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Unconventional warfare in Elizabethan print

31st August - 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

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‘Politike stratagems’ and ‘unbridled bravado’: Unconventional warfare in Elizabethan print 

Speaker: Michael E. Broughton, PhD candidate, University of Sheffield

This lecture will look at how Elizabethan print sources described unconventional warfare, covert operations, cunning, and guile, to illustrate how soldier-poets and theorists reconciled honour and chivalric ideals with the transformation of 16th-century warfare.  

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the ‘military revolution’ saw developments in technology, strategy, and state-building which fundamentally changed the way armies fought across Europe. These changes began with the development of increasingly effective firearms, ordinance, and forts, and eventually resulted in alternative tactics and a novel ‘experience’ of war. This lecture explores how these transformations affected the martial culture of early modern England; a culture that, on one hand, was traditionally based on the concepts of honour, bravery, and the medieval legacy of chivalry, but one the other hand, celebrated the buccaneering activities of Francis Drake, and promoted horrific acts of religious violence.  

Technical developments of gunpowder and fortifications, coupled with England’s engagement with the larger, more professional, and domineering Spanish empire, triggered changes in the language of Elizabethan soldier-poets and military theorists. The burgeoning sphere of print provided a forum for these authors to express their thoughts publicly. In doing so, some authors came to vindicate underhanded tactics, covert operations, guile, cunning, and deceit. Language began to be redefined to suit the changing nature of warfare and military strategy.  

These changes occurred within a martial culture that was battling with notions of chivalry and honour versus those of cunning and deceit; a fascinating dichotomy, driven by tradition, military context and the nature of England’s enemies.    

Please register via Eventbrite. A link to the online presentation will be emailed in due course. 

Our online lectures are free to attend but we would be grateful for donations to help support our work as guardians of the national collection of arms and armour. 

Image: With thanks to the Rijksmuseum
Inname van de schans bij Zutphen 1591 Frans Hogenberg (atelier van) 1591-93 Rijksmuseum (RP-P-1878-A-1040)