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Peter H. Wilson

The chapter argues that we need to set subsidies in their wider context as just one of many ways of transferring war-making resources across political jurisdictions. Subsidies belong to the contractual forms which emerged during early modernity and which in this chapter are termed Fiscal-Military Instruments. Direct recruitment, foreign regiments, auxiliary troops and subsidy troops were all Fiscal-Military Instruments which evolved across early modernity as ways of transferring men, money, materials, services, information, and expertise between partners. Such instruments facilitated what were high-risk arrangements between partners who were often justified in mistrusting each other.

in Subsidies, diplomacy, and state formation in Europe, 1494–1789
Peter H. Wilson

This chapter focuses on the continental experience of the Thirty Years War. Gustav Drosyen, in his biography of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, labelled the process the 'Magdeburgisation' of the war. The nationalist gloss has long fallen from fashion, but many still explain the level of violence in the Thirty Years War by presenting it as the culmination of a supposed 'age of religious wars'. Two terms existed for what were considered abuses of legitimate violence: Excess and Kriegsgreuel. Unlike the twentieth-century propaganda, there was little attempt to use atrocity allegations for ideological mobilisation by fanning hatred of a demonised enemy. Magdeburg served to mask later Swedish atrocities. Massacre as understood today was subsumed as an atrocity on a large scale involving multiple deaths. Twentieth-century massacres and genocide have often involved sustained, systematic killing over prolonged years in the case of the Nazi Holocaust.

in Ireland, 1641

By expanding the geographical scope of the history of violence and war, this volume challenges both Western and state-centric narratives of the decline of violence and its relationship to modernity. It highlights instead similarities across early modernity in terms of representations, legitimations, applications of, and motivations for violence. It seeks to integrate methodologies of the study of violence into the history of war, thereby extending the historical significance of both fields of research. Thirteen case studies outline the myriad ways in which large-scale violence was understood and used by states and non-state actors throughout the early modern period across Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Atlantic, and Europe, demonstrating that it was far more complex than would be suggested by simple narratives of conquest and resistance. Moreover, key features of imperial violence apply equally to large-scale violence within societies. As the authors argue, violence was a continuum, ranging from small-scale, local actions to full-blown war. The latter was privileged legally and increasingly associated with states during early modernity, but its legitimacy was frequently contested and many of its violent forms, such as raiding and destruction of buildings and crops, could be found in activities not officially classed as war.

Open Access (free)
Violence and the early modern world
Erica Charters
Marie Houllemare
, and
Peter H. Wilson

This co-authored introduction analyses how violence was described, defined, and measured across the early modern world, eschewing Western categories and narratives and applying a global approach in their stead. By focusing on large-scale violence, it highlights the fundamental relationship between violence and growing interconnectedness across the early modern world. It endorses the broader view that violence includes both physical actions and coercive threats of physical action, and that it should be understood as a transgression that is socially defined. Early modernity is defined as the period between the mid fifteenth and early nineteenth centuries, while recognizing that any attempt to delineate epochs faces the difficulty of imposing a single framework on something as complex as the history of the world. Global history is used as a methodology to analyse large-scale violence more precisely by providing detailed case studies of violence in a range of local contexts, and to articulate the significance of violence in narratives of state and empire-building, as well as in narratives of decline and fall. Finally, the volume’s thematic structure is outlined, and comparisons and contrasts are drawn between the thirteen case studies.

in A global history of early modern violence