Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review - Fury: War in Europe 1450-1700

I just finished reading, Fury: War in Europe 1450-1700 by Lauro Martines. I found it interesting abd well worth the read. As military history it is a little unusual (at least in my experience as a non-historian). It is focused not on the rulers and generals, not on the grand strategy or the diplomacy of the period, nor on the great battles or historical turning points. Fury focuses on issues of supply and transport; on food and logistics; on farming, revenue, and taxes; and on the consequences of the failure of the state to pay or feed their armies. Fury looks at the effect of war on the common people whether peasant, townsman, soldier, or camp follower.

And its not a pretty picture.

But it is chock full of interesting stories and primary source facts about the armies in the period.

So rather than me nattering on further - if you want that you can look at other reviews about Martines' book. Instead here is a sampling of the interesting nuggets I found inside.


p. 129-130

  • 18% to 25% or more of people in cities lived from hand to mouth and were ranked poor or destitute;
  • In 15th century Florence, 1/5 of the city’s population was listed as “wretched” (miserabili);
  • In about 1500 Lubeck and Hamburg had 20% to 25% of people living on public assistance;
  • In 1618 Augsburg’s tax officials put 48% of residents into the class of the penniless;
  • In the Low Countries—as elsewhere in Europe—about half the income of the average poor family was spent on bread alone; in contrast in the early 21st century the poor in the UK spend 20% of income on all their foods
  • p. 135 and end note
  • 169,764 and 163,909 florins each an amount large enough to buy dozens or even scores of houses in Augsburg;
  • The cobbler Herble bougha house near Ulm for 740 florins in 1627, but sold it in 1636 for 300 florins; property in the city [within the walls] was more valuable. Note Siege of Augsburg in 1634.

The City Moves p. 147

·         6 months food for 10,000 men estimated at 8,200 to 12,000 tons of foodstuffs.

The Soft Core of Logistics: Food

p. 150-151

  • 10,000 men require 9.5 tons ( 19,000 pounds) of grain for bread per day;
  • In 1607 despite the many towns in the Netherlands, “the Dutch army’s provisioning train included 3 prefabricated windmills, 3 watermills, 26 hand mills, 25 baker’s kilns, an dtools to build mills and handle grain.
  • At the 1573 Siege of La Rochelle, royal forces started out with 7,000 men and would finally have 18,000; they were promised a daily supply of 30,000 loaves of bread, 10,800 pintes of wine (pinte: .093 liter), and 20,000 pounds of beef.

p. 153-154

  • In one week of 16423, the Marquis of Ormond’s royalist forces in Leinster, number 4,000 to 7,000 foot and horse, consumed “49,248 pounds of butter, 49,649 pounds of cheese, 447 barrels of wheat and rye, 367 barrels of peas, and 356 barrels of oats.”
  • 1.5 pounds of bread each day was considered the minimum ration without which no soldier cold survive; but this ration meant slow starvation without other food;
  • In the field walking for 6-8 hours per day with a moderate load, a soldier required 3,400 to 3,600 calories per day.
  • 1.5 pounds of bread provided about 1,875 calories.

Wagons and Horses

p. 155-156

  • Huguenot contract in the middle of the Wars of Religion wanted 1 wagon for every 4-6 horses;
  • Landsknechts 1 wagon/10 men;
  • Early 17th century 1 wagon/15 men with  2-4 horses to pull the wagon;
  • Maurice of Nassau with 24,000 men had a train of 3,000 wagons for a ratio of 1 wagon/8 men;
  • In 1606 Spinola’s 15,000 men had atrain of 2,000 to 2,500 wagons for a rtion of 1 wagon/ 6 to 7.5 men;
  • In 1624 11,000 Spaniards and Italians had 673 pack mules for 1/16 or 17 men.

p. 157

  • Theoretical army of 40,000 foot and 20,000 horse would have 20,000 horses for the baggage train and 90,000 rations of bread; assuming 2-4 horses per wagon that would be about 5,000 – 10,000 wagons.
  • War horses were usually walked not ridden; heavy cavalry typically had more than one horse;
  • Marching pace of 20km/day for Early Modern armies vs. 35-40km/day for Modern armies; slower pace attributed to lack of food (other factors not mentioned: spent foraging instead of making forward progress; and the poor state of the roads compared to Modern or Ancient Roman periods).

p. 158

  • In the late 15th century war horses in Italy were scare, good ones sold for not less than 30 gold ducats, and the best went for 80 or 90 ducats;
  • 80-90 ducats was nearly 2 years wages for a master crafsman in the Venetian shipyards.
  • In northern Europe the 17th century saw horse prices reach a new peak; a fine cavalry horse in the Netherlands in 1646 was worth more than twice the value of a black galley slave and 12 times that of an Irish infantryman—which tells us something about the wages of Irish soldiers on the Continent.

p. 159

  • A horse may carry 1/5 of its own weight;
  • Requires 20-24 lbs of feed per day or even 30 lbs or more if doing hard work and half of the feed should be grain with the other half fodder;
  • Once a horse is “worn out by several days of excessive work and inadequate rations” it becomes unfit for further use and full recovery requires good nourishment and 4-5 months rest.
  • Consequence: armies in the period confiscated any horses they could find to replace worn out horses.

Wagon Trains and Camp Followers p. 161-162

  • German observer in 1615 “when you recruit a regiment of German soldiers today, you do not only acquire 3,000 soldiers; along with these you will certainly find 4,000 woman and children.”Ratios for camp listed include 4:3
  • Wives, other women, and children trailed behind columns of soldiers. Varieties of servants, the lackeys of officers and other helpers also traveled with armies.
  • At the end of the 15th century Charles VIII of France declared “that he fed 48,000 to 50,000 mouths a day to maintain an army of 20,000 combatants in the field.”
  • Army of Flanders: tail might number from 8 to 53 percent of a combat unit.
  • During Thirty Years War, soldiers were outnumbered by their camp followers, but this was not generally the case.
  • For the Thirty Years War the camp follower ration often attained parity: one noncombatant for every soldier.
  • “Apart from women, children, and officer’s lackeys, camp followers also included varieties of artisans, such as carpenters, wheelwrights, and smiths in addition to sutlers (vendors of food and drink), pawnbrokers, medical quacks, old veterans, and all sorts of other hangers-on. Here was the society of the early modern army, a community. But this itinerant city, with all its afflictions, could not have gone on for as long as it did without the solace, comforts, and family ways of provided by women. And rulers put up with it because they could not raise large armies, or hold them together, without a tail of camp followers.

Billeting p. 166-167

  • Quartering soldiers on civilian populations whether friendly or enemy was the universal practice
  • The targeted household provided a bed or beds, kitchen facilities, firewood, salt, vinegar, candles, and other items.
  • In peacetime, on paper, this was regulated and civilians were to be reimbursed for their expenses or to have these deducted from their taxes
  • In practice reimbursement frequently feel short in peacetime

Plunder p. 186

·         Standard scale for war ransoming in the period equaled the yearly income of the victim.

Hell in the Villages p. 209

  • In remarkably fertile land (Hohenlohe) 1 measure of seed grain could produce 7 or 8 measures of harvested grain.
  • 8 acres of this land could produce enough grain to feed a family of 3 for a year—with no surplus.
  • A family of 8-10 required about 25 acres of that land for their subsistence.
  • 52% of households never produced enough grain on their small plots of land to feed themselves while another 20% or more lived on the margins of self-sufficiency.
  • Land more commonly was less fertile with yield ratios of 1-4 or even as low as 1-3.
  • The German countryside was a world of poverty.
  • German peasantry might hold on to life by doing paid farm labor, keeping a kitchen garden, raising a pig or two for the market, or growing an spinning flax into thread for sale.

Bankers and Public Debt p. 228

  • Bank depositors earned 5% interest
  • Loans charged 12-35% interest or even 67%
  • Bankers concealed loan rates in part to avoid charges of usury
  • On top of interest, exchange transactions of the type that moved capital across the face of Europe long commanded fees in the range of at least 12% of the sums to be moved.
  • In the 1540s Mary of Hungary had money sent from the Hapsburg Netherlands to her troops in German. The sum was repaid in Flanders with funds from Spain, a double transfer and 40 percent of the original money was lost in the two currency exchanges;

Spending p. 238-240

  • In France the numbers of proprietary officeholders climbed from 4,041 in 1515 to 11,000 by 1600, leaping to 46,047 by 1665, with another jump to about 60,000 before the end of the century
  • In the first half of the 17th century sale of venal officers was about 28% or more of ordinary revenue
  • Sometimes venal office holders were forced to make loans to the crown in return for rentes—bonds in royal debt promising a steady return of annual income for buyers.
  • Officeholders could also buy the right to will the office to their heirs.
  • In Castile by 1665 there were 30,000 venal officeholders; a ratio of 1 officeholder per 166 inhabitants.
  • In France with 46,047 by 1665 the ratio was 1 per 380 inhabitants.

As you can see, Fury is chock full of facts of interest to a gamer with an interest in historical games and it contains useful ideas for any realistically based fantasy games.

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