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War at Sea in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

War at Sea in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

John B. Hattendorf
Richard W. Unger
Volume: 14
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81rtx
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  • Book Info
    War at Sea in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
    Book Description:

    This volume is both a restatement of current interpretations of sea power in the middle ages and the Renaissance and a general introduction to naval and maritime history over four and a half centuries. The book offers broad conclusions on the role and characteristics of armed force at sea before 1650, conclusions that exploit the best current understanding of the medieval period. The examination of naval militias in the Baltic, permanent galley fleets in the Mediterranean, contract fleets and the use of reprisal for political ends all illustrate the variety and complexity of naval power and domination of the sea in theyears from 1000 to 1650. The detailed and closely coordinated studies by scholars from Europe, North America, and Australia show patterns in war at sea and discuss the influence of the development of ships, guns, and the language of public policy on maritime conflict. The essays show the importance and unique character of violence at sea in the period. Contributors: JOHN B. HATTENDORF, NIELS LUND, JAN BILL, TIMOTHY J. RUNYAN, IAN FRIEL, JOHN H. PRYOR, LAWRENCE V. MOTT, JOHN DOTSON, MICHEL BALARD, BERNARD DOUMERC, MARCO GEMIGNANI, FRANCISCO CONTENT DOMINGUES, LOUIS SICKING, JAN GLETE, N.A.M. RODGER, RICHARD W. UNGER.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-171-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiii)
    John B. Hattendorf and Richard W. Unger
  6. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
    (pp. xiv-xiv)
  7. INTRODUCTION THEORIES OF NAVAL POWER: A. T. MAHAN AND THE NAVAL HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE EUROPE
    (pp. 1-22)
    John B. Hattendorf

    ONE of the interesting phenomena in naval historical study during the twentieth century was the curious way in which ideas attributed to the American naval officer, Alfred Thayer Mahan, permeated, for a time, nearly every aspect of Anglo-American writing on naval history. His thought even influenced historical thinking about the medieval and Renaissance periods, eras that he never even considered in his own writing. Thus, in thinking about the previous literature on maritime and naval affairs in Europe between the tenth and seventeenth centuries, one needs to start with a clear understanding of Mahan’s place in the development of naval...

  8. I: Northern Europe

    • NAVAL POWER IN THE VIKING AGE AND IN HIGH MEDIEVAL DENMARK
      (pp. 25-34)
      Niels Lund

      THIRTEENTH-CENTURY Scandinavian law codes describe a levy that may be conceived of as a naval militia. Such levies existed in Denmark, Norway and Sweden in similar, though not identical, forms. On the basis of territorial subdivisions into skipæn, districts responsible for supplying a ship, and of these districts into hafnæ responsible for furnishing a member of the crew, the kings of Denmark had, in theory, a fleet of about one thousand ships at their disposal. They had sizeable naval forces but raised them in a unique way, very different from states in the seventeenth century and later.

      The age of...

    • SCANDINAVIAN WARSHIPS AND NAVAL POWER IN THE THIRTEENTH AND FOURTEENTH CENTURIES
      (pp. 35-52)
      Jan Bill

      AS for many other parts of Europe, the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were for Denmark a time characterised by internal and external wars. Thanks to its geography, and to the geography of the North Sea and Baltic area in general, seafaring always held an important position in the economics and politics of the country. Ships were needed to tie together the various parts of the country and when wars were fought, naval operations were mandatory. At the same time, Denmark during the eleventh to fourteenth centuries, thanks to its fertile lands and short distances to large north European urban centres,...

    • NAVAL POWER AND MARITIME TECHNOLOGY DURING THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR
      (pp. 53-68)
      Timothy J. Runyan

      King Edward III of England issued instructions in 1356 to fourteen sheriffs, whose authority encompassed nineteen counties, to supply arms for an expedition to the Continent. The purpose was to carry the war to France in the first phase of the Hundred Years War, a conflict whose roots included dynastic claims, the control of Gascony, and an ongoing undeclared battle at sea between French and English privateers, pirates and merchants.¹ The request was one step in what became the usual practice in preparation for an overseas expedition requiring naval forces. Men were recruited for the army, supplies and equipment purveyed...

    • OARS, SAILS AND GUNS: THE ENGLISH AND WAR AT SEA, c. 1200–c.1500
      (pp. 69-80)
      Ian Friel

      THIS is a survey which focuses on technological change and war at sea as seen through the evidence of English sources. England was a regional naval power in northern Europe between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. For much of this period, the main enemies were France, and, to a lesser extent, Scotland and the Welsh princes. The French, Scottish and Welsh wars meant that the operations of English ships at war were restricted mostly to the waters around the British Isles and to the coasts between northern Spain and the Low Countries. The demands on English naval forces were limited...

  9. II: Southern Europe

    • BYZANTIUM AND THE SEA: BYZANTINE FLEETS AND THE HISTORY OF THE EMPIRE IN THE AGE OF THE MACEDONIAN EMPERORS, C.900–1025 CE
      (pp. 83-104)
      John H. Pryor

      WHEN Basil I (867–86), the founder of the ‘Macedonian’ dynasty, seized the throne, the Byzantine Empire was at one of its recurrent nadirs. Crete had fallen to Spanish Muslims around 824. Effective authority over Cyprus and Rhodes had been lost much earlier. Cilicia was in the hands of Muslim corsair emirs. In the North, the Empire was under pressure from the Patzinaks, Magyars, and Bulgars. In the West, Byzantine presence in south Italy was ephemeral.

      By the death of Basil II (976–1025) it all looked very different. The maritime approaches to the Empire from the south and west...

    • IBERIAN NAVAL POWER, 1000–1650
      (pp. 105-118)
      Lawrence V. Mott

      AT the beginning of the eleventh century, one would have assumed the future naval power of the Iberian Peninsula would be the Caliphate of Cordoba. The Christian kingdoms of Castile, Aragon and the counties of Catalonia, were small entities restricted to the northern portion of the peninsula, while the kingdom of Portugal did not yet exist. The Caliphate of Cordoba on the other hand had a highly developed naval organisation, due in large part to the Viking raids of 844. In that year a fleet of approximately a hundred longships attacked and sacked Lisbon, Seville, Cadiz, Medina Sidonia, and Algeciras....

    • VENICE, GENOA AND CONTROL OF THE SEAS IN THE THIRTEENTH AND FOURTEENTH CENTURIES
      (pp. 119-136)
      John Dotson

      WHEN trying to find the underlying and developing ideas of naval operations and strategy in the events of the naval conflicts between the Italian maritime states of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the fundamental questions are: (1) What do the actions of the hostile parties reveal about the war aims of the participants? (2) How did these change over time if, indeed, they did? (3) What strategies were developed to achieve those aims? In practical affairs, it is common for theory to lag well behind practice.¹ Alfred Thayer Mahan’s influential analysis of naval strategy was based on a study of...

    • GENOESE NAVAL FORCES IN THE MEDITERRANEAN DURING THE FIFTEENTH AND SIXTEENTH CENTURIES
      (pp. 137-150)
      Michel Balard

      A REPUBLIC that does not possess the art of war is deprived of that which makes it a republic.¹ Thus spoke Doge Matteo Senarega, at the end of the sixteenth century, in a debate that involved all the ruling groups of Genoa at the time. Was it necessary to create a real state fleet, capable of making the power of the Republic respected and of preserving its liberty, or was it better to leave matters in the hands of private ship-owners from whom the state could charter services in case of a foreign threat, imperial naval obligations, or corsairs who...

    • AN EXEMPLARY MARITIME REPUBLIC: VENICE AT THE END OF THE MIDDLE AGES
      (pp. 151-166)
      Bernard Doumerc

      IN VENICE, ‘the sea was all that mattered’. Truly, this was the founding principle that marked the history of this celebrated city.¹ For a very long time historians made the Serenissima a model of success, wealth, and opulence, sometimes asserting that the Venetians ‘had a monopoly of the transit trade in spices from the Orient’ and ‘that they were the masters of the Mediterranean’.² Such accounts, flattering to the pride of the inhabitants of the lagoons, emphasised the prestige of Venetian navies and the patriotism of its noble lovers of liberty, united to defend the city against the adversities of...

  10. III: Sixteenth and Early-Seventeenth-Century Europe

    • THE NAVIES OF THE MEDICI: THE FLORENTINE NAVY AND NAVY OF THE SACRED MILITARY ORDER OF ST STEPHEN, 1547–1648
      (pp. 169-186)
      Marco Gemignani

      AT the beginning of the fifteenth century, the Republic of Florence obtained its long-awaited connection with the Tyrrhenian Sea, when it conquered Pisa in 1406. In 1421, it expanded further when it acquired the coastal towns of Leghorn and Porto Pisano from the Genoese.¹ Before long, Florentine galleys began to ply the Mediterranean and to push through the Strait of Gibraltar, trading as far away as Flanders and England. In the last quarter of the century, Florence, whose government was by now largely run by the Medici family, was engaged in a war against the kingdom of Naples and the...

    • THE STATE OF PORTUGUESE NAVAL FORCES IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
      (pp. 187-198)
      Francisco Contente Domingues

      ALMOST every attempt made so far to provide a theoretical basis for naval power has failed to consider Portugal among the elite club of powers that, at some historical moment, could be considered global maritime powers. This exclusionary analysis dated back to Alfred Mahan² and almost every subsequent essayist and historian has followed him.³ Nevertheless, in 1988, George Modelski and William Thompson proposed a new vision of how naval power has evolved since the end of the fifteenth century to today. They came to the conclusion that four major naval forces have appeared on a worldwide scale: Portugal, Holland, England...

    • NAVAL POWER IN THE NETHERLANDS BEFORE THE DUTCH REVOLT
      (pp. 199-216)
      Louis Sicking

      IN historical studies, the term ‘sea power’ – meaning control over the sea – is usually connected with the work of the American naval officer A. T. Mahan. He established the principle that the sea could only be brought under control through the domination of the enemy’s naval forces. According to Mahan this could only be realised in sea battles, and, if necessary, by blockades combined with the threat of an attack.¹ The greatest care should to be exercised with regard to Mahan’s concepts of sea power in the period preceding the one on which he based his conclusions. The danger has...

    • NAVAL POWER AND CONTROL OF THE SEA IN THE BALTIC IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
      (pp. 217-232)
      Jan Glete

      Why did the two Nordic kingdoms of Denmark-Norway and Sweden become important naval powers in the sixteenth century? And why did the sea power of the German Hanse that had dominated the Baltic for hundreds of years evaporate in this century? Which incentives stimulated Nordic rulers to buy and build specialised warships, arm them with modern heavy guns and create the infrastructures with dockyards, seamen, officers and skilled artisans which were necessary to make naval forces operationally useful? Was it urgent requirements during wars or ambitious long-term policies that were decisive?¹

      The transformation of the political power structure in the...

    • THE NEW ATLANTIC: NAVAL WARFARE IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY
      (pp. 233-248)
      N. A. M. Rodger

      It has long been customary to regard naval warfare as the business of navies, and it usually still is. This creates an obvious problem, for navies, as the word is generally understood today, are instruments of the state; permanent fleets of warships, manned by professional officers and men, supported by an elaborate infrastructure and maintained from the revenues of central government. These are the normal instruments of naval warfare in the modern world, and it is easy to assume that they are the natural if not the only ones. Yet even a superficial knowledge of European history will show that...

    • CONCLUSION: TOWARD A HISTORY OF MEDIEVAL SEA POWER
      (pp. 249-262)
      Richard W. Unger

      THE papers in this volume address again and again the problem of writing a history of navies, of naval power, of violence at sea in medieval Europe. The idea that there should be such a history is not an old one. In the Middle Ages very few people took up the issue. Typically historians in the last two centuries have ignored the Middle Ages in histories of sea power. While recently there is more recognition of the years between the fall of the Roman Empire and the seventeenth century in works on naval history the period still receives cursory treatment....

  11. INDEX
    (pp. 263-276)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-277)