Book Review: War, Entrepreneurs, and the State in Europe and the Mediterranean, 1300-1800

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by Jeff Fynn-Paul, editor

Leiden / Boston: E. J. Brill, 2014. Pp. xii, 356. Diagr., tables, notes, biblio., index. $218.00. ISBN: 900424364X

The Military Businessman and Mercenaries from the High Middle Ages to the Age of Revolution

Albeit dealing with a period centuries in the past, this is a surprisingly timely work, given, as the introduction notes, that mercenaries – now called “private security organizations” – have had a revival since the onset of the Iraq War in 2003.   The introduction , by Dr. Fynn-Paul (Leiden) and two other scholars, opens by examining examine the role of mercenaries in state formation from late Medieval through the Early Modern Period, when state instructions became sufficiently strong as to support permanent military forces. 

There follow fourteen essays on various aspects of this trend . These are grouped into four categories :

“The Medieval Origins of Military Entrepreneurialism ” has two chapters examining respectively mercenary forces in Florence and Aragon in the mid-fourteenth century.

Early Modern Evolution: Varieties of Entrepreneurial Freedom,” seven papers covering military entrepreneurs and mercenaries in the Thirty Tears’ War , in British service in during the Wars of the Spanish Succession and the American Revolution and by the Royal African Company and the Royal Navy across the eighteenth century, and two essay dealing the mercenaries in Dutch service, followed by one about Austrian problems provisioning an army the mid-eighteenth century.

“Early Modern Evolution: Controlling and Circumventing the Entrepreneur,” address the gradual introduction of state mechanisms to oversee and ultimately replace mercenaries, with an essay on increasing government control of military entrepreneurs by Louis XIV and two covering the Spanish experience in the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries.

The final section, “Ottoman Perspectives” has and essay which address the Ottoman experience with mercenary forces and military entrepreneurs in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and one on the eighteenth century

Students of the nature of state formation and the development of “national” armies will certainly find this an important work, but since individual chapters focus on particular countries in specific periods – fourteenth century Aragon, seventeenth century Germany, Britain in the American War for Independence, and so forth – these will prove of value to specialists in those areas.

Note: A volume in the Brill series “History of Warfare,” War, Entrepreneurs, and the State in Europe and the Mediterranean is also available as an eBook, $218.00 ISBN 978-9-0042-7130-2 .

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Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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