大学病院でなぜ心臓は止まったのか (中公新書ラクレ) 新書 – 2006/1
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Conceived as a time-bound whole, Michael Howard's narrative is a combination of straight lines and turning points, of sustained single tones and rapid tempo notes. His choice to begin his survey with the warrior societies who settled on conquered land and then resisted the invasions of Vikings from the north, Magyars from the east, and Moslems from the south, reminds us that "the descendants from that warrior class--a few hundred families constantly intermarrying and as constantly reinforced by fresh recruits--were to retain the landed dominance of Europe until the sixteenth century, political dominance until the eighteenth, and traces at least of social dominance until our own day." There are many other elements of continuity that straddle each chapter and give coherence to the whole: continuity in arms technology, from the pike to the bayonet; in military strategy, from the medieval castle sieges to the modern war of trenches on the defensive side and from mounted knights to tank brigades in attack; continuity in organizational patterns, with the steady rise of the professional army and the continuing presence of mercenaries; etc.
As a historian, Howard has an acute sense of "la durée". He sees in the Spanish conquistadores taking control of the New World "the last of the warrior nomads who had broken into Western Europe a thousand years before; nomads who had now taken the Cross and learned to sail." He traces back the origins of political doctrines about war and peace to the conflict between Pope and Emperor at the end of the eleventh century which polarized Italian society in a continuing feud dividing city against city, family against family, in a civil war which provided a paradise for the free-lance soldier of fortune. Howard sees the origin of guerilla warfare in the Welsh mountains at the end of the thirteenth century, where feudal knights serving the the House of Plantagenet were forced to abandon their chivalrous tactics and rely on long-bowmen who were later to play a decisive role at the battle of Crecy. He describes the reluctance to engage in battles both by the condottieri of the sixteenth century and the generals in the eighteenth century, who shared a similar concern that professional soldiers were costly to train and to replace. He notes a Weberian affinity between the Protestant ethic and the spirit of militarism: the discipline of drill, obediance and self-control that became necessary for the conduct of battle after the seventeenth century proved more acceptable to Protestants from the northern part of Europe than it did to Latin people, among whom "individualism, sense of honour, love of panache, and quest for glory continued to play a very dominant role".
History is made of repetition and lasting moments, but also of events and singular occurrences. Very often, great battles provide the milestones of military history: Crecy in 1346, Agincourt in 1415, the Italian Wars from Fornovo in 1494 to Pavie in 1525, Cateau Cambresis in 1559, and so on. The history of war is also marked by the reign of great monarchs in whose names battles were fought: François Premier, King of France from 1515 to 1547; Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor from 1519 to 1556; Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, 1611-1632; Louis XIV, le Roi-Soleil from 1643 to 1715; Frederick William I of the House of Hohenzollern, King of Prussia from 1713 to 1740; etc. War and peace are marked by dates of battles and peace treaties, but also by extended periods of time. Less well-known than the Hundred Years War between the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet from 1337 to 1453, there was a hundred years truce between 1534 and 1631, when major battles virtually disappeared from European warfare. Nevertheless, the Thirty Years War from 1618 to 1648 ravaged the European continent and resulted in the new international order agreed upon at the Peace of Westphalia. There was a great naval struggle between France and Great Britain which lasted with few interruptions from 1741 until 1815, after which British rule over the seas was uncontested. Between 1792 and 1815, there was almost uninterrupted warfare between revolutionary France and her neighbors, which transformed the nature of war and of political governance.
The unit of place of this historical drama is obviously Europe, but the center of gravity where most of the action takes place changes over time. Curiously, Howard grants only a secondary role to Great Britain. The Norman conquest is only alluded to as a war of occupation. The English military dominance which characterized Europe at the end of the fourteenth century had fifty years later completely disappeared, as other armies made better use of the cannon and the hand-gun and developed siege techniques that toppled the castles protecting the lands of the English crown in France. England makes few apparitions afterwards. The Civil War is not covered, and colonial conquest is mentioned only in passing. The author notes that the development of the British Army from a collection of independent and heterogeneous regiments to a centralized and unified force is even today still far from complete. The United Kingdom's fortunate geographical position enabled her for centuries to regard an army as an optional luxury; a French general of the nineteenth century was reported as saying that the British infantry were the best in the world, and it was a good thing there were so few of them.
Other European powers get their moment of fame and briefly occupy the limelight before retreating to the backstage. The reconquista struggle of Christians against Moslems on the Iberian peninsula fashioned a strong caste of Castilian warriors, for whom war was a way of life and who, unlike other European nobilities, did not all fight on cavalry horses but also served in the infantry ranks. In Portugal, Henry the Navigator sent its expeditions along the coasts of Africa in search of souls, Saracens, gold, and a legendary Christian Black king who might have helped his European co-religionists in their fight against the infidels. Capturing the trade of the Portuguese Empire furnished the Netherlands with funds for carrying on their eighty years war against the Spanish crown, and contributed to the prosperity which gave the United Provinces an embarrassment of riches in the devastation to which Europa was reduced by the Thirty Years War. Sweden drew the lessons of the Dutch school of warfare--the importance of drill, discipline, firepower, and an integrated view of the battlefield--and put them into effect at the battle of Breitenfeld in 1631 where the Habsburg forces suffered a cataclysmic defeat which transformed the pattern of power in Europe. The author also charts the rise of the garrison state of Prussia, noting that the Prussian state came into being in order to provide for the needs of the Prussian army and not the other way around.
But it is France who, with only a few interruptions, stands squarely at the center of Europe's history of war. At many junctures throughout history, France took the lead, set the pace, and provided leadership in military affairs, often translated as political and cultural leadership as well. It is in France that the feudal system of the Middle Ages originated, with a chevaleresque culture that was a blend of Germanic warrior and Latin sacerdos providing the ideal to which medieval Christendom aspired. France was one of the first kingdoms to move its army to a stipendiary basis, and to adopt the techniques of the Swiss pikemen, mobile cavalry, and artillery firepower. It was the Bourbon monarchy that took the blueprint provided by the Dutch and Swedish strategists and developed by the end of the seventeenth century a fully functioning military apparatus that every state in Europa had to imitate if it was not to be overwhelmed by it. Napoleon's military genius had generations dreaming of la Grandeur et la Gloire. Many terms of warfare originate in the French language or were Frenchified, from ther lansquenets (German's Landsknecht) to the hussards (Hungary's huszars). This has Michael Howard use French expressions with the affectation of an Oxford don, and also the occasional errors that nobody will really mind, for his book is a vibrant homage to the French génie militaire.
The last rule of classical drama followed by the book, the unity of action, is rather self-evident and I won't dwell upon it. Just as in many theater plays or operas, getting the most of the story told by War in European History requires a prior knowledge of the plotline. This includes not only familiarity with the national histories of all major powers in Europe, but also an overall understanding of the dynamics of the whole continent, for this book is in its essence a contribution to European history. Historians drawing an integrated picture of the history of Europe are often at pains to find unifying themes and common issues. War is certainly one of them. It is one of the ironies of history that the ideal now bringing European peoples together, to prevent the reappearance of war on the European continent, aims precisely at suppressing what has shaped their common identity and provided a continuous thread to their joint historical heritage.
His strongest chapters are on the role politics and ideology from the end of the 18th century and the intensity of fighting and killing. This is an excellent, short overview of an incredibly complicated subject matter. I recommend this book as a great place for those interested in the subject to start.