersøen. Et bidrag til nordisk søkrigshistorie på Carl X Gustafs tid 1654–60 (Copenhagen, 1974).Google Scholar
  36. 16.
    The figures are extracted from Jan Glete’s essay, ‘Bridge and Bulwark. The Swedish Navy and the Baltic, 1500–1809’, in Rystad et al. (eds.), In Quest of Trade and Security, pp. 9–60; esp. tables 1 and 2, pp. 27–8.Google Scholar
  37. 17.
    The figures are extracted from Parker, ‘Military Revolution’, p. 96; André Corvisier, Armies and Societies in Europe, 1494–1789 (London, 1979), p. 113 and,Google Scholar
  38. for Denmark, Knud J. V. Jespersen, Gyldendals Danmarks historic vol. 3, ed. Søren Mørch (Copenhagen, 1989) and Dr P. H. Wilson’s Chapter 3 in the present volume.Google Scholar
  39. 18.
    Robert Molesworth, An Account of Denmark as it was in tlie Year 1692 (London, 1694; repr. Copenhagen, 1976), p. 224. According to Corvisier, Armies and Societies in Europe, p. 113, the ratio of effectives to population was about 1:25 in Prussia and in Sweden. My own calculation shows that the same applies to Denmark. In Austria, France and Russia the ratio was only about 1:100.Google Scholar
  40. 19.
    For Swedish affairs, see, e.g., Behre et al., Sveriges historia 1521–1809 and also Michael Roberts’s many books on the subject; for a general introduction to the conditions in Denmark, see Jespersen, Gyldendals Danmarks historic, cf. also Jespersen, ‘The Rise and Fall of the Danish Nobility, 1600–1800’, in H. M. Scott (ed.), The European Nobilities in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Vol. II (London, 1995), pp. 41–70.Google Scholar
  41. 20.
    For this important aspect which, owing to lack of space, I have only touched lightly upon in this chapter, see Anja Tjaden, ‘The Dutch in the Baltic, 1544–1721’ and Stewart Oakley, ‘Trade, Peace and the Balance of Power. Britain and the Baltic, 1603–1802’, both in Rystad et al. (eds.), In Quest of Trade and Security, pp. 61–132 and 221–56 respectively.Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

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  • Knud J. V. Jespersen

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