Friday 16 June 2023

The German Peasant’s War 1524-1526.

Helion’s latest in their ‘from Retinue to Regiment’ series is another masterpiece, in the shape of Douglas Miller’s ‘The German Peasants’ War 1524-1526’.

I didn’t know a great deal about the popular uprisings which became known as the Peasants’ War prior to reading this book, my knowledge being limited to two of the author’s other books. Having done so now, I am amazed at the level of detail Mr Miller has included in what must be described not only as arguably the definitive English language book on the subject but also a labour of love.

After a helpful discussion on warfare in general at the turn of the sixteenth century, including the impact of the decline of the heavy cavalry an and the rise in the use of gunpowder weapons, we are launched into a detailed description of the military organisation of the various peasant armies and ‘bands’, modelled loosely on that of the Landsknechts. It did not surprise me to read that many of the latter sided with the peasant armies. The author has gone to great lengths to help the readership understand the peasant armies, their leaders, composition despite the label, (by no means all the armies were made up of peasants, but also townsmen and ex-soldiers), motivation, logistics, armaments and of course their objectives in rising up in rebellion against their overlords.

The war itself is described clearly and comprehensively over two chapters which in page terms take up the bulk of the book. First the initial phases and actions of the uprising in 1524, then the full blown rebellion in 1525-1526. Both chapters give detailed information on the chronology of events, and more interesting, the organisation of the many regional armies or bands and their enemies, the armies of the Swabian League and local German princes who opposed the uprising. This was an incredibly violent war, as indeed all civil uprisings tend to be, with atrocities committed on both sides, leaving tens of thousands of dead across a region devastated by war.

The book boasts some lovely colour plates depicting the appearance of the troops involved together with five pages showing examples of the various Peasant banners. There are also several colour maps showing the strategic and political situation in Europe at the time. Particularly useful are the black and white maps focussing on some of the major battles, sieges and engagements that took place during the war.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anybody interested in German military history during the early sixteenth century; indeed there are many aspects of social history that are also covered in this remarkable publication.

It is worth noting that, as alluded to earlier, this book is a companion to the author’s ‘The Army of the Swabian League 1525’, also published by Helion in this series.

From a wargaming perspective this book should carry a ‘health warning’ as it has masses to offer should anyone fancy raising their own peasant band. By some happy coincidence (I think not…) both Steel Fist and Artizan have recently released what I hope will be the start of two excellent ranges in 28mm. I picked up a few of the former and they really do look the part. Tempted? Oh yes.

ISBN 978-1-804512-02-9, Soft-back, 190 pages

No comments:

Post a Comment