European Warfare

1550-1750 Baroque Period

Battle Strategies and Techniques

  • Mapping techniques of post-medieval communications transformed the ability of commanders to envision the landscape of war.
  • The development of gunpowder artillery produced a weapon that – literally – expanded the tactical landscape.
  • The biggest threat on the battlefield was a cavalry charge, but the strongest defense against a head-on mounted attack was a steady line of spear-armed footmen supported by archery.

A Typical Battle

Often the opposing armies would face off, infantry-line to infantry-line, each with its cavalry to the flanks or rear. Then the mounted forces would charge each other at a trot, while the footmen either held their ground or advanced to contact very slowly, so that they could keep their order. Since the former closed much more quickly, and since mounted combat was typically decided more rapidly than a contest between shield walls, the issue of the battle as a whole was likely to be determined by the cavalry fight

Reasons Behind War

Up to the mid seventeenth century, religion influenced the conduct of military operations, being one of several factors that led generals actively to avoid battles; but from the late seventeenth century on, this was no longer the case. Up to the 1520s, then, religion was important primarily as an influence on how warfare was conducted, rather than as a cause of warfare. It generated wars only on Europe's north-eastern, south-eastern, and south-western margins, and was a factor in mobilizing men and resources from across Christendom for those wars.Economic forces behind warfare are normally conflicts about trade and colonies.


Thirty Years War

begun in 1618, when the future Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand II, in his role as king of Bohemia, attempted to impose Roman Catholic absolutism on his domains, and the Protestant Nobles of both Bohemia and Austria rose up in rebellion. Ferdinand won after a five-year struggle. In 1625 King Christian IV of Denmark saw an opportunity to gain valuable territory in Germany to balance his earlier loss of Baltic provinces to Sweden. Christian’s defeat and the Peace of Lübeck in 1629 finished Denmark as a European power, but Sweden’s Gustav II Adolf, having ended a four-year war with Poland, invaded Germany and won many German princes to his anti-Roman Catholic, anti-imperial cause The Russo-Polish Peace of Polyanov in 1634 ended Poland’s claim to the tsarist throne but freed Poland to resume hostilities against its Baltic archenemy, Sweden, which was now deeply embroiled in Germany. Here, in the heartland of Europe, three denominations vied for dominance: Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism. This resulted in a Gordian tangle of alliances as princes and prelates called in foreign powers to aid them. Overall, the struggle was between the Holy Roman Empire, which was Roman Catholic and Habsburg, and a network of Protestant towns and principalities that relied on the chief anti-Catholic powers of Sweden and the United Netherlands, which had at last thrown off the yoke of Spain after a struggle lasting 80 years.

Work Cited

  • Ronald G. Asch. (2010). War and state-building. In: Frank Tallett and D. J. B. Trim (eds.) European Warfare, 1350–1750. pp. 322-337. [Online]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Available from: Cambridge Books Online
  • "Thirty Years' War (European History)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.
  • "NC WiseOwl Home Page." NC WiseOwl Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2014.