Note to Self: We hear a lot about the military revolution at the end of the sixteenth century: we hear about Gustaf Adolf, about Maurice van Nassau, even about (the earlier) Gonsalvo de Cordoba. We hear about the effective use of firearms and cannon. Discipline. Logistics—both ammunition supply and keeping guys fed and (relatively) plague free. And we hear of the victories won by Maurice van Nassau and Gustaf Adolf of Sweden over the half-modernized Spanish and Austrian armies, just as we hear of the victories won a century earlier by Gonsalvo de Cordoba and his half-modernized tercios over the unmodernized Italian mercenaries and French cavaliers. But we don't hear much about similarly striking victories won a little bit earlier somewhat further to the east...
...We hear little about Babur the Mogul or about Mehmet II the Conqueror of the House of Osman. Yet when Mehmet II takes Constantinople in 1453 it is with the largest and most technologically advanced artillery park the world had ever seen. Ottoman expansion owed a great deal to the—for the age—remarkable discipline and training of the slave-janissary core of the army around which the sipahis coalesced.
Similarly, when Babur comes over the Hindu Kush into India early in the sixteenth century, his armies are outnumbered ten-to-one by the cavalry of the Delhi Sultanate. Yet Babur wins—because of superior firepower, superior discipline, and superior tactics (for example, the use of carts as mobile battlefield obstacles to cavalry charges). To me, at least, the accounts of Babur's conquest of the Delhi Sultanate (and the accounts of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans and of Anatolia) read a lot like accounts of the British conquest of India three centuries later: a profound organizational edge that tells.
How did the armies of Gustaf Adolf and Maurice van Nassau compare to those of leading-edge Islam a century or more before? How did they compare—in discipline and in logistics—to the janissaries of Mehmet the Conqueror or Suleiman the Lawgiver, or to the troops that crossed the Indus with Babur the Moghul (after, remember losing the struggle for Samarkand)?
#economichistory #notetoself #notebookecon135 #2019-10-28