Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 October 2020
Over the past forty years, the military history of pre-Crusade Europe has benefited from considerable scholarly attention, with the notable exception of the kingdom of Germany. This lacuna is due, in large part, to Germany's own modern history and a tradition of hostility to the study of military matters in the aftermath of the Second World War. As a consequence of the neglect of this topic, the more general histories of medieval Germany tend to rely on outmoded generalizations regarding the conduct of war, which have been substantially refined or even abandoned for other regions of Europe. This study, therefore, is intended to help illuminate the nature of warfare in early eleventh-century Germany through an examination of the lengthy military conflict between the German ruler, King Henry II (1002– 24) and Duke Boleslav Chrobry of Poland (992–1025). In the context of examining the series of military campaigns undertaken by Henry II in the period from 1004 to 1017, this essay considers the interplay of politics, military organization, logistics, strategy, and tactics with the pursuit of long-term objectives.
In comparison to the West, the military history of the German kingdom in the period before c.1150 has received very little attention from scholars since the publications of Hans Delbrück, and this is particularly true of the history of individual campaigns. As a consequence, the rather dire image of an era bereft of even minimal elements of military science in the German kingdom, postulated by Delbrück, has remained largely unchallenged in current scholarship. In an effort to fill this lacuna, the present study focuses on the eastern campaigns of King Henry II of Germany (1002–24) against the Polish duke Boleslav Chrobry (992–1025). These campaigns provide a highly illuminating case study for the ways in which an early medieval ruler pursued long-term military objectives while attempting to overcome a range of challenges that included establishing sound logistics, mobilizing and transporting large armies over considerable distances, and maintaining tactical and operational security, as well as addressing competing political and military priorities both within and beyond the frontiers of Germany.