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Urban authors 15th book on European history

Barry McNamara
The 15th book on European political and military history by 45-year Monmouth College faculty member William Urban is now available through Frontline Books.

Urban, MC’s Lee L. Morgan Professor of History & International Studies, has authored “Matchlocks to Flintlocks: Warfare in Europe and Beyond 1500-1700.” A follow-up to his 2007 work, “Bayonets for Hire,” it is the fourth book Urban has published through Frontline.

“I had a lot of good stories left after ‘Bayonets for Hire,’” said Urban. “If I’d put it all together in ‘Bayonets,’ that would have been an 800-page book.”

In the 304-page hardcover edition, Urban looks at the development of warfare in the two centuries between the French invasion of Italy in 1494 and the Austrian victory over the Turks that culminated in the Treaty of Peterwardein in 1718. That development explains the book’s title, as the standard infantry weapon in 1500 was a matchlock, and the flintlock had been introduced by 1700.

“Military technology was changing, but everything else, too,” said Urban. “This is not just a ‘shoot ’em up’ account. It’s much more than that. … The readers most likely to enjoy this book will be those who are eager to learn more about a somewhat familiar subject – warfare – but to see it in unfamiliar places and perhaps from a different point of view.”

“The book fills a significant gap in the military history of the early modern world,” wrote Colorado College history professor Dennis Showalter in the foreword. “The specific subject of early modern warfare has been fragmented at best, at worst mined for data supporting broader constructions. … (This) is a story of war, and the persons and institutions that waged it, during the two key centuries when warriors became soldiers and soldiers became servants of the state.”

“Matchlocks and Flintlocks” argues that the rise of the West between 1500 and 1700 had less to do with technological superiority than with the reliance on feudal levies and hurriedly-raised mercenary units evolving first into state-directed contract armies, then into state armies.

Wrote one reviewer, “One of the best features of this book is that it rarely mentioned England, a fairly marginal military power for most of this period. Instead, the focus is on the main European powers of the period: France, the Ottomans, the vast ramshackle Polish-Lithuanian Republic, Sweden, Russia and the Habsburg lands. … One of the key strengths of the text is Urban’s ability to tie together strands that are not always connected – one great example being the impact the activities of Louis XIV on the eastern borders of France had on the Habsburg’s ability to fight the Ottoman Turks.”

The reviewer also praised Urban’s willingness to tackle “a somewhat neglected period and a much wider geographical area than is normally the case. … This is a very useful book.”