From the Middle Ages to the 18th century, the war stricken battlefield has drastically changed due to advancements in military technology, as well as how these battlefields were organized.
"Early modern Warfare"
This should come as no surprise, as technology has been constantly changing since the beginning of modern civilization.
© National Geographic
Following technological advances, the concept of invading enemy territory becomes much easier for military powers. Of course, military changes were often the result of changes to the organization and strategic tactics of the battlefield. So, how did this work? Let's dig into today's content.
When it comes to the medieval period, the societal elite were required to participate in warfare and defend their country.
However, this does not necessarily mean these nobles were skilled combatants. When it comes to changes in the battlefield during the Middle Ages, the issue of the Mongols conquering a significant amount of the known world relied less on religious influence. Instead, the Mongols prioritized dominating their enemies.
Although their desire for destruction remains a similar characteristic, raids performed by the Mongols were much different from those conducted by Vikings. Prior to the Mongol conquests during the 13th century, warfare sometimes relied on the presence of religion.
Sea-faring technology remains an important aspect of military history, as this allowed groups such as the Vikings to easily access settlements.
Viking ships were long, and narrow; which allowed Vikings to enter small rivers leading to settlements almost unnoticed.
Taking a look at Viking warfare, the issue of unpredictability proves to be quite important because citizens of potentially conquered settlements had little time to prepare for invasion from the Vikings. Although the Vikings have a reputation of extreme violence and domination from readers and historians, this does not necessarily refer to their combat abilities. Instead, the Vikings were feared by most people in Europe due to their unpredictability, and the willingness to invade settlements at any given time.
Although the Vikings were primarily successful when invading other settlements, the Mongols have proven to be more successful- especially in terms of military tactics. Interestingly, the Mongols prioritized the concept of chivalry more than readers and historians are sometimes willing to discuss.
Despite the importance of religion during the Middle Ages, the Mongols’ battlefield tactics highlighted the concept of domination. More specifically, the Mongols used a type of strategy referred to as psychological warfare. Not surprisingly, the concept of psychological warfare was quite successful in the majority of their battles; especially in terms of spreading terror and fear to towns and cities. The Mongols, at times, offered an opportunity for the enemy to surrender and pay tribute; instead of having their city ransacked and destroyed. So, this makes them somewhat reasonable?
Although the Mongols possess a reputation of ruthlessness and violence from the perspective of historians, this demonstration of chivalry reminds readers and historians that the Mongols were not always obsessed with destruction. Instead, the Mongols would raid cities and towns; but allow its citizens to survive- at least to an extent. Well, they mostly let the victims live- but there wouldn't be much left in the towns to salvage.
So, it's worth noting the Vikings forced their enemies to experience fear and terror once their ships were visible from the shores of settlements. Interestingly, the Vikings did not offer their conquered enemies any forms of tribute or the opportunity to surrender.
Instead, the Vikings prioritized dominating their enemies. Drawing from Mongol battle tactics, this proves to be a vital part of military success. Although the Mongols did display chivalry to conquered enemies by allowing their cities to survive, it's necessary not to dismiss the fact the Mongols were obsessed with power, and making their enemies suffer.
"Mongol Invasion of Europe"
A commonly used Mongol tactic involved the use of the kharash. With that in mind, the Mongols would gather prisoners captured in previous battles, and force them to appear on the frontlines during sieges and battles. These prisoners became human shields, and would often be victim of enemy arrows and crossbow-bolts. Therefore, the Mongol warriors would be somewhat protected from enemy attacks.
With respect to the concept of military technological advances, the invention of gun powder remains a significant aspect of military history. Interestingly, some historians claim the use of gun powder by Europeans encouraged other civilizations to adopt this type of weaponry, as well.
In terms of the early use of firearms, something to consider is the stability of these weapons. Ironically, soldiers were just as likely to accidently kill themselves using a firearm as they were to kill an enemy soldier. Although gun powder didn't exist during the time of Mongol conquests, these types of weapons did arrive in Asia by the 1600s. Of course, Europeans would have at one point, a definitive military advantage. Europeans were the first to possess and utilize gun powder.
However, these types of military tactics were soon adopted by countries in Asia. The Chinese Dynasty of Oman had proven to be something people should fear, by the 1600s.
Arriving in the Indian Ocean, the Omanis attacked the Portuguese; raiding their ports, sinking ships, and even capturing colonies. Although some people would have assumed these attacks were conducted by the English, Dutch, or the French- this assumption would have been incorrect. Instead, Portuguese forces were minimized by Chinese military powers. Now, we see the way the battlefield changes; as the possession of firearms by the Chinese military suggests nations of the world were willing to observe the military tactics of enemies, as well as their allies. Therefore, adopting the battlefield tactics of another military power becomes a useful step towards victory. Following the use of canons and brute force from the Chinese, this meant settlements could be attacked at any time, and by any military force.
The Modernist Son, 2020-2021
About the Author:
Brandon Skanes was born in St. John's, back in 1996. A graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, Skanes started writing in 2020.