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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War in Early Modern Europe
This is a social history of war in Early Modern Europe, a time in which the continent was ravaged in succession by the Italian Wars, the French Wars of religion, the Eighty Years' War, the Thirty Years War, the Franco-Dutch War and the Nine Years' War, among others. However, the organization of the book is not chronological but thematic.

The focus is not in...
Published 22 months ago by Daniel Diaz Carrete

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting, but falls short of its potential
"Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700" by Lauro Martines is the history of the nearly constant warfare on the European continent from the perspective of the average inhabitant (as opposed to the soldiers or the princes). The first-hand accounts he cites are fascinating (and largely from areas ignored by other historians), and really help the reader picture the horror and...
Published 17 months ago by K. Kennedy


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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War in Early Modern Europe, February 10, 2013
This is a social history of war in Early Modern Europe, a time in which the continent was ravaged in succession by the Italian Wars, the French Wars of religion, the Eighty Years' War, the Thirty Years War, the Franco-Dutch War and the Nine Years' War, among others. However, the organization of the book is not chronological but thematic.

The focus is not in high-minded diplomacy or in battle tactics. In fact, the author maintains that too much emphasis has been traditionally given to these aspects of war. He notes that diplomacy is often just a flimsy facade over stark aggression and, interestingly, that none of the battles of the Thirty Years War was politically decisive.

Instead, the book centers on the plight of the common people. First the soldiers, which despite inflicting horrific suffering on civilians by way of plunder, requisitions, and sackings, and acting as a vector for the spread of infection and plague, often were victims as well, pressed in service against their will and going hungry, ragged and unpaid. The book also touches on the often neglected camp followers which accompanied the soldiers.

Armies tended to "live off the land" by extorting food and resources from the inhabitants of those villages unlucky enough to be located in their path. Due to their massive size and the limited agricultural productivity of the time, armies ended up emptying the countryside of anything edible, causing widespread starvation. This focus on the high-level logistical challenges of maintaining an army, combined with the untold suffering on the ground (vividly rendered thanks to quotes from diaries and primary sources) makes for an interesting, if harrowing, read.

Attention is also paid to the role of finance in war. Going into war invariably meant going into debt. Rulers managed to gather enough money get a campaign going, but not enough to pay the soldiers all the way through. Which meant angry and unruly soldiers, which meant sackings like that of Antwerp in 1576 (the "Spanish Fury") or the one that afflicted Rome in 1527.

All in all, I found this to be a fascinating book.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A collection of grim curiosities, February 14, 2013
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I couldn't miss this new book on early modern wars because I try to read everything on that theme and author's backlog was respectable enough to make me first-day-buyer (I heartily recommend his April's Blood book about plot against Medicis).

The book is interesting and well written. The author had put some real emotions into the text, but kept it moderate, so the book is far from dry but is not too irksome in pushing of moral appraisals. However, I am subjective here, because I share most of author's thought on state, war and their effect on society.

That is not a truly new research, because most of the book is based on modern historical monographs and articles and most firsthand accounts are well-known to the connoiseur of early modern warfare. It not a systematical research but rather a collection of grim anecdotes. The fault of the book is that after description of some curious event the author usually doesn't tell whether is was a typical or a rare case. For example, he used Peter Wilson's book on Thirty Years' War (BTW, highly recommended) but failed to line up his conclusions against Wilson's who debunked several myths about that war.

Nevertheless, a rare perspective in assessing the information gives a lot of novelty to the book in proper elucidation of the chosen theme. The book is dedicated to taking "war and society" approach to the exteme. You won't find here anything about generals, weapons, tactics or battles. All that is left is the grizzly grizzliness of war: plunder, plague, mortality rate, hunger, sieges, sack, violence, fate of civilians and poor soldiers. As such, it is a wonderful overview, especially for those who still have illusions about Europe's past and European mentality. Certain European brutalities of warfare are unique and thus really shocking to look at from other historical experience.

The essence of the book may be captured in the following quote:
"The monstrosities of the early modern state were most visible in Europe's great powers. They put huge armies into the field, as we have seen, but could not afford to keep them there, save by means of theft and violence against their own people, not to speak of what their armies did to other peoples. They tended to treat their ordinary soldiers like the scum of the earth, broke every contract with them, and yet demanded their loyalty or were ready to see them flogged, mutilated, branded, shipped out as galley slaves, or hanged when they deserted. [...] When their armies went unpaid or hungry, the plunder and ravaging of rural communities was also a norm for the great powers. And they often proved to be largely worthless in their efforts to handle the mortal questions of wartime logistics."

Basically, that book is an expression of shock and awe that the author felt by touching a theme that was new for him. If you have read John Hales' old book on Warfare and society in Renaissance Europe, you will find little new here. So, that book gives us impressions of a newcomer who notices some things that seasoned veterans of research on Military Revolution tend to omit because of being too accustomed to that sort of cases.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No White Plumes Here, February 14, 2013
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This review is from: Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700 (Hardcover)
This is a very good book. To be honest, I expected something entirely different. I had read several books on warfare in early modern Europe and thought that this would be similar. Instead, the book looks at the underside of warfare during that period. It was an era in which a growing population dealt (or failed to deal with) an inelastic food supply and a growing inflation. These factors, among others, cheapened the life of soldiers and poor civilians in the eyes of aristocratic rulers and officers.

The author demonstrates, using gruesome but not uncommon examples, how rough and nasty the world of early modern warfare actually was. The thrill of battle is absent from this social history of war during the period. Instead there is an emphasis on death by disease, man-made starvation, collateral damage, and destruction of lives.

Martines emphasizes that there were hard fought battles and sieges during the period but few were decisive. Far more decisive were the epidemics and famines caused by stolen harvests or the population losses resulting from over-recruitment and the failure to keep armies in relative good health.

This book puts warfare of the period in much-needed perspective. It is necessary corrective to the romantic view of war in the pre-technological age. As such it is certainly worth a read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars interesting, but falls short of its potential, July 8, 2013
This review is from: Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700 (Hardcover)
"Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700" by Lauro Martines is the history of the nearly constant warfare on the European continent from the perspective of the average inhabitant (as opposed to the soldiers or the princes). The first-hand accounts he cites are fascinating (and largely from areas ignored by other historians), and really help the reader picture the horror and terror of the age...however...the author does not do a good job of stitching the accounts together in a way that would make this book an excellent history of the time. Instead, the accounts remain single, disjointed narratives--sadly, this book could have been much more.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A unique and gritty picture of a turbulent time, March 4, 2013
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Dr. Martinez presents a vivid, often grisly recantation of the emergence of modern Europe from a perspective not often seen in historical narrative. Most compelling are the descriptions of the horrors endured by the common folk of the day. Nobody was exempt from the privations of hunger, sickness, violence, and death visited
on the population of the continent by the constant wars which the period. It's surprising that anyone survived , soldier or civilian.

Even the nobility, who initiated most of the turmoil, were not exempt from suffering from disease and bloody killing, though there was some insulation at the highest levels. Princes and sovereigns fell to the unending scourge. The book details the. nastiness common to every conflict, particularly of the sieges of the walled cities, thought to be impregnable. The details are exquisitely excruciating.

A good historical work; very enlightening. My only criticism is that an introductory timeline would have helped readers not well acquainted with the history of the period to put the incidents he describes in perspective.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read from a non-military historian, February 4, 2014
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Lauro Martines writes the "Furies" after a career in non-military historical study. In the books conclusion, the author describes that "...I believed that the most demanding kind of history lay in tracking the ties that link high culture, social structure, and politics ... [fellow Harvard historians] regarded "military history" as the realm of simplicity, and therefore not worth pursuing ... But when at last I turned to war , that very distance or estrangement, I hoped, would enable me to see it freshly: from a vantage point that had had not been fixed by grooming of a military historian."

The Furies covers 150+ years of unremitting, bankrupting, generation consuming, total war in Europe in fewer than 300 pages. To the military history reader, Martine's Furies provides a story from the soldiers and civilian perspective between the end of the 100-Years War through the ending of conflicts connected with the Reformation. This is a massive, complex and defining time in Western civilization. The Furies flows from a greatly simplified snapshot gallery from The German Peasants' War (1524-1525), The Schmalkaldic War (1546-1547) in the Holy Roman Empire, The Eighty Years' War (1568-1648) in the Low Countries, The French Wars of Religion (1562-1598), The Thirty Years War (1618-1648), affecting the Holy Roman Empire including Habsburg Austria and Bohemia, France, Denmark and Sweden, The Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1639-1651), and the Nine Years' War (1688-97). Unfortunately, the author excludes the contemporary and simultaneous European Islamic Invasion wars. For Martines, the Furies is the Reformation's revolt.

As a deep diving military history reader of this period, The Furies is an interesting addition. It adds snippets from the front, on the march, and at the cities and there sackings to bring the blood and guts of conflict to the forefront. The strength is also its weakness. If this is the only history you read of this enormous, unparalleled, tragedy ... the reader risks drawing erroneous conclusions regarding how the Western World survived to be written about. The author draws heavily on the religious motivation to the chaos but then he follows the money ... as in all things, that path leads elsewhere.

The author jumps around chronologically and geographically without maps or table anchoring events within time and dynasty. You will need to access external references to make contextual sense of the horror story that Martines writes.

4 stars ... the author's 21st century biases bleed through. Other modern military historians are portraying a more nuanced, less religion motivated reality. The grievances of the parties that lead to nearly 200 years of sustained war is too easily distilled to hysterical religious motivations today. Combatants and cities switched sides/religions as quickly as it took to make life less threatening ... most of the time.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War is not just about the soldiers, December 10, 2013
Can I say I 'love' a book about something abhorrent? This one is well-written and scrupulously detailed, and eye-opening; it focuses on the human cost of war, rather than the political expediency, or excuses. Drawing from accounts of wars throughout Europe from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, it answers the questions: How were common soldiers, peasantry, or townsfolk affected in war-torn areas? The barbarity, cruelty, and savagery is unavoidable. Early modern European rulers were insatiable in their desire for war, but none had the money necessary to raise and pay their huge standing armies. The logistics of feeding and outfitting these armies stymied all the commanders; the starving soldiers were turned loose on the countryside to loot and pillage, rape and plunder. Since most armies became a conglomeration of mercenaries, there was no mercy or pity for the populace; looted booty was considered payment. Cities were sacked, after sieges led to all kinds of atrocities and inconceivable losses due to starvation and disease. Small villages and towns on the roads to and from battle were stripped bare, until the next miserable army found nothing left to plunder and razed them to the ground. This excellent book, measured and insightful, carefully reconstructs these experiences, leaving the reader with a growing sense of horror at the true, unsanitized face of war.
I received a copy from the San Francisco Book Review in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are my own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars About the common man, April 28, 2013
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Most books on warfare concentrate on the leadership, the battles and the politics. This book covers the fate of the unfortunate common men and women who had to live through the impact of large, under-supplied armies rampaging through thier villages, towns and cities. Also lays out to financial reasons why the armies where never given the supplies they needed, and the logistical issues, driven by cost, the lack of transport and other factors that made armies of this period behave like a plague of locusts wherever they went. Sounds boring, but it is kept lively by in-depth examination of various campaigns. Lots of information you will not find in most history books. Also reveals the medical, sanitation and disease challenges of large armies in this period. Drags a bit in a few sections, but if you want to understand how it really was, this is a good book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another eye-opening account of medieval Europe at its worst, May 27, 2013
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This review is from: Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700 (Hardcover)
I knew very little about European history in the period between 1450 - 1700, and even less about the particulars of how everyday armies and political decisions affected life throughout the continent. This was a fascinating book that informed me about how and why wars were fought so frequently on that continent and was interesting from start to finish. Best of all, it is written in easy to understand language for general readers such as myself. I recommend it very highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, August 2, 2013
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This review is from: Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700 (Hardcover)
In spite of all the discoveries and progress that were attributed to Europe during this period, the continent experienced continuous warfare. This book examines this from the vision of the average person who never knew if he/she would be alive from one day to the next. From a man's perspective, he may be inducted in the army to almost certain death.
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Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700
Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700 by Lauro Martines (Hardcover - January 15, 2013)
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