16 September 2014

Book Review: Scottish Renaissance Armies 1513-1550

"Mr Cooper has done an excellent job in covering the subject matter in such a necessarily short volume, despite the short chronological span this was a period of great change in the armies of the Scotland."

Published on 13 NOV 2010 11:02pm by Scott Parrino
  1. ground combat, middle ages, europe

The strap line for this series of books produced by Osprey Publishing is “The history of military forces, artefacts, personalities and techniques of warfare”.  The Elite series are very similar in some ways to the Men at Arms books but go into more depth into narrower subject fields.

As those familiar with any of their mainstream paperback series will know Ospreys are a joint effort between the author, in this case Jonathan Cooper, who I think is new to Osprey and the artist, in this case Graham Turner a personal favourite of mine, especially when he draws subjects of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods and who is a regular contributor to various of the Osprey series.

The book is looking at a very narrow period of Scottish military history – only 37 or so years.  But this was a very important one as despite the Scots not winning any of the major battles of the period (Flodden being the famous disaster) it ended with most of the important English garrisons being ejected from Scottish territory.  It also saw the armies of Scotland develop from an army with aspirations to modernity to one aligned with the latest military developments of the day.

The book gives a prolonged introduction taking us through the battles of the period linking them together with the important political events of the time to provide the reader with a broad background; it then covers recruitment and organisation; tactics; equipment and weapons and the Auld Alliance with France.  Mr Cooper has done an excellent job in covering the subject matter in such a necessarily short volume, despite the short chronological span this was a period of great change in the armies of the Scotland.  The author left me satisfied that while there might be more to discover I was versed in the basic historical and military developments being covered.

The artwork is really very good, Mr Turner’s gritty atmospheric style matches the subject matter perfectly.  There are 8 plates showing the changes in clothing, arms and armour over the period of the book; starting with the more medieval appearance at Flodden in 1513 to the Siege of Haddington in 1548-9 where the styles are more obviously what we now term Renaissance.  Also the plates show the different elements of the army including in Plate E the Isles men and Highlanders that were a feature of Scottish armies.   There are also a few black and white drawings by Alan Gault accompanying the text.  These are not as accomplished technically as Mr Turner but have a robust quality that suites the period. 

There are also several very nicely executed maps showing the various battles, several photos of arms and armour (including pieces of artillery), and some of the locations plus portraits of various personages mentioned in the text.  All are black and white but are clear and help illuminate the text.

I liked this book, the text and artwork come together really very nicely.  I was somewhat ignorant of this period of British history (other than knowing Flodden was a great English victory) and I have now had that ignorance remedied in some style.

The book, priced £11.99, is available in paperback from Osprey Publishing (ISBN 9781846033254).