Thursday, April 9, 2020

Book Review; Wars and Soldiers in the Early Reign of Louis XIV Vol 1

       Wars and Soldiers in the Early Reign of Louis XIV
       Vol. 1 The Army of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, 1660-1687
       Author and artist Bruno Mugnai
       ISBN 978-1-911628-59-0

       This period has always held a fascination for me, so when I saw it was on the way I quickly added it to my Christmas list. To my great joy I received it as a gift. This volume is a treasure-trove of information; bursting at the seams with period paintings, pictures of contemporary illustrations and a goodly portion of new color artwork from the author himself (who is not only a comprehensive researcher but a talented artist). The United Provinces army is examined in detail; hardly any aspect of the process of raising, training, dressing, equipping, supplying or leading into battle goes without examination. Nearly every one of the 256 pages is adorned with an illustration of some sort. Unfortunately (but understandably) most of these are in black and white, if they had been printed in color the cost of the volume would have been many times the current list price. 

       If you are at all interested in this period or theater of operations this book simply is a must-have. Mugnai has a commanding breadth of knowledge of the subject and lays out the information in a clear and logical manner. The book does suffer from slipshod translation and proofreading (this sorry fact seems to be becoming a hallmark of Helion publications, to my dismay) which often makes sentences difficult to understand; occasionally I had to read and re-read a paragraph to get to the meaning of things. I don't blame the author, he isn't a native English-speaker  (although he does conduct research in at least three or four languages) so I have to lay the fault at Helion's doorstep. At times I got the feeling that the original manuscript was simply pushed through Google-Translate and sent to the printer. It does no honor to the massive amount of effort put in by the author.

        All that aside the historian and wargamer will find plenty of information to sink their teeth into. Uniform colors (and the frequent changes thereof) are covered in detail as well as clear admission of gaps in the record. Troops strengths, and the constant battle to keep them up, are examined. The massive importance that logistics played in this early period of professional armies is given due consideration. The United Provinces not only had to maintain a landward defense against the much larger and populous French but also lived and died by control of the sea and as such faced a constant balancing act between the needs of the Army and Navy. The nascent system of standards and colors, and how they were used, is looked at and some very well executed examples are included in the color section of the book.  Photos of surviving examples are also included.

        The section on the campaigns covers the endless struggle to build and maintain alliances among the Spanish, Austrians and German Principalities to counter the imperial impulses of Louis XIV. The importance of positional warfare is given due examination as well as the use of the "last resort"; the cutting of the dykes to create flooded zones to enhance the defenses of the Provinces. I would have preferred a closer examination of the fortresses and their uses but that is a field of personal interest for me. 

         I would recommend this book to anyone wishing to better understand the Dutch struggle to survive and prosper in this period. This book will give an understanding of the tasks given to the army and the way that they went about it.

        I fully intend to add the rest of this series to my library.  This was an excellent start.

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