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Pierre Picouet, Les Tercios Espagnols 1600-1660; pp 144 (paperback); LRT Editions, Auzielle; ISBN10: 2917747056;ISBN13: 978-2917747056

For years Pierre Picouet’s website on the late Spanish Tercios has been a valuable resource for wargamers. His material has now been condensed into a book detailing the height and fall of the dominant army in Europe at the time. It contains a number of fine drawings and water colours by the Austrian illustrator Karl Alexander Wilke (+1954), made at the beginning of the last century before he turned nazi and lost both his marbles and his creativity.

This book is thoughtfully written, well-researched and superbly illustrated. It dispells most of the myths surrounding the Tercios, their battlefield formations, numbers and organisational characterictics and contains a useful statistical annex, detailed descriptions of various battles as well as a bibliography pointing to Spanish archives and secundary literature.

Picouet adds much-needed nuts and bolts to previous studies of the subject such as Geoffrey Parker’s seminal work [1]. He elaborates on the eminent maneuverability of the Spanish escuadrón, as opposed to its oft-rumoured ‘inflexibility’, and on its various battefield formations, particularly the escuadrón prolongado or de gran frente in which the musketeers stood only 6 ranks deep. The escuadrónes were not that unwieldy either, certainly not during the first half of the seventeenth century. Their average size went down from 1.300 men at the battle of Fleurus (1622) to 500 at the second battle of Downs (1658). The musketeers of an escuadrón could outnumber the pikemen by as much as 2:1 and their wings or mangas often operated independently from the main (pike) body. Coupled with the exceptional marksmanship of the Spanish musketeer and the Spanish soldiers’ ruthlessness and sense of honour, it is easy to understand why they dominated so many regions of the known world as well as so many fields of battle.

[1] Geoffrey Parker, The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road 1567-1659, 309 pp, Cambridge University Press, 1972

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