Cavalry Charges part deux

April 20, 2007

I want to start out by helping clear up one thing for Gavin. He writes,

“Just to prove that language is gendered, every one of these four books consistently refers to the horse as “him”, even when they don’t specify a preference for stallions, geldings, or mares.”

Gavin, there was a good reason for using ‘him’ for cavalry horses. Cavalry horses were almost all male. If you included mares in your cavalry and any of them came into estrous there would not be a stallion in the whole army that would be worth a damn. Ergo, no mares.

Now let us turn our thoughts to discussing military manuals. This is the theory aspect that Gavin talks about. I’m not focusing particularly on Gavin’s approach to these types of documents. However, how he once approached these manuals is very indicative of how early modern military historians have generally thought of these documents.

“Since I was an undergraduate I’ve been aware of the potential difference between theory and practice, but I used to think that if theory didn’t agree with practice, it could simply be discounted as ‘wrong’.”

Gavin no longer approaches these texts in this manner but many military historians still do. The attitude is that these works are just theory. Their attitude is that since these men didn’t have military experience their ideas were created in a military vacuum and therefore we have little to learn from them. They fail to understand the relationship between theory and practice.
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