Book Review: Women, Armies, and Warfare in Early Modern Europe


by John A. Lynn II

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Pp. xii, 239. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $24.99 paper. ISBN:0521897653

A readable, informative, and often amusing study of the role of women in European armies from 1500 through 1815, termed by the author a "preliminary" look, which is refreshingly free of agenda and dogmatism. 

Observing that the military roles of women in early modern times have often been overlooked, Lynn, author of several works on the military practice of the period (Bayonets of the Republic, The Sun King at War, etc.), notes that at the time, the fact that women were more or less part of armies was hardly news, though their role declined over the period. 

Lynn opens with some basic questions and then proceeds to discuss the nature of armies in the period.  He  follows this with three chapters looking at the roles of women in armies, using a good many case studies drawn from memoirs, fiction, and contemporary popular culture. In " Camp Women " we have a look at the roles of "Prostitutes, Whores, and Wives," while "Women's Work" deals with women and the management and internal economy of armies. "Warrior Women" deals with women who fought, as was customary during sieges, and in the ranks, often disguised as men, but sometimes openly, and reminds us that noblewomen often took command of forts and even armies in the absence of their husbands or sons. This is the best chapter in the book, for it explores a surprisingly large number memoirs and literary portrayals of women-in-arms. 

The book ends with an essay "Proposing Answers and Suggesting Hypotheses," which points to a need for further inquiry.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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