Book Review of Warfare in Eastern Europe, 1500-1800

Brian L. Davies, editor. Warfare in Eastern Europe, 1500-1800. History of Warfare series. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012. ISBN 978-9004-22196-3. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. vi, 364. $182.00.

Historians in Central and Eastern European have produced a rich literature on the military history of Eastern Europe.  Few studies on the topic, until recently, were available in the English language.  Dr Brian L. Davies, a Professor of History at the University of Texas at San Antonio, presents eleven essays that address current research in the military history of Eastern Europe.  Davies, himself, is known for his studies State Power and Community in Early Modern Russia: The Case of Kozlov, 1635-1649 (2004), Warfare, State and Society on the Black Sea Steppe, 1500-1700 (2007), and Empire and Military Revolution in Eastern Europe: Russia’s Turkish Wars in the Eighteenth Century (2011).

Davies points out that there were two great military theaters in Eastern Europe.  Warfare in Eastern Europe reflected the type of terrain, length of campaign seasons, population densities, and alliances of warring parties.  The Baltic Theater of War stretched across northern Eastern Europe.  This theater had a higher population density; urban commercial development; larger port cities; a dense network of rivers, forests, and marshlands; more availability of supplies; and colder winter weather (which resulted in the demobilization of armies or armies going into winter quarters) than the other region.  The cavalry played a major role in combat operations.  But, siege warfare was more common than field battles.

The Danubian-Pontic Theater of War stretched from Croatia through the Ukraine and southern Russia to the north Caucasus.  The Danubian-Pontic theatre was the military frontier between the Ottoman Empire and the Christian powers of Central and Eastern Europe.  Fortified defensive lines played a major strategic role, with small standing garrison forces of military colonists conducting constant border defense duty.  Field armies, brought up to the lines for military operations, would launch military offensives from these lines deep into enemy territory.  Compared to the northern theater of operations, the Danubian-Pontic theater ran through sparsely populated territory in forest-steppe and steppe terrain.  The employment of military formations, arms, and tactics was influenced by the military challenge of the Ottoman Empire.  Military units had to march over great distances to besiege enemy fortifications.

The essays in this volume cover a wide range of themes in early modern military history.  Several essays look at military affairs in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Janet Martin examines the Muscovite pomest’e system of military service.  Géza Pálffy looks at the defense system in the Hungarian theater of war that defended Habsburg lands against the Ottoman Turks.  Dariusz Kupisz explores the organization, type of troops, armaments, tactics, and success of the Polish-Lithuanian army during the reign of Stefan Bathory.  Brian Davies addresses the Muscovite use of guliai-gorod (prefabricated wooden panels) used as mobile defensive shields, the tabor or wagenburg (wagons) employed as protective shields, and tabor military tactics.  Oleg A. Nozdrin investigates the use of Western European mercenaries in Eastern European militaries.  Carol Belkin Stevens takes a look at logistics in the Muscovite army.  Victor Ostapchuk examines the long-range invasion capabilities of the Crimean Tatars.  Brian J. Boeck brings to light the events of the Don Cossack defense of the fortress at Azov against an Ottoman siege in 1641.  Erik A. Lund addresses the growth of technicalism in the officer corps of the Habsburg army.  Peter B. Brown discusses the range of command-control practices in the Muscovite army in the seventeenth century.  And, Virginia Aksan looks at the Ottoman Empire and wars with Russia in the late eighteenth century, focusing on fiscal problems, manpower, military leadership, and supply.

This is a fascinating collection of essays on early modern military history in Eastern Europe.  The varied essays indicate the current trends in research, and are a must read for students and scholars interested in military history during this period.  For those interested, this reviewer also recommends several recent studies that concern the military history of Eastern Europe, including Carol Belkin Stevens, Russia’s Wars of Emergence, 1460-1730 (2007), Rhoads Murphey, Ottoman Warfare, 1500-1700 (1999), Virginia Aksan, Ottoman Wars, 1700-1870 (2007), Brian L. Davies, Warfare, State and Society on the Black Sea Steppe, 1500-1700 (2007), Michael Hochedlinger, Austria’s Wars of Emergence: War, State and Society in the Habsburg Monarchy, 1683-1797 (2003), Peter H. Wilson, German Armies: War and German Politics, 1648-1806 (1998), as well as Robert I. Frost, The Northern Wars: War, State and Society in Northeastern Europe, 1558-1721 (2000).

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

About William Young

Dr William Young is a retired historian with more than 30 years of experience in teaching and research. He has 18 years of teaching experience at the University of North Dakota and Valley City State University. Moreover, he was a historian in the United States Air Force History Program for 15 years. He possesses a doctoral degree in international and military history and master’s degrees in history and international relations. Young is the author of German Diplomatic Relations, 1871-1945 (2006), International Politics and Warfare in the Age of Louis XIV and Peter the Great (2004), and European War and Diplomacy, 1337-1815 (2003). He has also written 42 official Air Force unit histories, two monographs, and other studies. Young is the recipient of many history awards, including three U.S. Air Force Historian of the Year Awards and a U.S. Air Force History Program of the Year Award. He has studied and worked for 13 years overseas in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. He has traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East. His hobbies include collecting and reading history books and attending college ice hockey games.
This entry was posted in Austrian Military History, Book Reviews, Europe in the 16th Century (1494-1598), Europe in the 17th Century (1598-1715), Europe in the 18th Century (1713-1789), Great Northern War (1700-1721), Ottoman Wars, Polish Military History, Russian Military History, Russo-Turkish War (1676-1681), Thirteen Years War (1654-1667), War of the Holy League (1683-1699) and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Book Review of Warfare in Eastern Europe, 1500-1800

  1. William Young says:

    Reblogged this on Military History.

  2. MSW says:

    Reblogged this on War and Game and commented:
    The essays in this volume cover a wide range of themes in early modern military history.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s