Thursday, August 11, 2011

From Knights to Minutemen: Intro

When I did this series for my kids, we did it in eight lessons. I think I'll take a little longer than that here.

For one thing, I have more time here. Eight one-hour lessons is not a lot of time to go through five hundred years of history. There are a lot of side-trails and rabbit-holes I'd have loved to go down with my class that we just didn't have time to do. So I'm going to take my time and indulge myself here.

For another, I want these posts to be relatively short, so people will actually read them and come back for the next one. Short posts means more posts, if I want to do the subject any justice at all.

I think I'm going to structure this series this way: I'll spend a couple of posts talking concepts, tactics, weapons, and the like, then illustrate with a battle study before we move on to the next concept. We'll keep that up as long as it works; if it doesn't, we'll try something else.

I hope you enjoy this series. It's one of the most fascinating periods in military history--in all the millennia before the fourteenth century, warfare was powered almost wholly by the muscles of those who fought, whether they were men, women, horses, elephants, dogs, or other creatures. In the centuries since, it has been increasingly driven by muscle and a simple chemical reaction.

The Renaissance was a time of change, no less on the battlefield than in the universities and royal courts of Europe. At its dawn, a man encased in metal armor, riding a huge horse and carrying a sword or spear, was the mightiest force on the battlefield. Four centuries later, a farmer from Pennsylvania or New Hampshire or Virginia could have killed such a man from four hundred yards away, if he were still to be found at all. For the next few months, we'll explore the changes that drove the knight from the battlefield and transformed warfare forever.

Are you ready to get your nerd on?

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