Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Great Italian Wars - Reading (and Listening) List

When a new wargaming period captures my interest, collecting a period specific reading list is typically not far behind.  After watching Jake's project blossom followed by his hosting a very enjoyable Italian Wars' game, I began pondering the possibility of fielding my own force.  Although an order from Wargames Foundry was in-hand, the project really made a leap up the queue with the arrival of an already painted collection.  What this instant army did was pull me forward in the more usual, project life cycle.  For most newly launched projects, plenty of time exists for getting up to speed on the historical background before the first combat formation can be fielded.  With my instant army, I have a need to quickly attain a modicum of background on the period.

To that end, I picked up a thirty-six lecture series on the Italian Renaissance from The Teaching Company. This series of lectures was an excellent introduction to the period for me and highly enjoyable during my 600 mile round trip monthly commute.  Aside from the lecturer's sometimes annoying pronunciations of a few words, I highly recommend the course for those interested in the Italian Renaissance.  My understanding of the lectures was enhanced by my trip to Florence and Rome in 2014 and Venice in 2009.  Places and personalities discovered on the ground in Italy were given an enlightening context.   
In addition to the lecture series, I picked up a quartet of books to provide added background material.

The books are:
The Renaissance At War by Arnold
Mercenaries and their Masters, Warfare in Renaissance Italy by Mallett
The Italian Wars 1494-1559 by Mallett and Shaw
The Art of War in Italy 1494-1529 by Taylor

Only a brief flip through each at this point but I look forward to tackling one or two of these on my next trip.

Besides these and a number of Ospreys, what are other books focusing on the wars during the 1494-1529 period that should be added? 


  1. Jonathon
    You have just named my top 4 titles in the area!
    Cheers, PD

  2. I will give you the name of one (fairly obvious) "must read" author for the period . . .

    Niccolo Machiavelli

    Obviously "The Prince" and "The Art of War" but also his discourses on various subjects as well as his "History of Florence".

    -- Jeff

    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Jeff.
      The lecture series talked a bit about Machiavelli and "The Prince." I should add some of his works to my reading list.

  3. Sir Charles Oman, "the Art of War in the 16th Century", above all. Not without its flaws, but still invaluable. As a bonus, Oman's prose is a pleasure to read. Volume 2 of his "The Art of War in the Middle ages" is useful as well, with information on the Swiss-Burgundian Wars and the Hussite rebellion, which were part of the process of the de-emphasis upon the mounted Knight or equivalent. Also useful is Hans Delbruck's HIstory of the Art of War Vol II Medieval warfare (covers Swiss, Hussites, etcv), and Volume IV Early Modwern Warfare", which covers The Great Italian Wars through the Napoleonic Wars. Also of use is Lidell Harts "Gustavus Adolphus", which spends a lot of time on the evolution of warfare from the Swiss up to the time of G2A. But get Oman's 16th century - the rest are supporting actors.

    1. Peter, I knew you would come to the aid of your countryman!

      Oman has been added to my list. When I think of Oman, I always think of his multi-volume History of the Peninsular War. I did not know he wrote on earlier periods.

      Delbruck, I read so many years ago that I fail to recall which volume it was!

      Appreciate your suggestions.

    2. Oman actually wrote his undergraduate thesis at Oxford on the transition in warfare from Medieval to what we would call the Renaissance; both this book and his 2 volume set on the Middle ages grew out of that (BTW, get the later, 1924 version of the Medieval volumes if you buy them - much better). The 16th Century volume also includes the French Wars of Religion, warfare in England and the Low Countries, as well as the Ottoman resurgence. For a wargamer, it is a truly great book. It is long, so you will read it in spurts, but it is just fine that way. Oman is almost never dull!

    3. As always, you are a wealth of info, Peter, and I appreciate the recommendation. Oman sounds perfect.
      I am off in search of Oman!

  4. This really is a wonderful era in European political and cultural history - if you like podcasts, there might be something to source from that media too. Possibly another angle on the ITW is via German history; the Holy Roman Empire and the emperors Maximilian, Charles V and their bankers - the Fugger family. Love the period and the project, best wishes with all the great and colorful painting you have in front of you!

    1. Searching for podcasts is a good suggestion. The Great Courses course listed above is 18 hours of lectures. On sale, these are very good value but, of course, not compared against a free podcast.

      Much colorful painting lays in wait, for sure!

  5. The Italian Wars 1494-1559 by Mallett and Shaw is a good read and Mercenaries and their Masters, Warfare in Renaissance Italy by Mallett also a great book to have and keep! :o)

    1. Ah, I should have known that some of these books would be familiar to you. Hopefully, the two Mallett books do not have a lot of duplication.