Wednesday, July 10, 2024

The Thrill of the Wargaming Heritage

The other day I finished reading a book that I've been working through for a little while now.  War and Society in Renaissance Europe by JR Hale is an informative, but not always an easy read.  This was never a study in the art of warfare during this period, but to continue improving my understanding of the context in which war was conducted.  In this case, the impact of war on society and government and the impact of society and government on war.


It was instructive.  However, it is a surprising hobby moment that I'd like to share.

Whilst reading the chapter entitled The Society of Soldiers: The Professionals, I came across this:

"... there is one [woodcut] showing him [Maximilian I] as a boy learning to joust with the aid of jointed wooden models.  Assisted by the publication of books containing diagrams of military formations, the model soldier became a more ambitious educational aid.  Do not bring up boys to play with wooden horses, dolls or toy carts, advised the old soldier Jean de Tavannes in the memoirs he concluded in 1596.  Order instead six thousand models (in wood or pottery) of horsemen, arquebusiers and pikemen, also model cannon, castles and towns. 'With these little models you can carry out and explain how to draw up companies, squadrons and main forces, and demonstrate the storming of breaches, charges, retreats, the posting of sentinels and watches... in such a way that by the age of ten... instead of having passed the time uselessly, they will have formed the habit of thinking of themselves as a soldiers or a captain.'  By the late sixteenth century metal toy soldiers were being moved about by veterans reliving past battles."

Don't you love it when you chance upon something that reinforces the historical value given to wargaming as an intellectual, and pleasurable, pursuit.



17 comments:

  1. That's very interesting - and quite ambitious to be aiming for 6,000 figures, even if the gamer in question was Royalty! At Blenheim Palace, I think they have WInston Churchill's childhood armies on show, and at Wallington in Northumberland, I saw the young G.M. Trevelyan's impressive collection - 20/25mm 'semi-flats'.
    I have that book too, possibly won as a school prize from the 1970s - not sure if I will have taken it in very well back then. The following year I had another prize, and chose better - George Gush's 'Renaissance Armies'!

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    1. I have to say David that the second of your prizes was by far the better of the two.

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  2. Interesting stuff Richard, this theme dies pop up now and then in history....I belive I saw something about one of the French Louis' being instructed in the art of war using a collection of cast silver soldiers!

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    1. Cast silver! Gosh, the white metal stuff we get now is expensive enough.

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  3. An interesting quote Richard. I would have gone for the wooden figures as the pottery ones are far too easily broken, although those big ones in China have lasted a while.

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    1. Wooden for me as well Lawrence. Fancy playing a wargame with the terracotta army!

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  4. Ha! that is, after all! Although we don't run campaigns in real life, we cultivate the tradition for the needs of battle tables :)

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  5. A fascinating insight there Richard, so thanks for sharing:)!

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  6. Hale is well worth reading, *once*, if you have a deep interest in Renaissance warfare, but this must be the only piece of interesting writing in the whole dammed book. I don't think I have ever read any writings on history etc., as deadly dull as Hale! Indeed, I totally missed this passage; doubtless I had fallen asleep at that page. :-)

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    1. LOL! It is true that I will NEVER read this book again. Plus, as you imply Peter, at least it made for good bedtime reading... zzzz

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  7. I'm afraid I'm with Peter, I've read the book but don't remember the passage! If you're a Russian Prince you organise the children of your servants into a mini army and forcibly conscript them when they're old enough into a guard unit, cheaper than silver soldiers!
    Best Iain

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    1. Ah yes, I recall that story of Peter the Great from my Great Northern War days, Iain - in fact, didn't he end up with two units, infantry and cavalry - the Preobrazhensky Regiment, if I am not mistaken?!

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    2. I bow to your collective superior knowledge.

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  8. Boys and their toys, ah Rich?
    What a great story!

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