Military revolutions and military history

  • Laurent Henninger
Part of the Palgrave Advances book series (PAD)


For some 50 years, military historians have been debating the issue of whether there was or was not a ‘military revolution’ in western and central Europe in the early modern period, and what was the nature of this supposed revolution. It all began in 1955 when Michael Roberts, in an inaugural lecture at Queen’s University Belfast, first presented the idea of a military revolution, referring to the way Dutch military leaders dealt with new weaponry and tactics during their fight against the Spaniards at the end of the sixteenth century. Consciously or not, Roberts was thus transposing the economical concept of ‘industrial revolution’ to the field of military history. In 1976, Geoffrey Parker published an article on the same topic, criticizing Roberts’ assertions and, instead of Roberts’ emphasis on infantry drill and use of individual firearms, he focused on the transformations resulting from new trace italienne fortifications. In 1988, Parker developed this argument further when he published his seminal book on the topic, The Military Revolution: Military Innovations and the Rise of the West, 1500–1800. Soon after, Jeremy Black in turn critiqued Parker in his volume A Military Revolution? Military Change and European Society 1550–1800(1991). The debate continued throughout the 1990s without ever being truly resolved or brought to any definitive — or even semi-definitive — conclusion, although an important step toward an agreed synthesis was made in 1995 when Clifford Rogers published his edited volume The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe.


Sixteenth Century Fifteenth Century French Revolution Early Modern Period Military History 
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© Alan James 2006

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  • Laurent Henninger

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