How did an 18th Century army work? This book is the most important examination of such an army yet done, written by the premier military historian of the era.
Maria Theresa had seen her inheritance almost lost to unprovoked attacks from her neighbours. Her army had stood by her then, and was now trying desperately to improve, as it had to face Frederick the Great, the master-soldier of the era. But she and her ministers soon faced the dilemma of how to fight a war without sacrificing what they were fighting for.
The structure of the army, the life of its soldiers, its strengths and weaknesses, the personalities that gave it such a unique character, from top to bottom, are all considered. Not only is the Austria of Maria Theresa examined, but fascinating views appear of Prussian opponents and French, Swedish and Russian armies. Efforts were made to reshape the army, the state, and the world of diplomacy. Maria Theresa wanted to be a mother to her army, to serve it as faithfully as it served her. This is a study of what problems they faced.
The army and its needs affected all around it. Conscription, taxation, constitutional change, bureaucracy, logistics, all of these dominated countries that never witnessed a campaign. To most of the inhabitants of Central Europe the army was the state, and their lives cannot be understood without examining it. Conscription tells us much about the homelands of the soldiers - the languages they spoke, the professions they served, their willingness to serve what to many was an alien monarch. The army provides an important view of 18th Century Bohemia, Hungary, Croatia, Lombardy, Belgium and Austria. Even the distant Irish played an important role in this army.
But this is no dry commentary. The 18th Century is brought to life not only in the words of Christopher Duffy, but also of the perceptive diplomat Kaunitz, experienced generals like Daun and Loudon, Prussian spies and foreign attaches, a cynical Belgian prince and a young Italian officer, and many others. Their first-hand accounts explain the successes and failures of Austria at war.
The battles and campaigns of the Seven Years War cannot be understood without knowledge of the instruments necessary to conduct such a war. Every serious military historian should read this book.