Monday, December 11, 2006

Thoughts on the Dutch Revolt

I noted earlier that Ramelli may have seen action in the Spanish Netherlands. While I now have my doubts about this possibility, the war presents a whole series of interesting phenomenon.

The first is the notion of the professional soldier and calls for advancement based on merit rather than just birth or bearing. As noted by Leon, "Flanders, the 'cockpit of Europe,' as it has been called, thus became Spain's (and indeed Europe's) academy of military science." (pg. 64) Alba's occupation of Flanders promoted a whole spate of military books. The new books spoke of promoting ability over nobel bearing or upbringing. Escalante, for example, describes the necessary components of "el arte militar": "to besiege a town and to defend it, to wage war on the open country and to foray, to repel ambushes, construct bridges over rivers and fortifications on level country, to transport artillery, and many other such things." (pg. 67)

A variety of Spanish works from the late 16th century stress the importance of technical ability. These works were written primarily by professional soldiers and their intended audience was military leaders. Captain Cristobal de Rojas, author of Teorica y Practica de Fortificacion, fought in the French Wars of Religion but dedicated his book to Philip III and called for greater technical proficiency.

This genre of works quickly tapered out. It was eventually replaced by wholly technical works without criticism or polemic. It seems that war was necessary to create the conditions for these works that called for the rise of techne. But was ultimately an economic exercise. Other economic indicators could also have been a factor.


Leon, Fernando Gonzalez de Leon. 1996."Doctors of the military discipline": Technical expertise and the paradigm of the Spanish soldier in the Early Modern Period. Sixteenth Century Journal. 27.1: 61-85.


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