16th Century Warfare

The 16th Century, Beginning of a New War Era

Nature of Warfare

This period saw the size and scale of warfare greatly increase. The number of combatants involved escalated steadily from the mid 16th century and dramatically expanded after the 1660s.One of the reasons for warfare's increased impact was its indecisiveness. Armies were slow moving in an era before good roads and canals. Battles were relatively rare as armies could manoeuvre for months, with no direct conflict. In addition, battles were often made irrelevant by the proliferation of advanced, bastioned fortifications. To control an area, armies had to take fortified towns, regardless of whether they defeated their enemies' field armies.

Firearms and Plate armour

The heavy cavalry - made up of armored knights - had begun to fade in importance in the Late Middle Ages. The English longbow and the Swiss pike had both proven their ability to devastate larger armed forces of mounted knights. However, the proper use of the longbow required a lifetime of training, making it impossible to amass very large forces of archers.In virtually all major European battles during a period of 250 years (1400 to 1650), many soldiers wore extensive plate armour; this includes infantrymen (usually pikemen) and almost all mounted troops. Plate armour was expected to deflect edged weapons and to stop an arquebus or pistol ball fired from a distance, and it usually did.