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Explores the changing role of mercenaries in Early Modern Europe and covers all the key battles of the period. Written by the author of The Teutonic Knights and Medieval Mercenaries. From the Greek professional armies of Alexander, through the Hundred Years War, to today, mercenaries have been ever-present, their role constantly evolving. In this compelling new history William Urban takes up their captivating and turbulent story from 1550 to 1789: from the Wars of Religion to the eve of the French Revolution. The 16th century saw increasing sophistication in European politics and commerce, religious and scientific thought, and military technology. Everywhere professionals became more important.
Mercenaries are often considered a marginal phenomenon, but Urban shows that as military professionals they contributed significantly to the development of the modern state. Increasingly not just individual soldiers and officers became mercenaries, but entire armies of well equipped, well trained, and, in time, experienced soldiers were available to friends and allies. By the late-1600s these armies had evolved into large and efficient fighting forces. The infantry were using muskets equipped with bayonets; the engineers were building better fortresses and devising better methods of assaulting them; the cavalry were adjusting to new tactics; the generals learning strategy from service under great field marshals and by reading their books; and everyone was paying attention to treasury officers. Nothing could be done without money. With money, anything was possible - buying cannons and the neutrality of neighbours, providing troops with food and clothing, satisfying fashion-conscious mistresses. For money, anything was possible.
By the mid-1700s military service had become a profession. The old-fashioned mercenary was less common, but he would not disappear until swept away by the volunteer armies of the French Revolution. Money gave way, temporarily, to patriotism. WILLIAM URBAN is the Lee L. Morgan Professor of History at Monmouth College, Illinois, USA. His numerous works include the highly acclaimed The Teutonic Knights and Medieval Mercenaries. WILLIAM MCNEILL is the author of The Rise of the West and is among the world's most respected historians.
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