Category Archives: Early Modern History

Discuss the Historical Significance of the 1552-6 Annexation of the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan by Ivan IV (the Terrible)

This essay achieved a low 1st in the second year of my undergraduate.

Discuss the historical significance of the 1552-1556 annexation of the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan by Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible).

The years 1552-1556 arguably marked a significant turning point in the history of the Muscovite state; the events which took place had an impact beyond the borders of the newfound Muscovite empire, and throughout Eurasia. [1] [2] While it is possible to draw an argument together that the annexations themselves were not important, due to the fact that Muscovy essentially controlled Kazan prior to 1552, Pelenski has strongly discredited this conjecture.[3] The significance of the conquest of the two khanates can be broadly divided into topics: the strategic-military impacts, the religious significance, the economy, as well as the growth in the prestige of the Muscovite state and monarch, the imperialist connotations, and the important legacy of this initial expansion. What can be drawn from all of these is that the annexation of certainly the khanate of Kazan but also to an extent Astrakhan must be considered historically significant in not just the history of Muscovy and Russia, but also that of Eurasia.

The argument against the significance of the annexation itself is based on the fact that Muscovy already considered itself the ‘kingmaker’ in Kazan,[4] although when this realisation came about is the subject of some debate. Most historians point to 1487, when Ivan III successfully intervened in a succession struggle in Kazan,[5] but Pritsak challenges this, stating that 1512 and the conferences between Vasilii III and Queen Dowager Nur Sultan in which the khanate of Kasimov was relinquished were a more important turning point in relations.[6] Bartlett also points out this fact; that Muscovy already had Tatar servitors.[7] From this evidence, one could argue that the annexation was not in fact too significant, because Muscovy essentially already controlled what happened in Kazan, so the annexation was only a confirmation of what was already a reality.

To this argument however, there are two major counters. The first is put forward by Pelenski, who argues that in the first half of the sixteenth century, there were nearly forty years when the khanate of Kazan functioned as an independent country, and substantiates this with the fact that the titles ‘Tsar of Kazan’ and ‘Tsar of Astrakhan’ were not among Ivan IV’s prior to the final subjugation in 1552 and 1556 respectively.[8] As well as this, one must question the significance of even a confirmatory annexation in terms of the  international prestige it garnered for both the Muscovite monarch, and the state in general, a question which will be explored later.

The significance the annexations had militarily may probably be considered the simplest, but this by no means diminishes their importance. Perhaps less important, the fall of the khanates put a halt by and large to the incessant Tatar raiding, something made possible only by the complete conquest of the khanates.[9] Raiding had been one of the primary supports for the Tatar economy, so simply controlling who was Khan would not have been enough to halt raids.[10] More significantly, the conquest of the khanates provided a measure of defence against the southern Crimean Khanate, and Lithuania, as it meant that the entire eastern flank of the Muscovite territory was secured.[11] The position that Astrakhan in particular occupied meant also that the Crimean Tatars were cut off from the steppe,[12] and the fact that Muscovy came to control the Volga waterway made it difficult for the Crimean Khanate to invade.[13]

Many historians have also identified the religious importance of the conquest of the two khanates. Contemporaries, such as Metropolitan Macarius, presented the struggle as that between Orthodox Christianity and Islam rather than anything else, considering it more of a crusade.[14] This meant that, when Muscovy was eventually victorious, it added a religious dimension to the conquest: it was considered a great victory of Orthodoxy over Islam.[15] Platonov and Andreyev even go so far as to say that it was the first victory of Christianity over Islam, of Europe over Asia.[16] While this may be a stretch, it does emphasize just how significant the victory was considered by contemporaries. The successful conquest also contributed to the legitimisation of Moscow being considered a ‘third Rome,’ when compared to the first and second Romes, which had not really been treated seriously prior.[17] With the annexation of the khanates, Muscovy was able to legitimately consider itself the centre of the Orthodox world.[18] Religious significance was something clearly taken very seriously given the comparisons to Rome and Constantinople, and while important, it should also be considered a contributory factor to the prestige of both the Muscovite monarch and state, which will be addressed later on.

The impact of the annexation of both Kazan and Astrakhan on the Muscovite economy was immeasurable. The massive swathes of fertile land that accompanied the control of the Volga basin obviously made the Muscovite state a good deal more autarkic,[19] and they also meant that the population increased considerably due to the established agricultural, pagan communities of the Mordva, Chuvash, Mari and Udmurts.[20] Alongside this, the Muscovite state gained enormous material wealth in both the short term, and the longer term. With the control of the territories of Kazan and Astrakhan came the control of the Volga fisheries and the Astrakhan salt lakes.[21] Salt in particular at the time was considered a valuable commodity, as shown by the Stroganovs’ pursuit of it later on.[22] In the longer term, the eastward expansion arguably triggered by the conquest led to the gaining of the vast natural wealth of Siberia,[23] something exploited in large part by the fur trade: just over a century after the conquest of the khanates, the state revenues from the fur trade had increased eightfold, to constitute ten per cent of the total.[24]

Perhaps the most significant impact the victories had on the economy was that it had on Muscovite trade. The capture of Kazan and Astrakhan gave Muscovy access to the middle and mouth of the Volga respectively, and combined to give complete control over the entire Volga trade route; and a very lucrative one at that.[25] As well as this, the capture of Astrakhan provided access to the Caspian Sea and the markets of Iran, the North Caucasus and even south Asia.[26] In short, the security of the Volga waterway was crucial in the expansion of Muscovite trade, and this security would not have been possible without the subjugation of both Kazan and Astrakhan.

Potentially the most profound effects of the conquest of the khanates were felt in terms of the international prestige of the Muscovite state and monarch. While ‘prestige’ is seemingly vague, this section will concern only the image of the Muscovite state and that of the office of the monarch. The main way in which the victories aided the monarch of Muscovy was the addition of the two titles: ‘Tsar of Kazan’ and ‘Tsar of Astrakhan,’ which both added a certain degree of status.[27] One other serious effect of these additions was the legitimisation of the new title itself -as a justification for his power- due to the fact that the rulers of the khanates were considered on a level with a tsar.[28] Accompanying these shifts in perception was the fact that the sudden growth from a distinctly Slavic state into a multi-ethnic, diverse empire, causing Muscovites to view themselves differently.[29]

The most important aspect of Muscovite prestige however was the change in how the state was perceived internationally. Pritsak talks about a certain quality that Muscovy needed before it was to be taken seriously in international politics, which he refers to as ‘charisma,’ a quality which the Kazan and Astrakhan, as successor states of the Mongol Empire had.[30] Other historians hint at the same thing, and assert that by conquering the khanates, Muscovy gained a certain measure of their accumulated ‘charisma.’[31] A by-product of this is that the nascent Muscovite Empire came to be considered the successor of the Mongol Empire, by taking over much of the old heartlands of the Golden Horde – Astrakhan was situated not far from the old capital at Sarai.[32]

The possession of this ‘charisma’ as well allowed Moscow to capitalise on the church-led literature which presented Moscow as the natural successor of Vladimir and Kiev.[33] Coupled with the ability to support its claim to be a ‘third Rome’ and the centre of the Orthodox church,[34] this meant that the international perception of Muscovy was significantly strengthened. In short the Muscovite right to rule was established by the conquest of Kazan and Astrakhan, something which provided the confidence required for further expansion.[35] The fact that this changed perception only came about following the annexation would seem to answer the prior argument that it was only confirmatory: even if it was, the conquest shows that the perception of legitimate power was probably more important than actual power.

Potentially the most significant consequence of the subjugation of the khanates were the connotations it had for Muscovy’s imperial development. In the first instance, it gave the Muscovite state practice at integrating a separate, diverse sovereign state, and experience at colonial administration.[36] Kazan in particular proved to be a good model for other largely non-Russian areas, with its large Muslim and pagan populations.[37] As well as being important for the sake of imperialist experience, the acquisition of the land itself was also key,[38] and not just for its economic or prestige value. The fact is that the territories acquired by Muscovy at least in theory with the fall of Kazan and Astrakhan were vast, held significant strategic value, and contained a geopolitically significant network of waterways.[39] It is also important to note that Kazan was an advanced, sovereign state, no longer comprised of nomads, and its defeat was an achievement.[40]

Shortly after the successful conquests, Muscovy began to enjoy control of a certain sphere of influence, within which ‘lesser’ powers acknowledged its supremacy.[41] The most notable of these included the Khan of Siberia, among other lesser Tatar rulers,[42] and the Kabardian Princes of the Caucasus.[43] As well as this, the occupation of Astrakhan and its implications for the Crimean Khanate, noted above, meant that they were forced to acknowledge Muscovite power, even the effect was not quite as cowing as elsewhere.[44]

The area where the conquests had the most significant impact on Muscovite imperial development was undoubtedly in the east. Kazan particularly has been described as the ‘gateway to empire,’[45] with other historians echoing similar sentiments.[46] The general consensus is that this was the most significant consequence of the fall of Kazan and Astrakhan, and one feels compelled to agree. The subjugation of the two khanates meant that no real power remained in the east, and that the way was thus opened for further expansion in that direction.[47] Hosking expands on the argument stating that Muscovite expansion was only halted when it reached the geographical boundary formed by the Pacific Ocean, and the political one formed by China, and that it was simply expansion for the sake of it.[48]

As has been shown then, the annexation of the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan was indeed historically significant for a whole range of reasons, from military, to religious, economic, prestige and most importantly imperialist. The argument against the significance of the victory is far too simplistic, and seems invalid. While military and religious factors may have been considered crucial by contemporaries, in the larger scheme they in fact paled when compared with the sheer amount of political power, land and resources that were essentially gained with the conquest of Kazan and Astrakhan. Perhaps the best indication of this is that most historians mention the material wealth potential of Siberia, and the change in the perception of the Muscovite state as the most significant consequence of the subjugation of the khanates.[49] When combined with the fact that it took mere decades for the Muscovite state to grow into the largest empire on earth, in the midst of the Time of Troubles,[50] it seems impossible to ignore the crucial significance of the annexation of the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan between 1552 and 1556 not just for Muscovy and later Russia, but the whole of Eurasia.

Word count (including title): 2,979

[1] A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire: A Multiethnic History (Harlow, 2001), p.21.

[2] H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan and Astrakhan, 1552-56,’ in ed. M. Rywkin, Russian Colonial Expansion to 1917 (London & New York, 1988), p.45.

[3] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan: Conquest and Imperial Ideology (1438-1560s) (The Hague, 1974) p.285.

[4] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia (Basingstoke, 2005), p.54.

[5] D. Miller, ‘Review of Russia and Kazan: Conquest and Imperial Ideology (1438-1560s) by Jaroslaw Pelenski,’ Russian Review 34 (1975), pp.92-3, Pelenski, see O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate from a Polycultural Point of View,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), p.579, also cited in J. Pelenski, ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims to the Kazan Khanate,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967) pp.559-76: S.M. Solov’ev, Istoriia Rossii s drevneishkikh vremen, III (Moscow, 1960), p.71; K.V. Basilevich, Vneshniaia politika russkogo tsentralizovannogo gosudarstva (Moscow, 1962), p.205; G. Vernadsky, Russia at the Dawn of the Modern Age (New Haven, 1959), p.82.

[6] O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate,’ p.579.

[7] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, p.54.

[8] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan, p.285

[9] E.L. Keenan Jr., ‘Muscovy and Kazan: Some Introductory Remarks on the Patterns of Steppe Diplomacy,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), p.555, V. Tschebotarioff-Bill, ‘The Circular Frontier of Muscovy,’ Russian Review 9 (1950), pp.50-1, S.F. Platonov, History of Russia (London, 1925), p.128, N. Andreyev, ‘Appanage and Muscovite Russia,’ in eds. R. Auty and D. Obolensky, Companion to Russian Studies vol.1: An Introduction to Russian History (Cambridge, 1976), p.101.

[10] I. Ševčenko, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Kazan: Two Views Reconciled,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), p.543.

[11] H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ p.62

[12] A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, p.26

[13] C. Evtuhov, D. Goldfrank, L. Hughes, R. Stites, A History of Russia: Peoples, Legends, Events, Forces (Boston & New York, 2004), p.126.

[14] J. Pelenski, ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims,’ p.571, E. L. Keenan Jr., ‘Muscovy and Kazan,’ p.549, H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ pp.46-7, I. Ševčenko, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Kazan,’ p.544, E.L. Keenan Jr., ‘Muscovy and Kazan,’ p.549.

[15] S. Bogatryev, ‘Reinventing the Russian Monarchy in the 1550s: Ivan the Terrible, the Dynasty and the Church,’ The Slavonic and East European Review 85 (2007), p.279, H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ p.66.

[16] S.F. Platonov, History of Russia, p.128, N. Andreyev, ‘Appanage and Muscovite Russia,’p.101.

[17] Giles Fletcher (1591), Of the Russe Commonwealth (Cambridge, 1966), p.19, see O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde, and the Kazan Khanate,’ p.582.

[18] M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples on the Muscovite frontiers,’ in ed. M. Perrie, The Cambridge History of Russia vol.1: From Early Rus to 1689 (Cambridge, 2006), p.319.

[19] See I. Ševčenko, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Kazan,’ p.544: Peresvotov in ed. A.A. Zimin, Sochineriia I. Peresvetova (Moscow and Leningrad, 1956), pp.162, 182, 196, 208, S.F. Platonov, History of Russia, p.128, N. Andreyev, ‘Appanage and Muscovite Russia,’ p.101, A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, p.53, H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ p.45.

[20] See M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.320.

[21] A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, pp.29, 53.

[22] V. Tschebotarioff-Bill, ‘The Circular Frontier,’ p.49.

[23] A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, pp.34-5, M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.319, G.A. Hosking, Russia and the Russians: A History (London, 2001), p.147, J. Channion, R. Hudson, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia (London and New York, 1995), p.42.

[24] G.A. Hosking, Russia and the Russians, p.146.

[25] O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate,’ p.582, J. Forsyth, A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia’s North Asian Colony 1581-1990 (Cambridge, 1992), p.2, C. Evtuhov et al., A History of Russia, p.128.

[26] S. Bogatryev, ‘Ivan IV (1533-1584),’ in ed. M. Perrie, The Cambridge History of Russia vol.1: From Early Rus to 1689 (Cambridge, 2006), p.256, M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.319, A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, p.26, H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ pp.61, 62, 66.

[27] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan, pp.298, 300; ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims,’ p.576.

[28] M.P. Romaniello, The Elusive Empire: Kazan and the Creation of Russia 1552-1671 (Madison, 2012), p.6, S. Bogatryev, ‘Ivan IV,’ p.256.

[29] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan, pp.298, 304.

[30] O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate,’ p.582.

[31] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan, p.298, A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, p.24.

[32] H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ p.47, A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, pp.22, 26.

[33] See Velikiia minei chetii and Kniga stepennaia, cited in J. Pelenski, ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims,’ pp.560-1.

[34] O. Pritsak, ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde, and the Kazan Khanate,’ p.582.

[35] M.P. Romaniello, The Elusive Empire, p.5, M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.319.

[36] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, p.55, G.A. Hosking, Russia and the Russians, p.142.

[37] A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, pp.25, 53.

[38] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, p.54.

[39] J. Forsyth, A History of the Peoples of Siberia, p.2, S. Bogatryev, ‘Ivan IV,’ pp.255-6, A. Kappeler, The Russian Empire, p.26, H.R. Huttenbach, ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan,’ p.45.

[40] J. Pelenski, Russia and Kazan, p.8.

[41] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, p.54

[42] S. Bogatryev, ‘Ivan IV,’ p.256, J. Channion, R. Hudson, Historical Atlas of Russia, p.38, R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, p.54, C. Evtuhov et al., A History of Russia, p.128.

[43]M. Khordarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.324, C. Evtuhov et al., A History of Russia, p.128, J. Channion, R. Hudson, Historical Atlas of Russia, p.38.

[44] M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.322.

[45] M.P. Romaniello, The Elusive Empire, p.5.

[46] M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.319.

[47] R. Bartlett, A History of Russia, pp.54-5, J. Channion, R. Hudson, Historical Atlas of Russia, p.32, S. Bogatryev, ‘Ivan IV,’ p.256, M. Khodarkovsky, ‘The non-Christian peoples,’ p.319, S.F. Platonov, History of Russia, p.128, N. Andreyev, ‘Appanage and Muscovite Russia,’ p.101.

[48] G.A. Hosking, Russia and the Russians, p.147.

[49] See Pelenski, Romaniello, Bogatryev, Pritsak, Kappeler, Huttenbach, Khodarkovsky, Bartlett, Hosking, Forsyth, Channion, Hudson, Evtuhov et al., Platonov and Andreyev above.

[50] G.A. Hosking, Russia and the Russians, p.147.

Bibliography

Primary Sources

Kniga stepennaia, cited in Pelenski, J., ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims to the Kazan Khanate,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), pp.560-1.

Velikiia minei chetii, cited in Pelenski, J., ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims to the Kazan Khanate,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), pp.560-1.

Secondary Sources

Andreyev, N., ‘Appanage and Muscovite Russia,’ in R. Auty and D. Obolensky (eds.) Companion to Russian Studies vol.1: An Introduction to Russian History (Cambridge, 1976), pp.78-120.

Bartlett, R., A History of Russia (Basingstoke, 2005).

Bogatryev, S., ‘Ivan IV (1533-1584),’ in M. Perrie (ed.), The Cambridge History of Russia vol.1: From Early Rus to 1689 (Cambridge, 2006), pp.240-63.

Bogatryev, S., ‘Reinventing the Russian Monarchy in the 1550s: Ivan the Terrible, the Dynasty and the Church,’ The Slavonic and East European Review, 85 (2007), pp.271-93.

Channion, J. and Hudson, R., The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia (London & New York, 1995).

Evtuhov, C., Goldfrank, D., Hughes, L., and Stites, R., A History of Russia: Peoples, Legends, Events, Forces (Boston & New York, 2004).

Forsyth, J., A History of the Peoples of Siberia: Russia’s North Asian Colony 1581-1990 (Cambridge, 1992).

Hosking, G. A., Russia and the Russians: A History (London, 2001).

Huttenbach, H. R., ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Muslim Kazan and Astrakhan, 1552-56,’ in M. Rywkin (ed.) Russian Colonial Expansion to 1917 (London & New York, 1988), pp.45-69.

Kappeler, A., The Russian Empire: A Multiethnic History (Harlow, 2001).

Keenan Jr., E. L., ‘Muscovy and Kazan: Some Introductory Remarks on the Patterns of Steppe Diplomacy,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), pp.548-58.

Khodarkovsky, M., ‘The non-Christian peoples on the Muscovite frontiers,’ in M. Perrie (ed.), The Cambridge History of Russia vol.1: From Early Rus to 1689 (Cambridge, 2006), pp.317-37.

Kotilaine, J., Russia’s Foreign Trade and Economic Expansion in the Seventeenth Century (Boston, 2004).

Matuszewski, D. C., ‘Review of Russia and Kazan: Conquest and Ideology (1438-1560s) by Jaroslaw Pelenski,’ The American Historical Review 81 (1976) p.183.

Miller, D. B., ‘Review of Russia and Kazan: Conquest and Ideology (1438-1560s) by Jaroslaw Pelenski,’ Russian Review 34 (1975), pp.92-3.

Pelenski, J., ‘Muscovite Imperial Claims to the Kazan Khanate,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), pp.559-76.

Pelenski, J., Russia and Kazan: Conquest and Imperial Ideology (1438-1560s) (The Hague, 1974).

Platonov, S. F., History of Russia (London, 1925).

Pritsak, O., ‘Moscow, the Golden Horde, and the Kazan Khanate from a Polycultural Point of View,’ Slavic Reivew 26 (1967), pp.577-83.

Romaniello, M. P., The Elusive Empire: Kazan and the Creation of Russia 1552-1671 (Madison, 2012).

Ševčenko, I., ‘Muscovy’s Conquest of Kazan: Two Views Reconciled,’ Slavic Review 26 (1967), pp.541-7.

Taagepera, R., ‘An Overview of the Growth of the Russian Empire,’ in M. Rywkin (ed.) Russian Colonial Expansion to 1917 (London & New York, 1988), pp.1-7.

Tschebotarioff-Bill, V., ‘The Circular Frontier of Muscovy,’ Russian Review 9 (1950), pp.45-52.

Feedback:

70%

All the following feedback is rated on the following scale: Outstanding-Excellent-Good-Competent-Pass-Fail.

Breadth of Reading: Outstanding

Critical approach to historiography: Good

Focus on question: Outstanding-Excellent

Organization of the material: Good

Depth of understanding and insight: Excellent

Use of examples: Excellent

Introduction and Conclusion: Good

Factual accuracy: Excellent

Comprehensiveness of coverage: Excellent

Fluent and correct English: Excellent

Accurate spelling/proof reading: Excellent

Sources cited correctly: Good

General Comments and Advice: An impressively good effort. The introduction is a little stilted, and a brief section that follows, in which the candidate surveys the historiography that denies the Volga conquests any especial historical significance would have worked better elsewhere in the text. Nonetheless, the essay offers a very lucid and concise analysis of both short- and long-term consequences of the Russian annexation of the two Tataric khanates. Based on an admirably broad range of bibliographic reference, the essay covers a lot of ground, while also paying sufficient attention to the point of (correct) detail. Although I am happy with such a comprehensive approach, I feel the material could have been arranged here to an even better effect, so as to read less like a list of points and more like a coherent argument. Finally, unless they were consulted at first hand in the original Russian, sources in Russian should not be cited directly in the footnotes of the Bibliography.

 

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The Impact of the Mongol Invasion on the development of Rus and Muscovy

This essay achieved a mid-2:1 in the first year of my undergraduate.

The Impact of the Mongol Invasion on the development of Rus and Muscovy

The Mongols swept through the principalities of Rus in 1237, leaving a trail of devastation behind them. They successfully conquered most of the principalities in just a few months in what was and still is the only successful winter invasion of Rus (and Russia) ever[1]. The impact of the Mongol[2] Invasion can be broadly divided in many ways, though the most obvious seems into short term and long term effects. There are many different views concerning the impact of the Mongol Invasion, with some arguing that despite the 200 year ‘occupation’ (from 1237 to arguably the 1440s), the effects were minimal.[3] From this point there are a whole range of views ranging to what is termed the ‘Eurasian School’[4] which argues that the Mongol Invasion was the decisive event in Russian history.

The short term impacts were almost exclusively on the population and by extension the economy. This was due to the razing of several cities including Riazan, Vladimir, Kolomna, Moscow and Kiev[5], and the accompanying slaughter of their populations[6]. The long term effects are more wide-ranging, and include the Mongol impact on the emerging Muscovite administration system (within which the treasury and postal system can be included), as well as the structure and makeup of its army. Perhaps most importantly, the Mongols arguably stimulated the growth of autocracy in Muscovy, and there are even some historians[7] who argue that the idea of serfdom had its origins in the Khanate.

The Mongol Invasions had varying impacts which lasted different lengths of time. The short term impacts of the Mongol Invasion were almost entirely due to the sheer number of casualties. The depopulation had a massive effect on the development of Rus and later Russia. These effects have been argued to include contributions to the general difficult conditions in Rus during the period, and the emergence of harsh and heavily taxed Muscovite state.[8] Another aspect of this effect is clearly exemplified by the effect on the Dnepr’ region in the Ukraine, where there was almost no political activity for around a century after the initial conquest.[9] As is implied by this example, population became a very important source of political capital for the princes of Rus, as it was how their power was controlled first by the Mongols and as a result measured by everyone else. The reason for this was that an increased population would mean more food producers, taxpayers (of greater importance to the Mongols) and recruits[10].

Another important effect of the massive depopulation was the fact that it shattered the economy.[11] Combined with the initial shock of the invasions, there was also the fact that the process of rebuilding the economy had to be undertaken with a much-decreased population as well as the burden of very heavy taxes.[12] As a result, there was little or no development in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, although it is argued that this retardation can be extended to the entire period of Mongol domination[13]. Despite these seemingly bleak conditions, it certainly was a period of retardation and not economic stagnation[14].

The period of stunted economic growth is arguably so important because it was at about this time (perhaps later, though still under the ‘Tatar Yoke’) when firearms came into widespread use, and the cost of warfare began to rise sharply. The comparative lack of a strong economy meant that among other things (the various principalities were not able to participate in the Renaissance[15]), the Muscovite military began to fall behind those of the other European factions, as is shown by the fact that the use of gunpowder weapons offensively only really began in the early sixteenth century[16] and even then only on a small scale. By comparison: in the rest of Europe, this began in the latter half of the fifteenth century[17].

The long term impacts of the Mongol Invasion can be largely traced to the influence it had on the emergent Muscovite. One of the more significant of these was administrative[18], with the adoption by Muscovite rulers of the dual administration system from the Mongols[19], as a result of the frequent and lengthy trips to Sarai (the capital of the Golden Horde)[20]. As well as this general influence on the administration system, the Mongols had a far more specific impact on the particular aspect of financial matters or more explicitly: the gathering of taxes. The main aim was to make tax gathering as efficient as it possibly could be, and this is shown by the construction of roads[21], and most importantly (it is even accepted by historians who argue there was very little overall impact) by the taking of a census of the population[22]. Unsurprisingly then, the language of Rus and then Muscovy imported several words from the Mongols in the financial field (including those of taxation and trade): the Russian words for customs stamp (iarlyk), coin (denga) and money (dengi) are all of Mongolian derivation[23].

As well as this, the forced creation and maintenance of the Mongol postal system (the yam) is seen by some to be crucial in the process of centralisation[24] which took place in Muscovy, and which was arguably required to govern such a large expanse. Perhaps most importantly, the Mongols have also been credited with introducing the concept of true autocracy to Muscovy. The foundations of the Muscovite version of autocracy were influenced a lot by Mongol political, social and military structures. With regards to the general counter argument that the Muscovite state did not at all come to be similar to that of the Mongols[25].

The other field over which the Mongols had a massive influence was the military. This is shown in the development of the Muscovite army, particularly the cavalry.  As is shown by contemporary accounts such as that of Giles Fletcher[26], the equipment and general appearance of Muscovite cavalry (particularly later in the sixteenth century) was very similar to that of the Tatars. Likewise, the development of the Cossack communities along the steppe borders of Muscovy could also be argued to draw inspiration from Mongol society (which seems likely due to the proximity to the Khanates with which the Cossacks lived) and the evidence for this would be the similar apparent views on farming, as well as the nomadic and warlike lifestyle.

As well as the similarities in equipment, the cavalry of Muscovy also used similar tactics and deployment as their Tatar counterparts[27]. It was not just the equipment and tactics of the Muscovite cavalry which was effected by Mongol influence however, as the system of military land grants (introduced around 1477 by Ivan III), or the pomest’e, was brought by the Mongols to Rus, despite its Chinese roots. This was to be very important to the Muscovite military, as it created a standing force of cavalry, obliged to fight for the Grand Prince of Moscow, which then formed the core of the army[28].

However, it is also important to assess the counter argument. There are arguments put against most of the impacts of the Mongol Invasion. Most agree that the Mongols had a massive impact in the short term, but there are lots of views which oppose the long term impacts of the Invasion. These include the argument that the yam’s value as a postal system was negligible[29], as well as the fact that the Russian government only began to diversify from the Western governments a century or more after the Mongols are agreed to have left[30]. Despite this being true, it is only natural that the implementation of administrative and political changes took time. In terms of the military impacts, it is argued that the cavalry only played a small part in the Muscovite army, and that the Muscovite armies and tactics were based on infantry, which therefore came directly from Kiev, and not from the Mongols[31], however the fact remains that the core of the standing army was made up of cavalry, and that they were also sourced from the aristocracy and therefore the ruling classes.

Although there are counter-arguments, they can be considered old-fashioned, and the ‘Eurasian School’ of what must be called ‘revisionist’ historians seems far more convincing. The impact of the invasion and then occupation seem unavoidable given that the Mongols were present for so long, as well as the fact that they continued to have an indirect effect even after the ‘Yoke’ was lifted, through the splinter Khanates, which exerted constant pressure on long stretches of the borders of the emergent Muscovite Empire[32]. In terms of the slightly longer term and more debated impacts of the Mongol conquest, credit must be given to the Mongols for the greater degree of the structure of the Muscovite state, as they influenced almost every aspect of the state: administrative, military and of course governmental.  This influence is not restricted to purely the Muscovite state either; the Mongols were also arguably the reason for the rise of Moscow as the dominant city (ahead of the likes of Vladimir and Tver)[33] in the first place, which in turn led to the establishment of the Muscovite state. This would seem to put the impact of the Mongols beyond doubt.

Word Count (including title): 1,995

 

[1] N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia (7th Edition), p.66

[2] Also named The Golden Horde or The Qipchaq Khanate.

[3] For a clear example, see E. Acton, Russia, p.9

[4] For a description of this viewpoint, see N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.69, E. Acton, Russia, p.8, C.J. Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde: The Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History, or P. Dukes, A History of Russia, p.29.

[5] R. Charques, A Short History of Russia, p.29.

[6] C.J. Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde, p.76

[7] J.J. Saunders, History of the Mongol Conquests, p.161, and to a certain extent G. Vernadsky, A History of Russia, Volume 3: The Mongols and Russia, pp.376-7. For a critical approach to this view, see D. Ostrowski, Muscovy and the Mongols: Cross-cultural influences on the steppe frontier, 1304-1589, p.62

[8] N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.71 and C.J. Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde, p.78.

[9] C.J. Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde, p.76

[10] C.J. Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde, p.79-80

[11] This is emphasized particularly by E. Acton, Russia, p.10

[12] N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.68, and also supported by C.J. Halperin in Russia and the Golden Horde, p.77

[13] See N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.68

[14] P. Dukes, A History of Russia, p.37

[15] N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.68

[16] B. Davies, ‘The Foundations of Muscovite Military Power’ in F.W. Kagan and R. Higham, The Military History of Tsarist Russia, p.17

[17] M. Howard, War in European History, pp.13-4

[18] Argued by Roublev, see C.J. Halperin, p.89-90

[19] Who themselves borrowed it from the Chinese, see D Ostrowski, Muscovy and the Mongols, p.36, see also C.J. Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde, p.89-90

[20] For a full description of this system, see D. Ostrowski, Muscovy and the Mongols, pp.36-44

[21] N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.69

[22] See E. Acton, Russia, p.10 and N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.69

[23] N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.69

[24] C.J. Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde, pp.92-3

[25] Argued by Roublev, see C.J. Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde, p. 90

[26] See D. Ostrowski, Muscovy and the Mongols, p.51-2

[27] C.J. Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde, p.91 and N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.69

[28] D. Ostrowski, Muscovy and the Mongols, p.47-50

[29] N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.69

[30] E. Acton, Russia, p.9

[31] N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.69

[32] N.V. Riasanovsky and M.D. Steinberg, A History of Russia, p.71

[33] See C.J. Halperin, Russia and the Golden Horde, p.95

Bibliography

Acton, E., Russia (London and New York, 1986)

Bartlett, R., A History of Russia, (Basingstoke and New York, 2005)

Channon, J. and Hudson, R., The Penguin Historical Atlas of Russia (London and New York, 1995)

Charques, R., A Short History of Russia (London, 1962)

Dewey, H.W., ‘Russia’s Debt to the Mongols in Suretyship and Collective Responsibility’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 30 (1988), pp.249-70

Dukes, P., A History of Russia (London and Basingstoke, 1974)

Fisher, H.H., ‘Review of George Vernadsky, The Mongols and Russia’, American Slavic and East European Review, 13 (1954), pp.606-8

Halperin, C.J., Russia and the Golden Horde: The Mongol Impact on Medieval Russian History (Bloomington, 1985)

Halperin, C.J., ‘Russia in The Mongol Empire in Comparative Perspective’, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 43 (1983), pp.239-61

Halperin, C.J., ‘Soviet Historiography on Russia and the Mongols’, Russian Review, 41 (1982), pp.306-22

Howard, M., War in European History, (New York, 2009)

Kagan, F.W. and Higham, R. (ed.), The Military History of Tsarist Russia (New York and Basingstoke, 2002)

Ostrowski, D., Muscovy and the Mongols: Cross-cultural influences on the steppe frontier, 1304-1589 (Cambridge and New York, 1998)

Riasanovsky, N.V. and Steinberg, M.D., A History of Russia (7th edition) (New York and Oxford, 2005)

Vernadsky, G., A History of Russia Volume 3: The Mongols and Russia (New York, 1953)

Feedback:

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All the following feedback is rated on the following scale: Outstanding-Excellent-Good-Competent-Pass-Fail.

Knowledge of topic: Excellent

Independence of thought: Good

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Convincing development of argument: Competent

Engagement with secondary literature: Excellent

Clarity of language: Good

Accuracy of reference and bibliography: Excellent

General feedback: This is a well researched essay which shows a very good understanding of the topic. However, you should state your own position more clearly at the beginning so that you are pursuing a clear argument throughout. Although your knowledge of various phenomena is impressive, you try to address too many points for such a short essay – it would be better to focus on fewer and give them deeper analysis. Finally, your writing has the potential to be very good, but is hindered by convoluted phrases and occasional run-on sentences. Keep everything in the past tense, and don’t use words like ‘massive’ and ‘huge’.

The early ‘military revolution’ was nothing more than an ‘infantry revolution’. Discuss.

This essay achieved a high 2:1 in the first year of my undergraduate.

The Early Military Revolution was nothing more than an ‘Infantry Revolution.’ Discuss.

There are many conflicting views on ‘The Military Revolution,’ both on what it constituted and by extension when it was. Some historians[1] consider the earlier move from the widespread use of swords, lances and crossbows among others to more uniformly pikes and muskets to be the defining moment of the ‘Revolution,’ and so argue that it took place primarily in the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries[2]. Others[3] argue strongly for ‘The Military Revolution’ not taking place until later, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries[4], and that it was the professionalisation of armies which was the revolutionary moment, with the increased emphasis on drill and discipline. Perhaps a more accurate view however is that ‘The Military Revolution’ should instead be described as a ‘punctuated equilibrium evolution,’[5] which is to say that it was more an evolution with a few revolutionary moments, none of which in themselves constituted it. This is certainly more convincing, as it effectively incorporates all the other arguments. There certainly were changes in other areas than just infantry, so it is impossible to describe ‘The Military Revolution’ as ‘no more than an ‘Infantry Revolution’.’ Almost every change to some aspect of foot soldiers was accompanied by a change somewhere else, either to compensate, or to complement.

There are those[6] who argue that ‘The Military Revolution’ was entirely focused on foot soldiers, and that any other changes were simply by-products of this. The main arguments for the ‘Infantry Revolution’ generally have their starting points in the fourteenth century, with the famous victories of infantry over cavalry at Courtrai in 1302, Bannockburn in 1314, Morgarten in 1315 and most importantly Laupen in 1339 and Crécy in 1346. The main reason for these victories is argued to be the development of an early “pike-and-shot” combination, which relied on missile troops being protected from cavalry by dismounted men-at-arms, or infantry armed with pole-arms; increasingly pikes as the period advanced[7]. This ‘Revolution’ progressed first of all with the move away from the use of swords as a primary weapon to a more self-defensive capacity. The resultant decline of swordsmen (mainly those who used large, two-handed weapons, such as in Germany)[8] led inevitably to the rise of the pike as the most popular and economical[9] weapon for infantry defending against cavalry.

According to this line of argument then, ‘The Military Revolution’ was purely an ‘Infantry Revolution’ in that it constituted the move from individual ‘warriors’ to deep, more organised blocks of pike-men, supported by small numbers of musketeers, with the decline in cavalry merely a by-product of this. The power of heavy cavalry in medieval Europe was well-known so developments were in cost-effective ways of combating it. The answer was discovered to be large formations of pikes with supporting musket-fire, and this is what is generally considered by the historians[10] who follow this line of argument to be ‘The Military Revolution’; the revolutionary changes to the way infantry fought (as well as the proportional decline of cavalry). According to this definition, the ‘The Military Revolution’ must be considered ‘nothing more than an ‘Infantry Revolution’.’

The most influential arguments concerning the ‘The Military Revolution’ are those for the importance of the later[11] professionalisation of European armies, most importantly those of the Dutch and the Swedes. This imposition of drill and discipline (which Maurice of Orange regarded as ‘the pre-condition for military success’[12]) is most obviously reflected in the organisation of infantry, with the move from the deep, unwieldy blocks of pike towards far more linear and manoeuvrable formations, as the emphasis became more on firearms; a wider front would allow more muskets to be brought to bear. This change began following the work of Machiavelli, and is rightly recognised as a revolutionary point.[13] Although this was a major part of the later ‘Military Revolution,’ it did not solely represent the contemporary changes to warfare, nor was this imposition of drill and discipline, as well as general organisation (including uniformity of equipment, as well as economy of training[14]) restricted purely to the foot soldiers.

There were simultaneously revolutionary advances in other aspects of warfare, with cavalry abandoning the largely ineffective caracole[15], in favour of the ‘Swedish Charge’ (a tactic which Gustavus Adolphus is credited with[16]) or the arme blanche[17], which involved a disciplined, shock charge with swords[18]. As well as this important change, there were other, more subtle changes in the roles of cavalry throughout Europe, as is shown by the growth of early forms of dragoons units[19].  The artillery also, while not necessarily becoming more disciplined, grew more flexible, with the introduction of more mobile artillery, which allowed close support of both infantry and cavalry. Although it is unclear when this change originated[20], it was certainly an important move from the largely immobile origins of artillery, and must be considered if not revolutionary then at least innovative. This definitely proves that ‘The Military Revolution’ as argued by historians such as Roberts and Parker was in no way exclusively an ‘Infantry Revolution,’ and that advancements were made both in terms of technology and tactics in other areas. This interpretation of particularly Roberts’ argument is however contested[21], that the changes in other areas of warfare were results of the revolutionary advances in the tactics and technology used by the infantry.

These improvements in technology continued away from pitched battlefields, towards siege warfare and the trace italienne, or the new-style fortifications which were built[22] specifically in order to defend against gunpowder weapons. It is argued that the development of these fortifications, combined with the more defensive advantages of gunpowder meant that there was once again an advantage with the defender[23] and this accordingly caused some significant changes to armies. The most important of these is the definite increase in size of armies, most notably 1550-1700[24]. According to some historians[25] the reason for the massive surge in the number of men involved in the military is due to the fact that to storm one of the new ‘star’ forts it generally required a manpower advantage of three to one[26]. It is also generally argued by these historians that ‘The Military Revolution’ also constituted a move away from pitched battles and towards more set piece battles (i.e. sieges), due to the fact that the human cost of storming a fort was too high, and this meant that sieges began to rely on the attackers starving out the defenders.

The terms of ‘The Military Revolution’ are widely debated, and all the arguments set forward have good points: what can perhaps be described as the ‘first stage’ almost certainly can be considered a purely ‘Infantry Revolution,’ as it solely comprised of the rise of infantry or rather, the “pike-and-shot” organisation pioneered arguably by the Flemish at Courtrai in 1302. However, the view of C.J. Rogers, that there was indeed an ‘Infantry Revolution,’ but that it did not constitute the full extent of the changes to warfare[27], is far more accurate as there were undoubtedly other revolutionary advances later on in the Early Modern period, most notably the professionalisation of armies towards the end of the sixteenth and the start of the seventeenth centuries.

By contrast, the arguments that ‘The Military Revolution’ was in the later part of the period (that it was purely this professionalisation which constituted it) seem somewhat incomplete; they fail to take into account the initial move towards gunpowder weapons and the marginalisation of heavy cavalry. These arguments also only mention the decline of decisive pitched battles prior to ‘The Military Revolution,’ while conveniently avoiding how warfare regressed to that point; an issue which has its roots in what is termed by some[28] as the ‘Late Medieval Military Revolution.’

Overall, it is difficult to agree that there was in fact a ‘Military Revolution’ at any specific point because the pace at which the various progressions occurred was so slow, due to the fact that it arguably began in the late fourteenth century and ended in the eighteenth century. C.J. Rogers’ argument that it was less a ‘Revolution’ and more an ‘Evolution’ is far more convincing. Even if it is considered a ‘Military Revolution’ despite its pace, it is undeniable that it was far more than simply an ‘Infantry Revolution,’ as is clearly shown mainly by the various changes undergone by cavalry; from mounted knights to pistoliers and then back to heavy cavalry (admittedly different, but heavy cavalry nonetheless), although the progression in the technologies behind artillery, and siege warfare was also significant, as it arguably[29] led to increased army sizes[30], and  the development of mass warfare.

Word Count (including title): 1,997

 

[1] Such as Ayton and Price, and to a certain degree J. Black and C.J. Rogers.

[2] See A. Ayton and J.L. Price (eds.), The Medieval Military Revolution: State, Society and Military Change in Medieval and early Modern Europe.

[3] Most notably M. Roberts and G. Parker, although J.R. Hale also supports this view.

[4] Although Parker sets the dates 1450-1800, his main argument is for Maurice of Nassau (1567-1625).

[5] C.J. Rogers, ‘Military Revolutions in the Hundred Years War,’ in C.J. Rogers (ed.), The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation in Early Modern Europe.

[6]‘The Military Revolution’ as an ‘Infantry Revolution’ is argued by A. Ayton and J.L. Price, and C.J. Rogers does argue that there was an ‘Infantry Revolution,’ but that it did not constitute ‘The Military Revolution.’

[7] C.J. Rogers, ‘Military Revolutions,’ p.58-9.

[8] J.R. Hale, War and Society in Renaissance Europe 1450-1620, p.51

[9] In terms of training.

[10] A. Ayton and J.L. Price

[11] In the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.

[12] D. Eltis, The Military Revolution in Sixteenth Century Europe, p.8

[13] See J. Black, War in the Early Modern World 1450-1815, pp.195-6, and J.R. Hale, War and Society in Renaissance Europe 1450-1620, p.59, as well as M. Roberts, ‘The Military Revolution 1560-1660,’ in C.J. Rogers (ed.), The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation in Early Modern Europe, pp.15-6

[14] A major reason for the initial move towards muskets and gunpowder in general

[15] For a description of this tactic, see D. Eltis, The Military Revolution in Sixteenth Century Europe, p.22-3

[16] By M. Roberts, see ‘The Military Revolution 1560-1660’

[17] This is contested by G. Parker, see D. Eltis, The Military Revolution in Sixteenth Century Europe, p.10

[18] M. Howard, War in European History, p.59

[19] J.R. Hale, War and Society in Renaissance Europe 1450-1620, p.55

[20] M. Roberts credits Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632), while J.A. Lynn presents evidence that it was in fact used in the early sixteenth century French army in ‘Tactical Evolution in the French Army,’ French Historical Studies, 14 (1985), pp.176-91.

[21] M.S. Kingra, ‘The Trace Italienne and the Military Revolution During the Eighty Years’ War, 1567-1648,’ The Journal of Military History, 57 (1993), p.432

[22] See D. Eltis, The Military Revolution in Sixteenth Century Europe, p.10 and M.S. Kingra, ‘The Trace Italienne and the Military Revolution During the Eighty Years’ War, 1567-1648,’ The Journal of Military History, 57 (1993), pp.431-46

[23] G.R. Potter (ed.), The New Cambridge Modern History Volume I: The Renaissance 1493-1520, p.275

[24] See B.M. Downing, The Military Revolution and Political Change: Origins of Democracy and Autocracy in Early Modern Europe and for a different argument; that the new fortifications were not the cause for increased army sizes, see J. Black (ed.), War in the Early Modern World 1450-1815, p.185

[25] Most notably by G. Parker, see ‘The Military Revolution 1560-1660 – a myth?’ in C.J. Rogers (ed.), The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation in Early Modern Europe

[26] D. Appleby

[27] As opposed to A. Ayton and J.L. Price, see The Medieval Military Revolution: State, Society and Military Change in Medieval and early Modern Europe.

[28] A. Ayton, J.L. Price as well as D. Nicholas, see The Transformation of Europe, 1300-1600, pp.33-6

[29] Supported by G. Parker, ‘The Military Revolution 1560-1660 – a myth?’ in C.J. Rogers (ed.), The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation in Early Modern Europe.

[30] See J.R. Hale, War and Society in Renaissance Europe 1450-1620, pp.62-3

Bibliography

Ayton, A. and Price, J.L. (eds.), The Medieval Military Revolution: State, Society and Military Change in Medieval and early Modern Europe (London, 1995)

Black, J. (ed.), War in the Early Modern World 1450-1815 (London, 1999).

Boot, M., War made New: Weapons, Warrior and the Making of the Modern World (New York, 2006).

Cameron, E. (ed.), Early Modern Europe, (New York, 2001).

Corvisier, A. (trans. Siddall, A.T.), Armies and Societies in Europe 1494-1789 (London, 1979).

Dorn, H., ‘The “Military Revolution”: Military History or History of Europe?’, Technology and Culture, 32 (1991), pp.656-8.

Downing, B.M., The Military Revolution and Political Change: Origins of Democracy and Autocracy in Early Modern Europe, (Princeton, 1992).

Eltis, D. The Military Revolution in Sixteenth Century Europe (London & New York, 1998).

Hacker, B.C., ‘Women and Military Institutions in Early Modern Europe: A Reconnaissance’, Signs, 6 (1981), pp.643-71.

Hale, J.R., War and Society in Renaissance Europe 1450-1620 (European Union, 1985).

Hall, B.S. and DeVries, K.R., ‘Essay Review – the “Military Revolution” Revisited’, Technology and Culture, 31 (1990), pp.500-7.

Howard, M., War in European History, (New York, 2009).

Kingra, M.S., ‘The Trace Italienne and the Military Revolution During the Eighty Years’ War, 1567-1648’, The Journal of Military History, 57 (1993), pp.431-46.

Lynn, J.A., ‘Tactical Evolution in the French Army,’ French Historical Studies, 14 (1985), pp.176-91.

Nicholas, D., The Transformation of Europe 1300-1600 (New York, 1999).

Parker, G., ‘The “Military Revolution,” 1955-2005: From Belfast to Barcelona and The Hague’, The Journal of Military History, 69 (2005), pp.205-9.

Paul, M.C., ‘The Military Revolution in Russia, 1550-1682’, The Journal of Military History, 68 (2004), pp.9-45.

Poe, M., ‘The Consequences of the Military Revolution in Muscovy: A Comparative Perspective’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 38 (1996), pp.603-18.

Potter, R.G. (ed.), The New Cambridge Modern History Volume 1: The Renaissance 1493-1520 (London & New York, 1957).

Raudzens, G., ‘Military Revolution or Maritime Evolution? Military Superiorities or Transportation Advantages as Main Causes of European Colonial Conquests to 1788’, The Journal of Military History, 63 (1999), pp.631-41.

Raymond, J., Henry VIII’s Military Revolution: The Armies of Sixteenth Century Britain and Europe, (London, 2007).

Rogers, C.J., The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe (Boulder & Oxford, 1995).

Wiesner-Hanks, M.E., Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789 (Cambridge, 2006).

Feedback:

68%

All the following feedback is rated on the following scale: Outstanding-Excellent-Good-Competent-Pass-Fail.

Breadth of Reading: Excellent

Critical approach to historiography: Excellent-Good

Focus on question: Good

Organization of the material: Good

Depth of understanding and insight: Excellent-Good

Use of examples: Good

Introduction and Conclusion: Excellent

Factual accuracy: Good

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Fluent and correct English: Excellent-Good

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Sources cited correctly: Good

General Comments and Advice: This is a very impressive first essay, showing a good grasp of the topic, excellent management with historians’ views and awareness of a broad range of examples. There are one or two minor areas for improvement, but most of these are technical. It is better to refer to historians by name in the main body of the essay, rather than using the weaker ‘some historians’. Also, in undergraduate essays, the footnotes should principally be used to cite sources, rather than to expand upon arguments (although this is how they are sometimes used at more advanced levels).

At times you strayed away from the main question by dealing with the whole period, rather than the early ‘military revolution’, but you justify this well with reference to the differing historical arguments. Overall, while a little more focus is at times required, this is an admirable approach to a complex question, and a sign of better things to come. An excellent effort.

 

Why did early modern states seek to curb religious dissent and how significant were their efforts?

This essay achieved a low 2:1 in the first year of my undergraduate.

Why did early modern states seek to curb religious dissent and how significant were their efforts?

Religious dissent during the early modern period was something which arguably crippled many of the nascent nation-states of Europe at various points. Restricting this was therefore sought by the majority of contemporary monarchs. There are many arguments as to the specific reasons for the search for religious ‘concord,’[1] which range from the connotations of general unity,[2] as well as for the promotion of national identities, to the fact that religious concord was the inherent duty of monarchs.[3] At the same time as this, there were certain reasons why promoting religious unity was potentially unwise.[4] It is debatable how significant the attempts at religious concord were, both in terms of their success and their effects, primarily on state development.

The reasons for the limitation of religious dissent are fairly debatable, and encompass everything from the promotion of religious and by extension political and social unity to the fact that it was the duty of monarchs. The encouragement of religious concord promoted a wider unity, and meant that were less likely to be the fierce regional divisions by religion such as were present in France in 1562-3.[5] When a unified religious community developed, it meant that everyone who belonged to it was likely to share similar political and social potentially due their shared religious philosophies, and the fact that they spent a lot of time around each other. This worked the other way as well: religious unity was expected out of a political necessity.[6] By extension, if the people of the kingdom shared a religion it meant that it was easier for a monarch or state to appeal to all his subjects simultaneously, which would reduce the need for compromise, thus making it easier to govern the country effectively.

Another common way in which religious unity was promoted was through the persecution of minorities, also known as negative integration. Such a ‘tactic’ would serve to further unite and strengthen the majority (normally either Catholic or Protestant), while simultaneously weakening the minority and as such was a further reason for curbing religious dissent.  It was similarly considered a duty of many European monarchs, to swear at their consecration to “keep the peace of the church,” and to exterminate all those deemed heretics,[7] and this was strongly promoted in France. The fact that the rulers swore to it as they were crowned meant that it was inherently required that they pursued religious concord and therefore curbed dissent. In some European states, particularly in Germany, it was decided that the ‘religion of the ruler should be the religion of the ruled,’ under the principle of cuius regio eius religio, and cemented to a certain extent at the Peace of Augsburg in 1555.[8] The former example in particular serves to clearly show the significance religion played in period in terms of promoting political legitimacy,[9] and it can therefore be argued that religious concord was sought merely as a source of political capital for various monarchs.

By contrast, there are also reasons why the pursuit of religious concord was not as vigorous as it might have been, the most important of which were arguably the threat of retribution or the economic connotations. The threat of retribution was held over most European states as a punishment for persecuting Muslims by the presence of strong Islamic states,[10] namely the Ottoman Empire which encircled a good proportion of the Mediterranean coastline. Likewise the Jews were protected, albeit to a lesser degree, by their unique position and influence within the financial industry. A good example of this is what happened in Spain following the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.[11] The latter argument has more recently been contested, as it is argued that it was not out of necessity that the Jews were tolerated but rather out of greed.[12] Even if this is true, the point remains that there was a material incentive to tolerate a different religion, something which was according to Whaley reinforced even later and elsewhere, in eighteenth century Hamburg by the Treaty of Osnabrück.[13] The argument for toleration out of economic necessity has been heavily contested,[14] but the toleration itself provides incontrovertible evidence that the search for religious unity was not as fervent as it might have been. The reason for toleration is arguably irrelevant and in any case it varied from region to region (sometimes from town to town); the fact remains that there were also reasons why religious concord was not sought just as much as there were reasons why it was.

Perhaps more ideologically, and far more simply, the attempts to halt religious dissent inevitably led to persecution, bloodshed and, at its extremity, war.[15]  As well as being difficult to justify with religion, war was destructive to not just the people involved but to the state infrastructure as whole and so was something which was fiercely avoided. Evidence for this can be found in France, particularly following the Edict of Nantes in 1598, which gave Catholicism as the state religion but provisioned for Protestant Huguenots to worship freely – within certain geographical areas.[16]

The attempts to curb religious dissent were significant both in terms of their cumulative and wider impact. Perhaps the most important and furthest reaching impact of the search for religious concord was the one it had on state development. The effects these attempts had were not restricted to simply positive or negative; initially, they were almost exclusively negative while later in the period, they became increasingly positive. Earlier in the period, and as a result of the wars it arguably caused, religious concord and persecution undoubtedly stunted state development as it meant that the state was more concerned with defending the physical borders rather than the religion. As well as this, the contemporary focus of state development was originally centralisation, both political and industrial. Religious diversity by its nature would have hindered this still further, and it was only later on, once religious unity had by and large been achieved that the state would be able to move on to such ideas as promoting a national identity.

By contrast, as religious dissent became less of an issue, religion began to take a less central position within the state and the policies it created.[17] This is shown to a certain extent by the long-term decline in wars fought purely for the sake of religion. Similarly, when religious concord was achieved to any great degree, making the nation itself more unified, it meant that the state was able to devote more time, effort and funds to improving various areas of society. These improvements, in fields such as the economy and the military served to strengthen the nation as a whole, as well as the position of the state within it, exemplified best by the rise of Sweden as a major military power in the early seventeenth century.[18]

Attempts at religious unity were not just restricted to individual nations however, and some monarchs (particularly the Catholic monarchs of France and Spain) were also interested in wider religious unity. This was significant for the contemporary politics of Europe, as it meant that certain countries were forced into alliances with each other due to their matching religion out of a political necessity. Due to the fact that initially foreign policy was created based on religion meant that curbing dissent had a significant effect in creating internecine wars in Europe. This is shown first by the largely Habsburg-Valois conflicts of 1546-55 and later (1566-1609) with the Spanish aggression towards both the protestant Dutch and English.[19]

It is possible to argue that the impact of searching for religious unity was arguably fairly insignificant, as the impact was debatably limited to the elite who signed all of the treaties and edicts, and had little effect on the majority population. While this was uncommon, there are the somewhat startling examples, most notably in Hanover and Augsburg, where the elite minority imposed their Catholicism on the majority Lutheran population.[20] The extent to which impositions such as these actually affected the ‘ruled’ is a contentious and widely debated issue with some, including Roper, Scribner and Rublack arguing that the rulers were far more antagonistic,[21] and others including Vogler that the ‘ruled’ strongly resisted them.[22] It is precisely this: the fact that there were varying levels of interaction between the elite and the people which caused inter-regional conflict and rivalry, and this would seemingly make it clear that the effect of the search for concord, however local, was significant for the greater politics of the area, and on a larger scale, Europe.

Overall, it is impossible to pinpoint any single reason for early modern states to have sought to curb religious dissent due to the fact that they varied so wildly from state to state, and from consolidating the position of the state as a whole to promoting the power of an individual monarch. As well as this, there are as many reasons why early modern states would have wanted to encourage religious tolerance. The significance of the attempts (or otherwise) themselves is far more clear cut. While there are arguments debating this significance, it seems impossible to deny both the short term impacts on the political landscape of contemporary Europe, and the long term impacts on European state development.

Word Count (including title): 2,000

 

[1] M. Turchetti, ‘Religious concord and political tolerance in sixteenth and seventeenth century France,’ Sixteenth Century Journal, 22 (1991), pp.15-25.

[2] Put forward by M.J. Braddick, State Formation in early modern England 1550-1700.

[3] M. Turchetti, ‘Religious concord and political tolerance in sixteenth and seventeenth century France,’ Sixteenth Century Journal, 22 (1991), p.16.

[4] See H. Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition, pp.9-12 and T.A. Brady Jr., H.A. Oberman and J.D. Tracy (eds.), Handbook of European History 1400-1600: Late Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, p.263.

[5] S. Gunn, ‘War, Religion and the State,’ in ed. E. Cameron, Early Modern Europe: An Oxford History, p.128

[6] M.J. Braddick, State Formation in early modern England 1550-1700, p.289

[7] M. Turchetti, ‘Religious concord and political tolerance in sixteenth and seventeenth century France,’ Sixteenth Century Journal, 22 (1991), p.16

[8] J.F. Harrington and H.W. Smith, ‘Confessionalization, Community and State Building in Germany, 1555-1870,’ The Journal of Modern History, 69 (1997), p.77

[9] M.J. Braddick, State Formation in early modern England 1550-1700, p.287

[10]T.A. Brady Jr, H.A. Oberman and J.D. Tracy (eds.), Handbook of European History 1400-1600: Late Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, p.263

[11] H. Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition, pp.11-2

[12] T.A. Brady Jr, H.A. Oberman and J.D. Tracy (eds.), Handbook of European History 1400-1600: Late Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, pp.263-5

[13] J. Whaley, Religious Toleration and Social Change in Hamburg 1529-1819,  J.F. Harrington and H.W. Smith, ‘Confessionalization, Community and State Building in Germany, 1555-1870,’ The Journal of Modern History, 69 (1997)

[14] J. Leclerc, Toleration and the Reformation, 2 vols. and H. Lutz (ed.), Zur Geschicte der Toleranz und Religionsfreiheit

[15] J.F. Harrington and H.W. Smith, ‘Confessionalization, Community and State Building in Germany, 1555-1870,’ The Journal of Modern History, 69 (1997), p.77, M.E. Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789, p.151-2

[16] M.E. Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789, p.180

[17] J.F. Harrington and H.W. Smith, ‘Confessionalization, Community and State Building in Germany, 1555-1870,’ The Journal of Modern History, 69 (1997), p.88

[18] See to a certain extent M.Roberts, ‘The military revolution, 1560-1660: an inaugural lecture delivered before the Queen’s Univeristy of Belfast,’ and S. Gunn, ‘War, Religion and the State,’ in ed. E. Cameron, Early Modern Europe: An Oxford History, p.126.

[19] M.E. Wiesner-Hanks, Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789, pp.167-9, 177-81.

[20] J.F. Harrington and H.W. Smith, ‘Confessionalization, Community and State Building in Germany, 1555-1870,’ The Journal of Modern History, 69 (1997), p.83

[21] L. Roper, The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg, B. Scribner, ‘The Reformation as a Social Movement’ in ed. W.J. Mommsen Stadtbürgertum und Adel in der Reformation: Studien zur Sozialgeschicte der Reformatino in England und Deutschland, pp.49-79 and H-C. Rublack, Die Gescheiterte Reformatino: Früherformatorische und protestantishe Bewegungen in sud- un westdeutschen geislichen Residenzen.

[22] B. Vogler, Vie religieuse en pays rhénan dans la seconde motié du XVIe siècle, 3 vols.

Bibliography

Braddick, M.J., State Formation in early modern England 1550-1700 (Cambridge, 2000)

Brady Jr., T.A., Oberman, H.A. and Tracy, J.D. (eds.), Handbook of European History 1400-1600: Late Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation (Leiden, New York and Köln, 1994)

Cameron, E., (ed.), Early Modern Europe: An Oxford History (New York, 2001)

Harrington, J.F., and Smith, H.W., ‘Confessionalization, Community and State Building in Germany, 1555-1870,’ The Journal of Modern History, 69 (1997), pp.77-101

Kamen, H., The Spanish Inquisition (London, 1965)

Kleinman, R., ‘Changing Interpretatinos of the Edict of Nantes: The Administrative Aspect, 1643-1661,’ French Historical Studies, 10 (1978), pp.541-71

Leclerc, J., Toleration and the Reformation, 2 vols. (London, 1960)

Lutz, H. (ed.), Zur Geschicte der Toleranz und Religionsfreiheit (Darmstadt, 1977)

Roberts, M., ‘The military revolution, 1560-1660: an inaugural lecture delivered before the Queen’s Univeristy of Belfast.’

Roper, L., The Holy Household: Women and Morals in Reformation Augsburg (Oxford, 1989)

Rublack, H-C., Die Gesceiterte Reformation: Frühreformatorische und protestantische Bewegungen in sud- un westdeutschen geistlichen Residenzen (Stuttgart, 1978)

Russell, C., ‘Arguments for Religious Unity in England, 1530-1650,’ Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 18 (1967), pp.201-26

Scribner, B., ‘The Reformation as a Social Movement,’ in W.J. Mommsen (ed.), Stadtbürgertum und Adel in der Reformatino: Studien zur Sozialgeschicte der Reformatino in England und Deutschland (Stuttgart, 1979)

Turchetti, M., ‘Religious concord and political tolerance in sixteenth and seventeenth century France,’ Sixteenth Century Journal, 22 (1991) pp.15-25

Vogler, B., Vie religieuse en pays rhénan dans la seconde motié du XVIe siècle, 3 vols. (Lille, 1974)

Whaley, J., Religious Toleration and Social Change in Hamburg 1529-1819 (Cambridge, 1985)

Wiesner-Hanks, M.E., Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789 (Cambridge, 2006)

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General Comments and Advice: This is a good answer to the question. You pick up on most of the positive and negative aspects of persecution, and correctly identify the importance of religious unity to state development in this period. You also make one or two very insightful points, and offer conclusions on key historical debates.

There are one or two areas for improvement. Your conclusion on the first half of the question was a little weak, particularly after you’d emphasised the importance of curbing dissent to the authorities in the main part of the essay – could we not argue this, with the monarch’s religious duty, was a widely shared and powerful reason? You also needed to spread the excellent historiographical awareness you show on pages 2 and 4 across more of the essay as a whole. Also, your assertion that reasons for toleration are ‘arguably irrelevant’ wipes out a lot of historians’ work at one go!

Overall, however, this is a good essay. You perhaps need to take more care when proof reading, and have a little more confidence in your conclusions, but you show a lot of potential here.