The Manpower Revolution or the Military Revolution in the Early Modern German States


  • Thomas Wollschläger Universität Koblenz-Landau


Parole chiave:

Prussia, Saxony, Recruitment, Canton system (Kantonssystem)


The German states during the early modern period offer a vastly diverse picture, regarding the developments of the so-called Military Revolution and its various manifestations. Even if taken into account that there is no uniform set of Military Revolution “rules” or “core elements”, the peculiar nature of the German situation prevented a coherent developmental drive throughout that period. On the one hand, the hideous experiences of the Thirty Years’ War, raging over the German landscape more than over other European territories and devastating German lands more than others, generated a major driving force in overall adopting the concepts of absolutism and its standing armies, not least aimed at preventing the Landsknecht’s system. On the other hand, the existence of several hundred states and principalities, claiming (and in many cases, having factual) sovereignty provided for many different speeds and implementations of the military developments. Between the mid-17th and mid-18th century, these led to notable divergences, resulting in new powers rising and old powers declining, forming new political and military realities at the outset of the Seven Years’ War.

The article focuses especially on Brandenburg-Prussia and Saxony, as they are the most important German states during that period and offer an interesting parallel and diverging development at the same time. Whereas Prussia emerged as the leading military power during that period, it has to be asked why so and on what basis. What role did the other innovative forces of the Military Revolution play, like military engineering, fortress building/warfare, and artillery? How did both states address the most prominent resource problem, the recruiting of sufficient soldiers to fill the standing army and militia structures? In the end, a unique and revolutionary system, implemented in Prussia, did indeed solve the manpower problem and led to its outstanding military performance during the 18th century.






Sezione monografica