Cavalry, 1500-1945

Murray, Williamson
January 1996
Reader's Companion to Military History;1996, p75
Book Chapter
The article provides information on the development of the cavalry from 1500 to 1945. Despite the warning that English longbows and Swiss infantry had conveyed by their victories over aristocratic armies in the late Middle Ages, the armored man on his horse remained the idealized hero of Europe's upper classes right up to the beginning of the twentieth century. However, this great period of Western military development saw the marginalization of cavalry, as infantry and artillery came to play dominant roles on the battlefield. Something along the same lines occurred in Asia as the great threat of steppe horsemen to both China and India began to dissipate in the eighteenth century. The Mughal conquest of most of northern and central India in the sixteenth century had rested largely on the cavalry of the emperors, but by the early eighteenth century the empire's political structure had collapsed. Horse units were still important enough in the duke of Marlborough's time for that commander to lead them into battle and, at Blenheim in 1704, to separate the French right wing from its main body and win one of the greatest military victories in European military history. In the end, only the traditions of the cavalry have survived in the armored cavalry regiments and scouting forces of modern mechanized armies.


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