An insight into the Limited Warfare of 18th century Europe
Limited Warfare in the 18th century represents a misleading name. First, numerous wars and battles were fought throughput the 18th century. However, numerous changes came into place that forsook the way of war of previous centuries. Furthermore, the 18th century saw the age of the enlightenment in which the rights of human beings were discussed.
For instance, “By the eighteenth century a moderating trend in European warfare had come to about as a result of a moral revulsion of the Thirty Years’ War and the accompanying realization that war had so ruinous an effect upon the human and the material resources of the state that, unless it were curbed, it would cease to be a worthwhile means of achieving political ends”.1
The Monarchy, Navy, and Religion
With that being said, Warfare in the 18th century shifted from naval rivalries, religious disputes, and conquest to monarchical gain.
Limited Warfare involved the use of personal armies by powerful monarchs to impose their will on the state. For instance, the powerful monarchs used their powerful armies to gain material resources with little interest in putting their entire forces at risk of being wiped out.
Wars in Europe during the 18th Century were limited in scope and impact. Battles were fought by professional, mostly mercenary armies for limited objectives and sometimes by mutual consent. Some battles were even decided without a shot fired in anger. If a commander was overgeneralized by his foe, physically or strategically, he would often accept defeat and withdraw from the field without bothering to fight.
The Austrian War of Succession epitomizes the Limited warfare of the 18th century in which several contenders tried to gain influence, and power through monarchical claims supported by the troops at the expense of state. In addition, as soldiers became much more professional and gain knowledge, and were often mercenaries leaders had to adapt to the situation and develop new strategy. Armies were professional mobile forces. However, the humanitarian spirit development by the enlightenment released the burden carried by the civilians during warfare.
Benefits of Peace
For instances, “Every command in Europe followed the practice of establishing magazines for food, clothing, ammunition, and other supplies throughout the home territory, and additional depot upon invading another country”. 2
As part of the Limited Warfare the civilians suffering from the pillaging, plundering, and sacking of their personal belonging was reduced, if not nearly eliminated; the traveling forces did not need to find food, resources since now the more professional troops transported all their necessities.
Furthermore, the humanitarian effort played an important role in the size of the armies. Now that troops were disciplined and unable to sack the towns for resources numbers were critical in terms of supplies. For instance, Marshal Hermann Maurice de Saxe argued armies were much more efficient when numbered approximately 45,000; “greater numbers would only be an embarrassment to the general”3 ultimately limiting the size of the 18th century armies.
Prelude to Total WarFrederick the Great of Prussia followed his father footsteps and increased the size of his army numbering in the hundred thousand. Most of the income of the Prussian state when into the army. Frederick very sell trained equipped his troops for battle. Therefore, as a contribution to Limited Warfare of the time, Frederick employed his troops in battles which he was certain to either win or lose with minimal casualties.
Nevertheless, the most evident of Limited Warfare of the 18th century was the minimal change in geography at the time. Unlike many conflicts of the past, the 18th century saw limited to not change in borders, and European geography.The only commander capable enough to change the course of history and the map was Napoleon. Additionally, before Napoleon Limited Warfare resulted in battles with very little decisiveness; no one nation in Europe was able to conquer the next up until Napoleon.
1. Men in Arms: A History of Warfare and Its Interrelationships With Western Society by Richard Arthur Preston, Alex Roland and S. F. Wise (Paperback – Mar 1991P. 116
2. Ibid P. 124