Cover image for Furies : war in Europe, 1450-1700
Furies : war in Europe, 1450-1700
Martines, Lauro, author.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Bloomsbury, 2014.

Physical Description:
xv, 320 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 21 cm
General Note:
Originally published: 2013.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library D214 .M37 2013 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Audubon Library D214 .M37 2013 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
Clarence Library D214 .M37 2013 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



We think of the Renaissance as a shining era of human achievementa pinnacle of artistic genius and humanist brilliance, the time of Shakespeare, Michelangelo, and Montaigne. Yet it was also an age of constant, harrowing warfare. Armies, not philosophers, shaped the face of Europe as modern nation-states emerged from feudal society. In Furies , one of the leading scholars of Renaissance history captures the dark reality of the period in a gripping narrative mosaic.

As Lauro Martines shows us, total war was no twentieth-century innovation. These conflicts spared no civilians in their path. A Renaissance army was a mobile city-indeed, a force of 20,000 or 40,000 men was larger than many cities of the day. And it was a monster, devouring food and supplies for miles around. It menaced towns and the countryside-and itself-with famine and disease, often more lethal than combat. Fighting itself was savage, its violence increased by the use of newly invented weapons, from muskets to mortars.

For centuries, notes Martines, the history of this period has favored diplomacy, high politics, and military tactics. Furies puts us on the front lines of battle, and on the streets of cities under siege, to reveal what Europes wars meant to the men and women who endured them.

Author Notes

Lauro Martines is one of the worlds foremost historian's of the Italian Renaissance and early modern Europe. He is the author of nine books, most recently the critically acclaimed titles Fire in the City: Savonarola and the Struggle for the Soul of Renaissance Florence and April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici . Born in Chicago, he was a professor of history at UCLA. He now lives in London with his wife, the novelist Julia OFaolain.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Unlucky were civilians of early modern Europe in the path of an army on the march or in a city under siege. No safer were soldiers, more apt to die from disease and starvation than battle. Vignettes of horror from the era's maelstroms, grandly titled the Thirty Years' War or the Dutch Revolt, abound in Martines' treatment, which tries to raise ethical questions about panoramas of war. Discounting princes' justifications for war, which come across as aristocratic brigandage in his text, Martines sets aside conventional military history of campaigns and leaders to show the hand of Mars on the peasants and villagers it touched. It coerced them into armies, but Mars' royal sponsors failed to render promised pay and supplies. To square accounts, their generals instead let soldiers pillage the countryside and sack cities, examples Martines draws from eyewitnesses to plunder, arson, and killing. Ending by asking historians he is a specialist on Renaissance Florence to consider morality in their political and military works about the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Martines poises an agenda atop graphic historical envisioning of what he decries.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Martines (Fire in the City), best known for his work on the Italian Renaissance, makes a major contribution in this survey of war in "early modern Europe." Challenging the conventional emphasis on diplomacy, bureaucracy, and technology in most military histories addressing the period, Martines describes medieval Europe's wars as having been shaped by a Christianity that saw battle "as punishment for sin"; a Protestant Reformation that justified "killing for God"; and a quest for private gain that drove poorly paid and insufficiently supplied armies to wreak havoc on civilian populations. The sacking of cities was not uncommon even if negotiations had been formally arranged, and mutually miserable groups of soldiers and peasants destroyed settlements as they fought over the scarce resources of subsistence economies. As civil societies dissolved in the face of random and organized violence, "fragile, unruly" armies developed into a parasitic form of community whose numbers often dwarfed those of proper towns. The direct consequences of plunder and plague, Martines concludes, far outweighed any abstract economic stimulus generated by war. The burgeoning fiscal-military state, moreover, sustained war making by replicating armies' behavior in drawing resources from their subjects by compulsion. The difference between monarchs and mercenaries, Martines shows, was merely a matter of degree. Agent: Kay McCauley, Aurous Inc. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Choice Review

In a diversion from his normal focus on Renaissance Italy, and in particular late-15th-century Florence, Martines (emer., UCLA) turns his impressive and prolific writing talents to two areas he feels are largely neglected by historians: early modern European wars and the people they affected. He is correct on both targets, but especially the latter. Military historians of all chronologies forget about wars' effects on the societies directly involved in them. Stories about generals, battles, and weapons have seemed more interesting than what people inside the besieged cities of Siena (1554-55), Sancerre (1572-73), Paris (1590), and Augsburg (1634-35) resorted to eating when driven to abject hunger by the armies attacking them. They should not be. Sieges are only one of Martines's focuses. Others include who the soldiers were, how they were fed, and what they stole and destroyed; the weapons used by and against them and the noncombatants caught in their crossfire; how religion determined the numbers and ruthlessness of warfare; and the costs, which inevitably built powerful central states. Historians of strategy and tactics may be bored; all others, while sickened by man's inhumanity to man, will be enthralled. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries K. R. DeVries Loyola University Maryland

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