Thursday 31 August 2023

Armies of the Italian States, 1660 to 1690, Part 2. the Lesser States.

This is quite an appropriate book to commemorate Helion’s ‘Century of the Soldier’ series in reaching its incredible 100th publication! Bruno Mugnai’s latest is the second part and companion to the sixth volume in his superb series covering the ‘Wars and Soldiers in the Reign of Louis XIV’ with the ‘Armies of the Italian States, 1660-1690, Part One’. Part Two covers the armies of some of the lesser Italian States; the armies of Genoa, the Papal States, Tuscany, Parma, Modena, Mantua, Luca, the Order of St. John and other small states.

As with the preceding volume the book breaks down into sections covering the general geopolitical situation in Italy and then goes on to describe these states and their armies in some detail, certainly more than I have ever encountered in English. The second section looks at four so-called minor wars involving these states. Two sections are on the two Waldensian Wars, (a subject I am perhaps bizarrely quite familiar with, but these add more useful information) and the war waged by Savoy-Piedmont against Genoa, and the Venetians in the Holy League War fought against the Ottomans largely in Greece and Crete, which is probably my favourite section as it has answered several questions I had which were previously unanswerable, so thanks for that.

As readers of his other works can agree, the author is an accomplished artist, and in this volume there are seven pages of gorgeous specially commissioned colour paintings that deservedly take pride of place in the centre of the book, depicting a wide range of dress, uniforms and troop types. These are accompanied by more colour illustrations of flags carried by some of the armies and two contemporary colour paintings of two of the key personalities involved. There are also a large number of contemporary black and white images, and both these and the colour plates are each accompanied by a detailed and very helpful commentary. Going back to the colour images for a moment, I wonder how many soldiers of Tuscany kicked off about having to wear a complete suit of pink? I bet they were tough.

The book closes with several really useful appendices, the second of which is particularly fascinating.

As an inveterate admirer of Bruno’s work I can wholeheartedly recommend this book as it is yet another valuable addition to the series, whether for general historical and military research purposes or for wargamers searching for something by way of a different sort of project. I will certainly be painting up a unit in pink!

ISBN 978-1-804513-94-1, Soft back, 335 pages

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