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on 23 June 2010
The Osprey Elite books are a series of very influential, brief, and highly illustrated `dips' into the chosen subject matter. Of considerable importance to their target audiences, namely wargamers and general history readers who desire to know a little of the flavour of the subject, they are nevertheless self-consciously nothing more than accessible introductions to the subject. It therefore surprises me that other reviewers have criticised this book as being `unbalanced', or too short. It's an Osprey, not a thesis.

The thrust of the work is that the development of infantry units into smaller, more mobile, broader fronted formations, deployed into self-supporting linens, backed up by light field artillery; made possible the best effective use of infantry firepower to break up massed shock assaults by heavily armed but plodding tercios of pike and shot. This development was triggered by a contemporary rediscovery and re-evaluation of the classic republican Roman army. Due to the necessary constraints of space Roberts has had to adopt a rigorous teleological approach to his subject matter - the development of pike and shot tactics and the eventual supersession of the Spanish tercio system during one of the crucial phases of the `Military Revolution' being accepted as a given.

The development of infantry formations into a mobile, predominately firepower orientated system was a somewhat faltering process. The Dutch victory at Nieuport showed that the new system could work, The Swedish, who developed the Dutch style into their own, confirmed it at Breitenfeld (though, ironically, the allied Saxon army drawn up in Dutch style were routed), and Rocroi established it. However, before Breitenfeld the Spanish tercio system continued to gain battlefield success. In fact, once the Imperial and Spanish forces had learned to adapt their tercios to using similar tactics (crushing the Swedish and Protestant armies at Nordlingen), a new composite `German' system gained precedence. Roberts skilfully guides us through this process with a stunning display of military theory, ably backed by wonderful and lucid illustrations to reveal exactly how armies of the period fought.

My only minor criticism would be that little explanation is given to the reasons why the progressive German states who adopted the new Dutch tactics continued to lose against the Spanish and Imperial tercios. It would have been useful to have seen a paragraph or two devoted to the enormous costs involved in reforming armies to deliver Dutch style tactics. One of the key aspects of the Military Revolution being the necessary Financial Revolution needed to maintain trained armies in the field. The huge increase in trained junior officers and NCOs' required to implement the Dutch and Swedish style of warfare could only be done by State's with the wealth to sustain it. That is why the Dutch were able to train and maintain forces drilled in the new styles and the small German states weren't. In a similar vein, the perennial financial problems of the Spanish State meant as long as the tercio system could still provide battlefield success, there were pressing economic reasons why the Spanish were reluctant to change their system, other than adapting the tercio to enable more firepower to be brought to effect. This is reflected in the Spanish persisting with the tercio system right up until 1704.

Overall, this book provides an excellent and affordable insight into the development of pike and shot tactics in the first half of the Seventeenth Century and I highly recommended it to all.
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on 16 March 2010
As a book I'd hoped to see for a long time, I probably shouldn't be surprised when it doesn't quite live up to expectations. Whilst by no means a "bad" book, it is a little unbalanced. It seems upon reading that the author is keen to demonstrate an evolution in tactics from the self-conscious classicism of Nassau's infantry battalion drills, through Gusatvus' peculiarly Swedish interpretation, to the composite "German" model of the later Thirty Years War and English Civil War. This is actually very well done for both infantry and cavalry, with ample diagrams and contemporary quotes to illustrate and support his discussion. However, there appears to be a curious lack of interest in the Spanish/Imperial tercios, with little more than a page and a half devoted to the workings of a formation which proved the mainstay of Dutch and Swedes opponents until the early 1630's. I'm not sure if it was the author's intention, but there is a clear implication that the defeat of the Spanish army at the Battle of Nieuport in 1600 somehow "proved" the superiority of the Dutch system; the fact that Tilly - whose troops fought in this now discredited formation - consistently defeated the armies of every more progressive enemy general during the Bohemian and Danish phases of the Thirty Years War doesn't seem to register!

The artwork is adequate - the reduction of the original paintings to the pre-requisite A4 robs the reader of a chance to really examine the excellent renditions of the troops inset into the panoramic illustrations of formed units.

Overall, it's a good book which serves as a useful framework to tie together Osprey's other works on the period, even though some of the individual titles (the "Campaign" books on Edgehill and Lutzen, and the Gustavus' Swedes in the Men-at-Arms series) may actually do a better job of describing formations and tactics.
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on 27 January 2014
The author provides us with a comprehensive surveys of the tactical theories that dominated the period in succession. In the end however I cannot say I clearly understand how real fighting was; What I miss more is some detail about the weapons and their use: what was the rate of fire of the various types of individual fire arms? what was the caliper and the effectiveness of field and siege guns? Etc.
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on 19 January 2011
First of all let me state that I am usually only moved to reviewing books which I have purchased and been disappointed with. Having said that, I really wanted to like this book. However, I felt frustration constantly creeping in due to a text which does not shed any new light and predictably goes on to report the supposed super tactics of one side and the failings of the other which seems to be an established idea in the traditional historiography of certain countries. The author constantly advocates for the effectiveness of Swedish army tactics but fails to mention the causes of the Swedish defeat at the battle of Nördlingen and its consequences. In fact, this book barely mentions Nördlingen (once?) and in fact, totally omits it from the index. For the life of me, I cannot quite grasp how the Thirty Years War lasted...thirty years!

In a time of religious intolerance and widespread brutality, it is the taking of the city of Mechlin by a certain army that allows the author the opportunity to include a snidish mention of "infamous atrocities", which immediately obviates objectivity in the work. It is not the first time historical impartiality is thrown out of the window in an Osprey title. You know the style: The infamous Duke of Alba, the notorious Spanish tercios, the dastardly Inquisistion yet the methodical William Cecil, the plucky pirates and the steadfast patriot, Oliver Cromwell.

In conclusion, though I understand that not a lot of information can be crammed into such few pages, I would appreciate it if certain Osprey writers took the time to write objectively, and relied on a wider pool of sources readily available in this day and age so as to update traditional dogmatic viewpoints. If this does not occur, modern-day historiography will once again fall back into the times when it was solely used to instil jingoistic pride repeating ad infinitum what biased historians had written generation after generation with scant concern to precision and veracity. At this rate, what are the chances of having Isandlwana,1879 in another book on famous battles that changed the world? With this established never-to-be-eradicated way of writing history, you bet!
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on 9 April 2010
I came away from this book with the impression that the author had an awful lot of knowledge to cram in but wasn't sure quite how to go about it in the space available.

Certain areas of tactics of the era were gone over several times, from slightly different angles creating an overall effect of a disjointed and repetitive structure to the book.

Despite this a lot of useful information can be gleaned from a careful reading of the text and from the informative figures.
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on 14 April 2010
Excellent introduction to an overview of development tactics 1/2 17c.
It is a short description of the evolution of military tactics.
Unfortunately, the scope of the book does not have a focus on details.
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From the author's Last Word on page 62:
"Contemporary evidence for any battle in this period is fragmentary, whether from surviving accounts, from records of pay, muster or supply, or from battlefield archaeology. Essentially, we have pieces of a puzzle but will never have all of them. One advantage in understanding battlefield tactics from the contemporary commander's perspective is that it is possible to understand what he intended to do on the battlefield and what he had trained his men to do, and to use this to expand our interpretation of other records and evidence".

I have been trying to understand what actually went on on the battlefield in the 16th and 17th centuries for about 30 years, and it I still find it fairly obscure. here you have as clear an account as you will find.

The chapters are
The Contemporary General's Perspective
The Spanish Army
The Dutch Reforms
The Thirty Years' War
The Swedish Intervention
The English Civil War

You will note the chapter subjects only take us up to the late 1640s. It is safe to assume there are no major new developments until after 1660.

The colour plates are reasonably good - there's not much you can do with deployments, but the inclusion of little vignetes of the troops involved liven them up no end. The plates are
The Dutch Battalion and firing system
Brigade Deployment: Danish Army, 1625 (diagram with a vignette)
The Swedish Brigade, 1630
Swedish Formation at Pfaffenhofen, 1633
English Royalist formation at Edgehill, 1642
Spanish and French formations at Rocroi, 1643
English Royalist and Parliamentarian formations at Naseby, 1645
Cavalry Deployment

The B&W illustrations are also a reasonable selection.

Further Reading:
The best description I have found of contemporary battlefield activity is/are "The Commentaries of Sir Francis Vere", who commanded the English forces in the Netherlands at the end of Elizabeth I's reign, He was at the Battle of Nieupoort and the Siege of Ostend. These are available in C.H. Firth's STUART TRACTS 1603 - 1693 and are an invaluable source, quite readable. A biography is also availabe - The Fighting Veres: Lives of Sir Francis Vere and Sir Horace Vere.
Exercise of Arms: Warfare in the Dutch Revolt (1568-1648) (History of Warfare)
The Complete Soldier: Military Books and Military Culture in Early Stuart England, 1603-1645 (History of Warfare)
Elizabethan Military Science
The Swedish Intelligencer. Wherein Out of the Truest and Choysest Informations Are the Famous Actions of That Warlike Prince Historically Led Along, f
An Apprenticeship in Arms: The Origins of the British Army 1585-1702
Henry VIII's Military Revolution: The Armies of Sixteenth-century Britain and Europe (International Library of Historical Studies)

Jeremy Black - A Military Revolution?: Military Change and European Society, 1550-1800 (Studies in European history) - Pages 10-12:
"The battles of the Thirty Years War, unlike some of the famous encounters in the Italian wars, were not generally determined by different tactics and weaponry. Instead their results reflected differing experience and morale and if forces were fairly evenly matched in terms of veterans they were either inconclusive encounters or determined by other factors such as terrain, the availability and employment of reserves and the results of the cavalry encounters on the flanks which, if conclusive, could lead to the victorious cavalry attacking their opponent's infantry in flank or rear, as happened at the Spanish defeat at Rocroi (1643). Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, a German prince who served Sweden in 1630-5 before transferring with the army he had raised to French service, won a number of battles by outmanoeuvring his opponents, outflanking them and attacking them from the rear. At Jankov (1645) the Swedes under Torstensson were initially unable to defeat the Austrian force, which was also about 15,000 strong, but finally won as a result of outmanoeuvring their opponents and attacking them from the rear. The Austrians lost their army, the Swedes benefited from tactical flexibility of their more experienced force.

Indeed victory commonly went to the larger army and the more experienced force rather than to that which had adopted Dutch-style tactics. At Rocroi there were 24,000 French to 17,000 Spaniards; at the White Mountain (1620) 28,000 in the army of the Catholic League against 21,000 Bohemians and German Protestants; at Nordlingen (1634) 33,000 Catholics to 25,000 Protestants; at Breitenfeld Gustavus Adolphus outnumbered his opponents by 42,000 to 35,000. Breitenfeld was the largest battle, in terms of manpower, of the war and exceptionally so for a conflict in which field armies were rarely more than 30,000 strong and the creation of larger forces posed major logistical problems. Lutzen (1632), where the two forces were about the same, each 19,000 strong, was partly for that reason essentially inconclusive.

The Saxons at Breitenfeld adopted the Dutch tactics of small units deployed in relatively narrow formations, but they broke when the Austrians attacked. Ernest, Count of Mansfeld, a leading anti-Habsburg general of the early years of the war, also adopted Dutch tactics without conspicuous success. Victory tended in general to go larger armies, especially if more experienced, as the Spaniards, Swedes, Weimarians and some of the Austrian and Bavarian units were. Saxe-Weimar rejected the Dutch tactics and in the late 1630s used his heavily cavalry-based army, which was essentially self-sustaining, to fight in an aggressive fashion. Thus, consideration of the battles of the period suggests that Roberts' stress on new infantry tactics is misleading."
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on 10 September 2011
El libro es interesante. Sin embargo, a mi parecer, deja en el tintero los orígenes de la guerra moderna. Las guerras de Italia y los Tercios Españoles como base de todo lo que comenta el libro. Efectivamente habla de mejoras en el sistema de guerra, pero estas mejoras y tácticas son evoluciones de los sistemas y tácticas de combate previas. Las de los legendarios Tercios de Infantería Españoles.

En este sentido el libro me decepciona.
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on 2 December 2015
The book arrived on time as described, and well packed.
Another in the Osprey series.
The period is well covered and expands my knowledge of the ECW .
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on 26 May 2016
This is a very informative book, and is by far the best of the set of small books I have bought on the period. Highly recommended.
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