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Gustavus v Wallenstein (Hardback)

Military Revolution, Rivalry and Tragedy in the Thirty Years War

Military P&S History > By Century > 17th Century

By John Pike
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 480
ISBN: 9781399012652
Published: 11th January 2024


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The book described the conflict, personal rivalry and contrast in personality, generalship and command, between the two iconic commanders in the Thirty Years War, King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden for the Protestant powers, and Albrecht von Wallenstein, Duke of Friedland. More than just commanders at the tactical level they were statesmen, military organisers and strategists on a continental scale. Both commanders represented the 17th-century ‘military revolution in action’. The writing is vivid, graphic and detailed, without overloading, and readers can feel ‘involved’ in the action, from strategic planning to battlefield tactics, and even the melee. Both generals are titanic figures, and their respective deaths - Gustavus heroically in battle and Wallenstein, murdered with the Emperor’s compliance – were dramatic highpoints in the long war. This is no hagiography, and the author analyses the contrasting reputations of two of the greatest military figures in modern history and analyses mistakes as well their triumphs. Both commanders’ understanding of the role of the modern state and finance as vital factors in the military revolution and modern warfare. A major contrast was Gustavus’s constant search for the tactical and strategic initiative compared to Wallenstein’s caution and patience and development of counter-punch defensive tactics. Exceptional for the period, a young warrior like an ‘Alexander’, Gustavus excelled in inspired battlefield leadership even at huge risk. Despite his death at Lutzen in 1632, he and his steadfast chancellor Oxenstierna, decisively defeated the Emperor’s attempt to subjugate the Empire and introduce the Catholic counter-reformation. Gustavus contributed hugely to the ending of Habsburg supremacy while advancing new concepts in modern war. His death ushered in his acolytes including generals Baner, Saxe-Weimar and Torstensson. Gustavus or Wallenstein, the greater of the two? The reader must judge but Napoleon included Gustavus in his list of ten greats with Julius Caesar, Hannibal Barca, and Alexander the Great.

"Having two such contrasting personalities in command is great for us wargamers who can test their tactics on our tabletops. But after reading Pike's book, you will be better equipped to develop campaign games around them too."

Wargames Illustrated – Issue 423, March 2023

About John Pike

John Pike is a military historian, economist and lawyer, as General Legal Counsel for a company listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange. He graduated in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Oxford. After a career as an international banker, economist and asset manager, he was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 2004. As a barrister, he specialised in banking, commercial law, anti-trust law and fraud. Working in Asia, he participated as a special adviser in defence of Pol Pot’s deputy at the UN Khmer Rouge war crimes trials in Phnom Penh. He has also advised the governments in the governments of various countries in Asia and North America on matters in including the law on criminal cartels, fraud, shipping, grand strategy and foreign aid programs. In 2005, he published with Sir Jeremy Lever QC the leading work on the criminal law of price fixing cartels. As a military historian he has a deep knowledge of war in all aspects from grand strategy to battlefield tactics and weaponry, in the context of international relations, law and economics, its social and cultural effects on society and even individuals - war is a personal story. This the second in a series of books on the Thirty Years War period..

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