chapter  7
23 Pages

Armies and navies

Eighteenth-century navies fluctuated in size and efficiency more, and more rapidly, than armies. For almost all European states with vulnerable land frontiers it was easier and safer to neglect the navy than the army. A tendency towards a general, though slow, increase in the size of most European armies. That of France, the greatest European state, did not again reach the level achieved in the War of the Spanish Succession, when in 1710 Louis XIV had some 360,000 soldiers at his disposal; but most others grew. In a number of ways armies became more conscious of themselves than ever before as entities clearly distinguished from civilian society. There was a marked multiplication of military decorations and orders, distinctions of a kind hitherto very rare. To the first important one, the Order of St Louis created by Louis XIV, were now added the Prussian Pour le Merite the Habsburg Order of Maria Theresa and the Russian Order of St George.