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The military revolution and political change : origins of democracy and autocracy in early modern Europe /
Brian M. Downing.
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1991.
xii, 308 p.
0691078866 :
More Details
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1991.
0691078866 :
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references.
A Look Inside
Flap Copy
"When the manuscript of this book came to my attention, I intended to do no more than skim it to see if I could help a young scholar unknown to me. Instead I found myself reading every word straight through to the end. The author's emphasis on the role of the instruments of violence and repression in inhibiting liberal and democratic trends is new to scholarship and quite convincing. Here is comparative history at its best. This book takes a big step beyond my Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. "-- Barrington Moore, Jr.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1992-09:
Downing examines how countries changed politically as a result of early modern Europe's "military revolution" (c. 1500-1650). This revolution saw large national armies replace the small feudal forces of the Middle Ages. Since feudal army structure had dispersed political and military power, medieval Europe developed rudimentary constitutional institutions, such as parliaments, that limited central authority. However, as warfare evolved towards larger armies and more sophisticated technology, power shifted towards national governments that could create the bureaucracies and collect the taxes necessary to make war on an increased scale. This process undermined constitutionalism when nations like France and Prussia met their manpower and financial needs domestically, and this concentrated power in absolutist regimes. In short, warfare fed state growth. Other countries, including England, Sweden, and the Netherlands, financed their wars differently, or limited military activity. Hence, their embryonic democratic institutions endured. A third case, Poland, saw a country fail to adapt to modern warfare and vanish as a result. Overall, Downing makes a strong case for military developments playing a major role in domestic political evolution. University libraries. P. L. de Rosa; Merrimack College
Review Quotes
"A refreshing return to a realistic view of political history."-- William R. Hawkins, Chronicles
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, September 1992
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Main Description
To examine the long-run origins of democracy and dictatorship, Brian Downing focuses on the importance of medieval political configurations and of military modernization in the early modern period. He maintains that in late medieval times an array of constitutional arrangements distinguished Western Europe from other parts of the world and predisposed it toward liberal democracy. He then looks at how medieval constitutionalism was affected by the "military revolution" of the early modern era--the shift from small, decentralized feudal levies to large standing armies. Downing won the American Political Science Association's Gabriel Almond Award for the dissertation on which this book was based.

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