Early Modern

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Marlborough and Eugene

The late Richard Holmes considered Marlborough to be Britain’s greatest general. He was probably right. But, like many great commanders, Marlborough was paired with a man of comparable calibre: Prince Eugene of Savoy. So outstanding were Eugene’s talents that Napoleon listed him among history’s top seven generals. Together, the two men shaped a continent.

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Afghanistan: graveyard of armies

A huge, mountainous, landlocked Central Asian state, Afghanistan has defied invaders for 2,500 years. Jules Stewart takes a look at the country’s military longue durée.     Taken in historical context, the 13-year presence of NATO combat troops in Afghanistan amounted to scarcely a footnote to centuries of foreign military intervention in the country. From the […]

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Chakdara: the other Rorke’s Drift?

The epic defence of Chakdara is intriguing. It lasted a week (26 July-2 August 1897), involved 240 men defending an isolated post against up to 8,000 tribal warriors, and had a big impact on the British public back home at the time. But no VCs were awarded, and the action is almost totally forgotten today. Why?

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Niccolò Machiavelli: the father of Renaissance warfare

Iain King examines the relationship between war and thought in the writings of Niccolò Machiavelli. “Men rise from one ambition to another; first they seek to secure themselves against attack, then they attack others.” – Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 1532 Machiavelli was many things: a scholar and writer, a spin doctor for the government of his […]

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The Royal Navy’s Darkest Day: Medway 1667

Patrick Boniface recalls one of the most humiliating defeats in the history of Britain’s Royal Navy. To the people of Chatham the approaching ships on the River Medway must have looked impressive. Under full sail a Dutch flotilla was racing towards the Royal Navy stronghold intent on causing maximum damage. The June 1667 raid on […]

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What really happened at the Battle of Culloden?

  Culloden has been frequently presented as a battle fought by an incompetent, ill-equipped, and badly led Jacobite army wielding swords against superior, professional Redcoats armed with muskets. A new book by Murray Pittock, Bradley Professor of History at the University of Glasgow, challenges this consensus. Murray shows that Government forces actually won the battle by blade, while the Jacobites, though few in number, were professionally managed and […]

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BRIEFING ROOM: Nader Shah

Look at that bling – who was he? Hailed by historians as ‘a second Alexander’ and ‘the Napoleon of the East’, Nader Shah was Shah (monarch) of Persia from 1736 to 1747. He was a gifted military commander and used his prowess to build a huge empire that included Iran, Afghanistan, the North Caucasus, northern India, and much of central […]

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After Culloden: from rebels to Redcoats

Robbie MacNiven explores the fate of the Scots who survived Culloden. On a bitterly cold April afternoon in 1746, on moorland just east of the town of Inverness, the power of Scotland’s Highland clans was forever broken. The Battle of Culloden Moor marked not just the final defeat of Charles Edward Stuart and his Jacobite […]

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Renaissance galleys

The galleys were the most effective vessel in Mediterranean naval warfare during the 16th century. This was the Indian summer of an ancient warship that gave primacy to oars over sails and, in a Renaissance context, a level cannon-bearing platform over a rounded keel – thus, in effect, turning sea battles into land battles. The […]

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The Dutch War of Independence

When the war began in 1566, Imperial Spain was the world’s greatest superpower. By the time it ended, in 1609, ‘the Spanish century’ was over.  The Dutch War of Independence was the defining conflict of its era. It secured the triumph of the Reformation in north-west Europe, and along the way reconfigured the geopolitics of the Continent. It also produced one […]

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