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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2020

13 - The Growth of Military Power and the Impact of State Military Violence in Western Europe, c. 1460 to 1560

from Part III - Social, Interpersonal and Collective Violence


This chapter discusses the growth of military systems in Western Europe during the period from 1460 to 1560, the preliminary stage of what has often, controversially, been called the ‘military revolution’. The main characteristics of military violence generated by dynastic wars were the inexorable growth of armies and the problems of pay and supply which accompanied this. Military technology affected both the nature and duration of wars: artillery came to dominate both in siege warfare, naval warfare and on the open battlefield. The lives of professional soldiers were drastically affected by new forms of trauma and medical treatment remained rudimentary. At the same time, the relations between soldiery and civilians continued to be conflictual, especially in war zones. Endemic violence accompanied any war. The features specific to this period combine a more intensive kind of violence brought about by changes in military technology and the scale of war with a broadly dysfunctional control system. This meant that the larger armies and more destructive campaign had an impact of casualties and losses among the soldiery as well as a chaotic impact on the ‘civilian’ population, though the patterns of ‘collateral’ violence remained much the same as they had been for centuries.