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Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700

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Overview

We think of the Renaissance as a shining era of human achievementa pinnacle of artistic genius and humanist brilliance, the time of Shakespeare, Michelangelo, and Montaigne. Yet it was also an age of constant, harrowing warfare. Armies, not philosophers, shaped the face of Europe as modern nation-states emerged from feudal society. In Furies, one of the leading scholars of Renaissance history captures the dark reality of the period in a gripping narrative mosaic.

As Lauro ...

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Furies: War in Europe, 1450-1700

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Overview

We think of the Renaissance as a shining era of human achievementa pinnacle of artistic genius and humanist brilliance, the time of Shakespeare, Michelangelo, and Montaigne. Yet it was also an age of constant, harrowing warfare. Armies, not philosophers, shaped the face of Europe as modern nation-states emerged from feudal society. In Furies, one of the leading scholars of Renaissance history captures the dark reality of the period in a gripping narrative mosaic.

As Lauro Martines shows us, total war was no twentieth-century innovation. These conflicts spared no civilians in their path. A Renaissance army was a mobile city-indeed, a force of 20,000 or 40,000 men was larger than many cities of the day. And it was a monster, devouring food and supplies for miles around. It menaced towns and the countryside-and itself-with famine and disease, often more lethal than combat. Fighting itself was savage, its violence increased by the use of newly invented weapons, from muskets to mortars.

For centuries, notes Martines, the history of this period has favored diplomacy, high politics, and military tactics. Furies puts us on the front lines of battle, and on the streets of cities under siege, to reveal what Europes wars meant to the men and women who endured them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Martines (Fire in the City), best known for his work on the Italian Renaissance, makes a major contribution in this survey of war in “early modern Europe.” Challenging the conventional emphasis on diplomacy, bureaucracy, and technology in most military histories addressing the period, Martines describes medieval Europe’s wars as having been shaped by a Christianity that saw battle “as punishment for sin”; a Protestant Reformation that justified “killing for God”; and a quest for private gain that drove poorly paid and insufficiently supplied armies to wreak havoc on civilian populations. The sacking of cities was not uncommon even if negotiations had been formally arranged, and mutually miserable groups of soldiers and peasants destroyed settlements as they fought over the scarce resources of subsistence economies. As civil societies dissolved in the face of random and organized violence, “fragile, unruly” armies developed into a parasitic form of community whose numbers often dwarfed those of proper towns. The direct consequences of plunder and plague, Martines concludes, far outweighed any abstract economic stimulus generated by war. The burgeoning fiscal-military state, moreover, sustained war making by replicating armies’ behavior in drawing resources from their subjects by compulsion. The difference between monarchs and mercenaries, Martines shows, was merely a matter of degree. Agent: Kay McCauley, Aurous Inc. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Many historians of war focus on generals, rulers, and tactics. Martines (Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Renaissance Florence) seeks to diversify the study of war by chronicling the plight of the common people during wartime. Chapters devoted to the sacking of cities, plunder, sieges, arms, and soldiers vividly describe the starvation, disease, and brutality that soldiers and civilians faced during 250 years of war. Much of the book's descriptive power is due to its excellent case studies drawn from primary sources. Additionally, Martines intertwines a discussion of the economic realities of warfare into the narrative, showing that inadequate financing and logistical considerations often contributed to the harsh conditions. The religious aspects of the wars are addressed and considered but are downplayed in favor of secular elements. Furies closes with a thoughtful discussion of warfare in the context of the state in early-modern Europe. VERDICT Highly recommended for any reader seriously interested in the history of early-modern Europe.—RK
From the Publisher
“A story that is as gripping as it is horrifying.” —The Washington Times

“Lauro Martines’s new book is a godsend . . . made a pleasure to read by the author’s nimble and darkly humorous prose, he has given us an unforgettable glimpse into a violent—and rarely seen—age.” —Paul D. Lockhart, MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History

"Fascinating.... Martines is a master researcher and, like a collector showing off his treasures, his delight in his findings sparkles on every page" —Philadelphia Inquirer

"An intriguing book.... Every situation and character Martines presents to usis of marvelous complexity." —New York Review of Books

"A spine-chilling political drama of conspiracy, murder at High Mass, and bloody revenge." —The Times (UK)

"Impressive narrative power.... A thoroughly good read that is also reliable history, scrupulously documented yet with its pages uncluttered by footnotes... Savonarola's story...bears fresh retelling, and Lauro Martines does so with scholarly authority and an admirable combination of clarity and pace." —The Wall Street Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608196098
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 1/15/2013
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 421,170
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Lauro Martines is one of the worlds foremost historian's of the Italian Renaissance and early modern Europe. He is the author of nine books, most recently the critically acclaimed titles Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence and April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici. Born in Chicago, he was a professor of history at UCLA. He now lives in London with his wife, the novelist Julia OFaolain.

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    Posted July 22, 2013

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