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Kurt Kuhlmann


HST 351.01


Review:                  The Patterns of War Through the Eighteenth Century, by Larry Addington (Indiana University Press, 1990).


Larry Addington's Patterns of War Through the Eighteenth Century is an introductory study of military and naval history from the dawn of time up to the French Revolution.  A fairly short book for such an extensive period at 145 pages, it was intended to show the "patterns of war" throughout history, the "unique social-political, technological, and organizational factors in each period of history ..."[1]  Addington also wanted to show "that military development occurs no isolation from the rest of the prevailing culture, but, on the contrary, war is highly imprinted by the culture in which it takes place."[2]

Unfortunately, the book failed to live up to these high aspirations.  For the most part, Addington contented himself with a narrative approach, explaining what happened but not why it happened.  This seems a crucial failing in a book puporting to show the "patterns of war," especially one of its introductory nature.  He claimed that "these patterns lie implicit in the narrative," but I failed to divine them.  Even on the rare occasions when he explicitly stated the patterns, his conclusions did not seem to follow from the preceding narrative.  For example, in his summary of the Crusades, Addington concluded, "The patterns of war in the Age of the Crusades demonstrated again that . . . balanced forces operating in mutual support were superior to those that excelled in only one arm."[3]  However, he failed to bring out that point in any of the battle descriptions in the preceding section.  Far too much detail is given about specific battles, while the "patterns" that these descriptions are supposed to demonstrate are never made clear.

Another problem is that the book does not connect warfare with society and culture in any but the most superficial manner.  Although the rise of the standing army is noted as one of the chief patterns of war between 1494-1721, nowhere is there any mention of the change in society that made this shift possible.  Stating that a certain change took place in warfare immediately raises the question, "Why did this change take place?" but this vital half of the book is missing.

Addington pays lip service to the 'new' military history, but his book is little more than a simple narrative summary of Near Eastern and Western warfare from ancient times through the eighteenth century.  In this capacity, it is certainly adequate, but it seriously lacks the explanatory power of a book such as Arther Ferrill's The Origins of War.  I would have to look elsewhere for an introductory textbook on Western military history.

[1]  Preface, p. xi.

[2]  Ibid.

[3]  p. 60.

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