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 ..." 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."
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." 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.