Book Review: Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700


by Lauro Martines

London / New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013. Pp. xvi, 320. Illus., append., notes, biblio., index. $28.00. ISBN: 1608196097

Warfare in Europe from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment

Renaissance scholar Martines, author of such notable works as Power and Imagination: City-States in Renaissance Italy, gives us a look at how warfare changed, and how it didn’t change, in Europe from the mid-fifteenth century to the early eighteenth.   He rejects a purely chronological approach in favor of a thematic one. 

Martines opens with “A War Mosaic,” which gives us an overview of the entire period through a series of “snapshots” of events and individuals.  He follows this with “Soldiers,” about the evolution of soldiering and military life in the period.  Then comes “Sacking Cities,” which hardly needs comment.  In “Weapons and Princes” Martines discusses how rulers began to cope with the increasing cost and effectiveness of weapons,” which is followed by “Siege” and “Armies,” about the conduct of war.  In “Plunder” and “Hell in the Villages” Martines explores the sordid side of war and soldiering in the period, while in “Killing for God” he looks at the rise of the wars of Religion.  Finally, in “The State: Emerging Leviathan” Martines discusses how the increasing complexity and cost of war led to the rise of the modern state, albeit not everywhere. 

In telling his tale, Martines moves easily between a top-down account and a bottom up one, with liberal use of  specific cases to illustrate broad trends or patterns.  He is careful to integrate his account of war in the period into the broader pattern of political, social, and cultural trends, the rise of the nation-state, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and the growth of a global economy.  Martines’s principal fault is that he while his appendix explains the various types of money in use in the period, he does not give us some idea of its relative value; adding the cost of a good meal for a poor family at a particular time and place, while not very precise, would at least give us a notion of its relative value at the time. 

Furies is an excellent introduction to the conduct of war in the period of the rise of Europe.

Note:  Furies is also available in paperback for $18.00, ISBN 978-1-6081-9618-0.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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