Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe by B.S. Hall

I have just finished reading Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe by Bert S. Hall.

It examines several aspects of warfare in the later middle ages and sixteenth century, but concentrates on the effect of gunpowder in western Europe, gunpowder production, gunpowder weapon development and tactics, and its consequences in relation to other military arms and tactical development (heavy cavalry and pike squares).

It is a fine and detailed study, and although there was nothing that I did not know already (outside of gunpowder production and how it works - it is not as simple as "it goes bang"), it does state WHAT IS KNOWN about firearms and tactics very clearly.

One thing, which I found most interesting, was his interpretation of arquebus "volleys" during the Battle of Pavia. He has deduced that the volley fire came about due to the heavy fog. The arquebusier being 'loaded', saw a unit of French loom out of the mist at close range and fired at all at once, the French unit would disappear back into the mist and having no target the arquebusier would reload and await the next target looming out of the mist. I can see this, and it is a very clever conclusion as to how fire control during this battle was different to that in other battles - they were allowed time to reload because the French could not see them, at a distance, to launch an organised charge against them. The mist became 'the wall' for the arquebusier to operate behind.

The book is a good addition to my library. I can recommend it in the 'further reading' category for those with a keen interest in 16th Century warfare. It does not provide much in the way of information that will be directly useful for 'war gaming the period'.

I bought it from Amazon; it is a fine second hand copy in hardback, which I managed to pick up at a similar price to a new paper back (£18.50 including postage). This is something I've noticed before, and I much prefer hardbacks, even if they are not exactly in perfect condition.


Gonsalvo said...

I agree, good book. Doesn't break any new ground, really, but excellent summary and presentation of what we do know. It certainly had some influence on the development of the second edition of Band of Brothers!

David Sullivan said...

I have this book and read it years ago. I particularly like his discussion of gunpowder manufacture.


It is an oldish book, but books on Renaissance Warfare (especially the 16th Century stuff) are so few and far between that I tend to buy a lot of books that parrot the same thing over and over again. This one, at least, approached it from an angle I've not seen covered in such detail.

The production of gunpowder and how it works section was, as you say David, very interesting.

Vladdd309 said...

This book has sat in my Amazon wish list for a few months, maybe I'll get round to reading it after these positive comments. Thanks!

Victor said...

This is a great book and has been in my library for a long time. Its the book that got me started with gaming the Renaissance era.