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The Business of War
Military Enterprise and Military Revolution in Early Modern Europe


  • Date Published: March 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521514835

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About the Authors
  • This is a major new approach to the military revolution and the relationship between warfare and the power of the state in early modern Europe. Whereas previous accounts have emphasised the growth of state-run armies during this period, David Parrott argues instead that the delegation of military responsibility to sophisticated and extensive networks of private enterprise reached unprecedented levels. This included not only the hiring of troops but their equipping, the supply of food and munitions, and the financing of their operations. The book reveals the extraordinary prevalence and capability of private networks of commanders, suppliers, merchants and financiers who managed the conduct of war on land and at sea, challenging the traditional assumption that reliance on mercenaries and the private sector results in corrupt and inefficient military force. In so doing, the book provides essential historical context to contemporary debates about the role of the private sector in warfare.

    • Offers an alternative view of early modern warfare, challenging state-centred models and breaking with some of the key assumptions about an early modern 'military revolution'
    • The first detailed account of privatised military activity and organisation from 1500 to 1700
    • Challenges assumptions about the military effectiveness of mercenaries and the viability of privatised military organisation; debates with particular contemporary relevance
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'David Parrott's sparkling and deeply-considered study is a seminal contribution to the history of warfare and government in all periods, and reveals that 'military outsourcing' was normal long before the Iraq War brought it into the headlines. Highly original in argument and notably lively in presentation, it will become a modern classic.' Hamish Scott, University of Glasgow

    'David Parrott deftly explores the various shades of grey in the public private partnership between early modern state and military entrepreneurs. He proves that more often than not private enterprise simply did perform more efficiently than the state.' Lothar Höbelt, University of Vienna

    'This splendid survey prompts many further questions … but the history of early modern warfare will never look the same again.' History Today

    'This is an extremely important book. It marks a major reevaluation of almost everything we have believed about warfare in early modern Europe. It is not a picture of technology-driven change (though Parrott is aware of the significance of such innovations as the flintlock musket and ring bayonet), but instead a clear-eyed and unsentimental thesis showing how administrative and economic developments pushed warfare along specific lines. … The range of Parrott's scholarship - especially in the German literature - is prodigious; the footnotes alone are worth the price of admission. Military historians will doubtless debate the details for some time to come, but that is the point: all subsequent work in early modern military history will have to take into account the Parrott thesis.' Renaissance Quarterly

    'His scholarship draws on literature in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, with touches of scholarship in Swedish, Danish and Dutch. Few scholars have his Braudellian sweep, or the technical chops to bring together this mass of material into a cogent argument praising the efficiency of private capital in the military realm.' Gregory Hanlon, European History Quarterly

    'Now it is evident that The Business of War will become our new reference point. However, this book is something more than a summary of recent research on the subject. This is the first major study that is free from old prejudices and examines facts at their face value.' Anton Tomsinov, Strife

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2012
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521514835
    • length: 448 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.82kg
    • contains: 27 b/w illus. 10 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Foundations and Expansion:
    1. Military resources for hire, 1450–1560
    2. The expansion of military enterprise, 1560–1620
    3. Diversity and adaptation: military enterprise during the Thirty Years' War
    Part II. Operations and Structures:
    4. The military contractor at war
    5. The business of war
    6. Continuity, transformation and rhetoric in European warfare after 1650

  • Author

    David Parrott, University of Oxford
    David Parrott is a Fellow and Lecturer at New College, University of Oxford. His previous books include Richelieu's Army: War, Government and Society in France, 1624–1642 (Cambridge, 2001).

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