On 12 July 1813, representatives from Austria, Prussia, Sweden, and Russia met at Trachenberg Palace in western Poland to plan their upcoming campaign against Napoleon. The French emperor had been driven from Russia the previous winter. His reverses encouraged Sweden and Prussia to join the war on Russia’s side, and Austria was expected to join them in the autumn. Nevertheless, Napoleon remained a hreat. He had gathered reinforcements in eastern Germany and occupied a strong position over a nearly two-hundred-mile front. Fighting in the spring had shown that his genius was undiminished, and he would be a danger to any army that faced him in the field.
Continue reading “Algorithmic Warfare, Part 1: Fighting by a Script”
Below is the editor’s preface to F.L. Taylor’s 1920 classic Art of War in Italy, 1494-1529, published September 2020. It describes the birth of Early Modern warfare during the Italian Wars, and is available to US readers here (international rights pending).
The Italian Wars, which opened with the roar of French cannons knocking down the medieval fortress walls and closed with well-disciplined Spanish tercios standing triumphant on the battlefield, witnessed the birth of modern European warfare. Between Charles VIII’s invasion of 1494 and the 1559 Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis, European armies were completely transformed from cavalry-heavy feudal levies to professional forces of well-drilled infantry.
Continue reading ““The Art of War in Italy, 1494-1529 (A Critical Edition)””
Below is the transcript for the History Network Podcast episode “Byzantium’s Eastern Frontier”. You can listen to it here, or on iTunes or Spotify. The episode was based on this Twitter thread.
The Byzantines, the subjects of the Eastern Roman Empire, were great survivors. They outlasted their cousins in the west by a thousand years, withstanding the great waves of barbarian invasions and even managing to flourish amidst the chaos. Less than a century after the last western emperor was deposed in 476, the Eastern Romans under Justinian reconquered Italy and North Africa, and seemed on their way to restoring the entire Mediterranean to Roman rule.
Yet much of this early good fortune was illusory. More calamities were in store: plague, new waves of invaders, and economic collapse wiped away much of their gains and undermined the foundations of their rule. Amidst this fresh crop of disasters, one challenge above all else threatened to bring down the empire: the rise of Islam.
Continue reading “Byzantium’s Eastern Frontier: The Most Sophisticated Defensive System of the Middle Ages”
Hannibal’s great victory at Cannae in 216 BC is famous as a decisive victory by double envelopment. After baiting a much larger Roman army into an attack, he trapped it between the jaws of his wings, which then encircled and annihilated the Romans.
On closer examination, this traditional account of Cannae doesn’t quite add up. How did Hannibal manage to surround such a large army in the first place? Why didn’t the Romans just roll through his entire line, and surround him? A few modern narratives hint at an explanation, but never quite spell it out.
Continue reading “The Battle of Cannae: What Really Happened?”
The spate of impressive drone strikes over the past year has revived talk of the extinction of armored vehicles. Since late 2019, Turkish UAVs in Syria and Libya and now Azerbaijani drones in Nagorno-Karabakh have destroyed a sizable number of tanks, APCs, artillery pieces, and SAMs. Protective armor can only do so much and brings exponential costs with it; against that, swarms of drones are cheap. Is the age of armored military vehicles over?
Continue reading “DRONE APOCALYPSE: The End of Warfare As We Know It?!”