Frederick C. Schneid, editor. The Projection and Limitations of Imperial Powers, 1618-1850. History of Warfare series. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012. ISBN 978-90-04-22671-5. Notes. Index. Pp. xiv, 224. $144.00 (hardcover).
Dr Frederick C. Schneid, Professor of History and Chair of the Department of History at High Point University, presents a collection of essays from the Gunther E. Rothenberg Seminars in Military History held at High Point University in North Carolina. Schneid is a historian of the Napoleonic Wars and Wars of Italian Independence. His studies include Soldiers of Napoleon’s Kingdom of Italy: Army, State and Society, 1800-1815 (1995), Napoleon’s Italian Campaigns, 1805-1815 (2002), and Napoleon’s Conquest of Europe: The War of the Third Coalition (2005), Napoleonic Wars (2012), and The Second War of Italian Unification, 1859-1861 (2012).
This collection of essays explores the common issue of projection and limitations of imperial powers by European states and the United States from the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) to First War of Italian Independence (1848-1849). As such, there are several essays that deal with the seventeenth century. In his essay, Peter H. Wilson explores and reevaluates the character of the Thirty Years War. He points out that the several phases of the conflict severely strained the imperial power of the Austrian Habsburgs and Holy Roman Empire. Even so, the German Empire did not collapse, and “it was the challengers [to the German constitution] who went under.” Wilson argues that, “Both the Empire and its components emerged stronger from the war” (p.33). Jeremy Black addresses colonial expansion and global military history during the reign of Louis XIV of France (ruled 1643-1715). John A. Lynn investigates the practice of taking prisoners in relation to the conduct of military campaigns and the laws of war during the Wars of Louis XIV.
Other historians tackle issues concerning the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Ciro Paoletti argues that Italy was an important theater of operations for French strategy from the Nine Years War (1688-1697) through the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748). In his essay, Dennis Showalter stresses the strength and operational performance of the Prussian army from the Seven Years War (1756-1763) through the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802). Prussia was able to regenerate its military might after the defeats at the battles of Jena and Auerstädt (1806) in the War of the Fourth Coalition (1806-1807), and play a key role in the defeat of Napoleon. Janet M. Hartley examines Russia as a great military power from the Seven Years War to the end of the Napoleonic Wars and beyond, seeking to discover if Russia’s reputation as a great military power during the reigns of Catherine II to Alexander I is justified. Hartley notes the great success that Russia had in warfare during this period, including territorial acquisition, growth of the military establishment, and predominance at the end of this era. However, she determines that “Russia’s military and international prestige was built on insecure foundations” that would be exposed in the Crimean War (1853-1856) (p.105). Robert M. Epstein contributes an essay that explores the decline in effectiveness of Napoleon’s army because of attrition during his numerous campaigns. The loss of experienced French forces affected the quality of his army and its operational capabilities. Epstein goes on to show how the quality of Russian, Prussian, and Austrian armies steadily improved after the War of the Fourth Coalition. Napoleon had lost the qualitative advantage. The quality of the coalition armies now matched the quality of the French army. Epstein stresses that by the War of the Sixth Coalition (1812-1814), “Napoleon could no longer expect decisive battlefield victories from equally matched armies” (p.146).
Global military history during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars is handled by Jeremy Black. In his essay Black questions the immediate impact of the advancements in European armies, strategy, and state power developed during 1792 to 1815 on military systems outside of Europe. Paul W. Schroeder addresses the unrestrained expansion of the United States during the nineteenth century. He professes that the European international system after the Napoleonic Wars, including the Concert of Europe, Pax Britannica, and Holy Alliance, sought to avoid major confrontations, allowing the United States the opportunity to grow without foreign interference (p.191). In the final essay, Frederick C. Schneid tackles the military origins and course of the Risorgimento from 1815 to 1849. He shows that Piedmont-Sardinia lacked the resources and manpower to defeat the Austrian Empire in the First War of Italian Independence, and would need the backing of a Great Power to achieve national aspirations in a future conflict.
Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota