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War and the World

War and the World: Military Power and the Fate of Continents, 1450-2000

Jeremy Black
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    War and the World
    Book Description:

    In this brilliant history of warfare, Jeremy Black is the first to approach the entire modern era from a comprehensive global perspective. He provides a wide-ranging account of the nature, purpose, and experience of war over the past half-millennium and argues the importance of viewing the rise of European power within a wider international context. Investigating both land and sea warfare, Black examines weaponry, tactics, strategy, and resources as well as the political, social, and cultural impact of conflict.The book takes issue with established interpretations, not least those that emphasize technology, and challenges the view that European military and naval forces were dominant throughout the period. European mastery at sea did not always translate into equivalent success on land, says Black, and many non-European military systems-the Ottomans in their expansionist years, Babur and the Mughals in sixteenth-century India, and the Manchu in China in the following century, for example-were formidable in their own right. The author contends that in the nineteenth century, the focal period of Europe's military revolution, the international military balance shifted decisively. Black shows how military developments, combined with political, economic, and ideological shifts, influenced the nature and success of European imperialism. Linking debates on early modern history with those of more recent centuries, he offers a fundamental reexamination of the role of war in the progress of nations.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14769-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Illustration Credits
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-x)
  6. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    It cannot happen again. That was the optimistic conclusion of Edward Gibbon, writing in the 1770s, as he considered whether contemporary Europe could once more succumb to those whom he termed barbarians. Gibbon’s answer was couched in terms of military progress: ‘Cannon and fortifications now form an impregnable barrier against the Tartar horse’.¹ This book seeks to use Gibbon’s analysis as a point of departure for looking at a series of crucial and related topics that centre on the question of the relationship between the rise of European military power on the global scale and the relative military development and...

  7. 2 Gibbonian Strategies
    (pp. 3-17)

    It is particularly appropriate to begin by considering the views of Edward Gibbon (1737-94). Aside from his being arguably the greatest historian of the last half-millennium, Gibbon is of particular importance for two reasons. First, he sought not to be Eurocentric, and, within the constraints of the intellectual constructs and scholarship of his period, achieved his goal. This was seen most famously and controversially in Gibbon’s treatment of religion: he admired the vigour of Islam and found much to criticise in Christianity. More generally, Gibbon was not a Euro-triumphalist. Secondly, Gibbon was fascinated with the issue of the rise and...

  8. 3 Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Expansion and Warfare
    (pp. 18-59)

    In the first three-quarters of the fifteenth century, Europe, understood as Christian Europe, was scarcely the most impressive political force in the world. The very term Europe is misleading as it implies a degree of cohesion that was absent. Instead, there were major conflicts within Europe, not least between England and France and between Burgundy and France, conflicts that were to limit the response to the Turkish advance. Irrespective of these divisions, there was also pressure on the European political space. Ottoman Turkish expansion in the Balkans entailed a loss of (Christian) European political control that also led to a...

  9. 4 The Seventeenth Century
    (pp. 60-95)

    The major themes outlined in the previous chapter were still apposite in the seventeenth century: the role of maritime and firearms technology in abetting European overseas expansion; the on-going conflict between nomadic and settled peoples; and the limits to any argument which posits the superior military effectiveness of settled peoples over nomads. Technical superiority rarely brought any benefits to Europeans, except on the high seas and in defence of fortified positions, and most conquest was in alliance with, and often partially subordinate to, local interests who had manpower and also ‘arts of war’ that could benefit from European participation, but...

  10. 5 The Pre-Revolutionary Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 96-128)

    The eighteenth through to the early nineteenth century presents a classic example of Eurocentrism in military history thanks to the influence of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia (1740–86), and Napoleon, First Consul (1799–1804) and later Emperor (1804–14, 1815) of France. This is paradoxical because, unlike say Philip II’s Spain, the Dutch republic in the seventeenth century, or Victorian Britain, neither Frederician Prussia nor Napoleonic France had much direct military impact outside Europe. Frederick II and his forces did not fight at all beyond Europe, and the Prussian navy was both small and of slight consequence.


  11. 6 An Age of Revolution and Imperial Reach, 1775-1815
    (pp. 129-163)

    The military history of the period 1775–1815 is open to various approaches, whether the overall perspective is Eurocentric or not. If it is Eurocentric, it is possible to concentrate on French revolutionary and Napoleonic warfare, and to treat other aspects of the period as less consequential adjuncts. Alternatively, or in addition, it is possible to devote considerable attention to the American Revolution (1775–83) and to the beginnings of the Latin American wars of independence. These can be approached as part of the same process of military change as French revolutionary warfare, especially as instances of the people under...

  12. 7 The Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 164-202)

    During the post-Napoleonic nineteenth century, the processes of military change that were already in evidence prior to 1815 continued, but with greater intensity and more impact. Given the dramatic shifts in territorial control in Africa and in influence in East and South-East Asia that marked the period 1815-1900 it is very tempting to look for new developments in warfare and to present them as crucial. Although useful, that approach underrates the degree to which the period saw the continuation of earlier processes. What was novel was the degree to which European (and European-American) military control could now be enforced on...

  13. 8 Warfare and the State, 1450–1900
    (pp. 203-231)

    War as the cause, course and consequence of state-building is an established and currently fashionable means of approaching history among both historians and political scientists: war equals state-buiiding and state-building equals war. In place of an organic, or alternatively episodic, account that might focus on socio-economic trends or constitutional-political developments centring on domestic situations, war offers an explanatory model that makes it possible to relate international and domestic spheres and to align state-building – a central, structural feature of contemporary political society – with chronological specifics: the details of conflicts.

    The relationship between war and the state has a number of dimensions....

  14. 9 Twentieth-Century Reflections
    (pp. 232-291)

    In 1900 Europe and the USA dominated the economy of the globe, possessing more wealth and using more energy than the rest of the world. The military primacy and global reach capability of the industrialised European and European-American powers appeared, and indeed was, unprecedented at the beginning of the twentieth century. Most of the earth’s surface was under the control of these powers, and their ability to deploy military force was illustrated in such episodes as the American conquest of the Philippines. The quantity and character of the force that could be deployed, as well as its range, were important....

  15. Notes
    (pp. 292-320)
  16. Index
    (pp. 321-334)