War and Society from the Renaissance to the Napoleonic Era, c. 1500-1815

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Paul Keenan E391


This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in Economic History, BSc in Government and History and BSc in International Relations and History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course provides a broad, thematic study of war and society from the early sixteenth century to the end of the Napoleonic Wars. It will include substantive analysis of the ethos, causes and impact of wars during this period, as well as the role of war in the development of states and national identities. At the heart of the course is the lively debate relating to the 'Military Revolution', which ranges from questions of tactics and weaponry, to absolutism and finance. However, attention will also be paid to the technological clashes between different cultures and systems across the globe, embracing the conflicts between European states and those in the Americas, Africa and Asia. The course explores the dramatic impact of the almost continuous wars of European powers, not only within the continent, but also across the globe. It examines the evolution of regular forces on land and sea; the changes in composition, size, tactics and weaponry, as well as changing defensive strategies adopted by different states. But it also seeks to evaluate the importance of irregulars such as pirates and militias, ranging from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, from North America to Eastern Europe. The enduring question of whether Europeans succeeded in establishing colonial empires due to military advantages will be analysed in some detail. A case study of the Ottoman Empire offers interesting comparisons and broadens the analysis of ideological factors. The topics covered include: the dynastic conflict between Charles V and Francis I; the Dutch Revolt; the Armada; the Thirty Years' War; the Ottoman threat to Austria and Hungary; the wars of Louis XIV; Russia's emergence as a European power; the wars of Frederick the Great; Britain's colonial expansion; the impact of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.


10 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 2 hours of classes in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to write three essays, one of which will be done under examination conditions.

Indicative reading

A full reading list will be provided at the start of the course. Useful introductory works include: M. Howard, War in European History; G. Parker, The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800; J. Black, A Military Revolution? Military Change and European Society, 1550-1800; F. Tallett, War and Society in Early Modern Europe, 1495-1715; J. R. Hale, War and Society in Renaissance Europe, 1450-1620; J. Black (Ed), War in the Early-Modern World; M. S. Anderson, War and Society in Europe of the Old Regime, 1618-1789; G. Best, War and Society in Revolutionary Europe, 1770-1870. The recommended surveys for the political background are: R. Bonney, The European Dynastic States, 1494-1660; D. McKay & H. Scott, The Rise of the Great Powers, 1648-1815.


Exam (90%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Presentation (10%).

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2012/13: 23

Average class size 2012/13: 12

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills