Tudor and Stuart times

Warfare on land

Gradually, the use of gunpowder with cannons and muskets changed the nature of battles:

  • By the 17th century, castles were difficult to defend against cannons. During the English Civil Wars, Oliver Cromwell destroyed the walls of many castles.
  • Cromwell's cavalry were lightly armoured, fast-moving forces. They could easily outflank the enemy infantry.

The wars with Louis XIV, at the start of the 18th century, were infantry wars with huge forces of foot soldiers armed with muskets and bayonets:

  • The British forces, led by the Duke of Marlborough, won victories at Blenheim (1704), Ramilles (1706), Oudenarde (1708) and Malplaquet (1709).
  • The successful British tactic was to advance in a highly disciplined line. When they were close enough to the enemy for accurate musket fire, the infantry would fire a volley (when a line of soldiers all fire their weapons at the same time at the enemy forces), and then charge with bayonets.

Warfare at sea

Portrait of Sir Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake, vice-admiral of the fleet that defeated the Spanish Armada

Henry VIII began to develop an English navy. Famous British ships from this time were the Mary Rose (1511) and the Great Harry (1514).

By the time of the Spanish Armada, English ships had developed a new way of fighting. Instead of grappling with the enemy, they stood off and attacked the enemy ships with their cannons.

By the 18th century the British navy ruled the seas. The British navy was vital in the creation of the British Empire.

The place of peace

During the wars with Louis XIV, the countries of Europe realised that, when King Charles II of Spain died, there would be a war over the Spanish Succession (who had the right to take over). They tried to prevent this by making treaties in 1698 and 1700. Although these treaties did not succeed in stopping the war, these were the first attempts at international cooperation for peace.