The Limitations of Change, 1660–1760

  • Jeremy Black
Part of the Studies in European History book series (SEURH)


Even if historians can accept that major changes did indeed take place over the century from 1600, it is nevertheless the case that warfare continued to encounter many obstacles, ranging from the acute difficulty of operating in the winter to the poor quality of munitions. Technological, economic and social constraints gravely qualify any notion of an early modern European military revolution. The technological constraints remained paramount. At sea there was only a limited amount that could be done with wooden vessels subject to decay and dependent on windpower. Ship performance was depressed by the fouling of hulls, the luxuriant marine growth below water that was a particular problem in tropical waters, along with its kindred problem, attack on timbers by marine worms. The remedy of coppering was applied to the British fleet in the 1770s, though the French did not adopt it until 1785. Poor and unseasoned timber were other major problems, leading to ships being dismasted in storms, and making the supply of top-quality, generally Baltic, naval stores and the denial of them to enemies an important priority of diplomacy and strategy.


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© Jeremy Black 1991

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  • Jeremy Black

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