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Strong armies, slow adaptation: civil-military relations and diffusion of military power

Kadercan, B. (2014) Strong armies, slow adaptation: civil-military relations and diffusion of military power. International Security, 38 (3). pp. 117-152. ISSN 1531-4804

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1162/ISEC_a_00146


Why are some states more willing to adopt military innovations than others? Why, for example, were the great powers of Europe able to successfully reform their military practices to better adapt to and participate in the so-called military revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries while their most important extra-European competitor, the Ottoman Empire, failed to do so? This puzzle is best explained by two factors: civil-military relations and historical timing. In the Ottoman Empire, the emergence of an institutionally strong and internally cohesive army during the early stages of state formation—in the late fourteenth century—equipped the military with substantial bargaining powers. In contrast, the great powers of Europe drew heavily on private providers of military power during the military revolution and developed similar armies only by the second half of the seventeenth century, limiting the bargaining leverage of European militaries over their rulers. In essence, the Ottoman standing army was able to block reform efforts that it believed challenged its parochial interests. Absent a similar institutional challenge, European rulers initiated military reforms and motivated officers and military entrepreneurs to participate in the ongoing military revolution.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:36163
Publisher:MIT Press


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