From its inception in the late 1960s Osprey Publishing has filled a special
niche in the annals of military publishing. Early on, it became an indispensible
source for military modelers and war gaming enthusiasts. In this the 457th offering
of this venerable series, Vladimir Brnardic and his illustrator, Darko Pavlovic, have put together
a very useful volume on the armies of the Hapsburg Empire during the Thirty
Year’s War. It includes the usual color plates and photos found in
the entire Osprey series.
The book begins with a good, but brief, overview of the political and
diplomatic situation in seventeenth-century Europe. In the section
on the course of the war, it does a good job of tracing the three decade
series of interconnected wars which made up the Thirty Year’s War.
Special attention is given to the major part played by the Imperial commander
Albrecht von Wallenstein throughout the Danish and Swedish phases of the
The majority of the book, as the title suggests, focuses on the infantry
which made up imperial armies of the period, both musket and pike. Even
though the title includes artillery, the work spends a relatively small
amount of space discussing the artillery arm. Included in this section
are discussions on the recruitment, training, discipline and organization
of imperial soldiers. Also interesting are sections on the makeup of the
regimental and company staff and the high command. The book does an excellent
job throughout of explaining the roles of the officer corps in the overall
effectiveness of the army.
The section on tactics describes the evolution of the tercio as the main battle formation of the Imperial
army, although it is not listed in the small index. This part also deals
with the changes in the imperial tactics when confronted by the Swedish
linear system. Because of its lack of maneuverability and firepower, eventually
the tercio was abandoned for the linear
system. It is this development of this standardization of arms and tactics
which is one of the lasting legacies of the Thirty Years War.
As with all Osprey titles, the highlight of the volume is the detailed
discussion of the arms and armor of the Imperial musketeers and pikemen during the war. The color plates are well drawn and
the photos and plate commentaries are very useful illustrations of the
text. This section discusses the evolution of both the pike and musket
over the thirty years of the war. This section of the text also describes
innovations in infantry technology, such as the introduction of the caliver, the lighter, more manageable version of the
musket. The segment ends with a useful discussion of infantry clothing,
flags and field signs.
While Imperial Armies of the Thirty Years' War is an admirable
and clear view of the Imperial infantry of the period, there are a number
of issues which must be addressed. The volume would benefit from rudimentary
page notes and a more expansive bibliography. Also the section on artillery
could have been expanded, since the title does include artillery. One issue
mentioned in the publisher’s blurb, is beginnings of a transformation
from mercenary to national armies during this war. A mention of this topic
would have made an interesting addition. Finally the discussion of the
individual battles in the overview section could have been more detailed.
These are small problems that detract very little from the overall value
of this book as a functional first look at the makeup and arms of Imperial
armies of the Thirty Years War.