The Age of Battle, 1618–1815

in Castles, Battles, & Bombs

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2008 | ISBN: 9780226071633
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226071657 | DOI:
The Age of Battle, 1618–1815

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In the Middle Ages, battles between substantial armies were comparatively rare. By the seventeenth century, war had become the prerogative of great dynasties that maneuvered and fought against each other with substantial and costly armies. “Great” battles were common enough between 1618 and 1815 that these years of the Age of Enlightenment can also legitimately be called the Age of Battle. This chapter reviews the economic concept of expected marginal costs and benefits as it applies to the decision to offer, or decline, battle. It also focuses on military commanders from the beginning of the Thirty Years' War (1618) to the beginning of the French Revolution (1789), including Frederick the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte, calculating expected costs incurred and benefits gained from the next contemplated battle. The chapter suggests how five of the principles of economics used in this book may be applied to the Age of Battle (opportunity cost, substitution, diminishing marginal returns, asymmetric information, hidden actions).

Keywords: Age of Battle; marginal costs; marginal benefits; military commanders; Thirty Years' War; French Revolution; Napoleon Bonaparte; opportunity cost; substitution; diminishing marginal returns; economics

Chapter.  16534 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Military History

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