Monday, July 15, 2013

On the Buccaneer's Nightstand

I have a hard time reading one book at a time. In fact, it's not uncommon for me to bounce back and forth between three or four books at once, so my nightstand tends to be a bit crowded. Right now there are just two books there - at least for the moment.

The first is Warrior Pursuits: Noble Culture and Civil Conflict in Early Modern France by Brian Sandberg, assistant professor of history at Northern Illinois University. Focusing on the first quarter of the 17th century, when the southwest of France was riven by confessional conflicts between Catholics and Huguenots as well as secular strife between noble clienteles, the book examines the sword nobility - the warrior elite - in Languedoc and Guyenne. The presentation is very thorough, describing in accessible detail how families participated in clienteles, how they gained ranks and offices, how they managed their finances, and so on.

What I particularly enjoy about this book - and about regional history generally - is that Dr Sandberg uses case studies from different families to illustrate broader themes. Sharon Kettering is another writer who does the same in her books on Early Modern France, and I've drawn deeply from her work in creating characters and situations for my campaign; Dr Sandberg's book provides me with a wealth of similar details, in a part of my campaign world which is likely to see considerable attention from the player characters in the near future. It's also a very good nuts-and-bolts look at history behind the military, bureaucratic, and noble careers in Flashing Blades. The prose is accessible and a pleasure to read.

The second is David Parrott's The Business of War: Military Enterprise and Military Revolution in Early Modern Europe. Dr Parrott is also the author of Richelieu's Army: War, Government and Society in France, 1624-1642, and in The Business of War, he turns his focus from France in the Thirty Years War to private military enterprise over the 16th and 17th centuries. As historiography, it takes a new look at the 'military revolution' of the 17th century, arguing that rather than the end of military entrepreneurship, the period saw a resurgence of private military enterprise. The book provides a comprehensive look at how armies were raised and kept in the field.

Some time ago I wrote a first draft of house rules for my Flashing Blades campaign, using a variety of sources - including Dr Parrot's earlier book - and its interesting to re-examine those rules in light of this exhaustive treatment of the subject.

And yeah, this is the stuff I read for fun.


  1. GAH! LOL!
    I just spent my b'day money on FoGR and some Osprey books. Now I'll have to see if my library can get these volumes for me.

    Thanks. :D

    Also, finally tucked into Alatriste: loving the novels, found the movie to be sumptuous visually but very poorly edited.

    1. Having read the first six novels before watching the film with my wife (who had not read the novels) and then rewatched it with a friend who had also not read the novels, I don't know that I would say the movie is edited poorly so much as that it tries to cover far too much material and ends up being more of a highlights of the saga rather than a rich or detailed rendition.

      Totally agree that visually it is magnificent and the Battle of Rocroi is one of the few instances in a movie of actually seeing the push of pikes.

  2. I found Richelieu's Army: War, Government and Society in France, 1624-1642 by Parrott very informative in better understanding the organizaiton of French regiments both on paper and in the field.

    BTW, your pleasure reading is one reason that your campaign web site is such a good resource for the period.

    1. I particularly agree regarding the sharing of the nightstand reading. For those of us fascinated by the period, but unsure where to start digging in, such pointers are solid gold.

      Thanks, Mike!

  3. Couldn't find any of those in the local public library but did get a copy of The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy today and started it.

    I've also finished all the Alatriste books currently translated into English. Alas, still no sign of Assassin's Bridge despite it being published >2 years ago.