Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Turner's Pallas Armata

Turner, Sir James. Pallas Armata. Military Essayes of the Ancient Grecian, Roman, and Modern Art of War. Written in the Years 1670 and 1671. 1683. Repr. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968.

Sir James Turner (from the book)

Before proceeding to a review of Turner’s work, it might be useful to describe the activities of the publisher, Greenwood Press. Greenwood Press was a publishing house concentrating primarily on reprinting significant older works in a variety of fields. Military studies were strongly represented among Greenwood’s offerings, and the publisher at one time offered a separate catalog describing over 120 books on military subjects. Among books listed in that catalog were many of interest to scholars of the early modern period, including several titles in the West Point Military Library series (works of Feuquières, Saxe, Lloyd, and Colin). Other significant titles included Frederick Lewis Taylor’s outstanding Art of War in Italy, 1494-1529, G. B. Malleson’s Battlefields of Germany, and S. R. Gardiner’s Thirty Years’ War. Of course, today many of these seminal works are available on the web.

Turner’s book is one of a multitude of military works that appeared in Europe in the second half of the 17th century. The author was a professional soldier whose purpose in writing was to instruct “Young Lords and Gentlemen” in the art of war. His style is informative – even witty – and these properties distinguish the book from many of its “dryasdust” contemporaries.

The work is really two books. The first half is a detailed synthesis of the art of war as it was practiced under the ancient Greeks and Romans; the second an examination of the art of war in Turner’s own time and just previously. Both parts are, as the author intended, instructive. No matter how deep your knowledge of the subject covered, you are likely to find something here that you hadn’t known before. For example, the author provides what I believe to be a unique description of how Swedish brigade formations of the Thirty Years’ War conducted fire fights in battle. On the whole, this is an entertaining work. It is recommended for those interested in tactics, formations, and military housekeeping of the period from the French Religious-Civil Wars through the Thirty Years’ War.

This post was adapted from a review published originally in Gorget & Sash, and is published with the permission of the editors of G&S.