I think the biggest difference between the social character of western European armies say in 1300 and 1600 was the kind of resources you needed to start out as a soldier. When captains were equipping and training whole companies, some pretty desperate types could start out that way. When you had to provide your own bow and arrows or sword, haubergeon, and iron cap and show you could use them, you needed a certain amount of resources. But specialists in warfare in the 14th century are pretty sure that the men who did most of the fighting and burning were not very respectable: too violent, just on the edge of falling down the social ladder, unpopular in their communities, or just not married and propertied yet and looking for a way to earn some money fast. There is a big difference between a gentleman-farmer’s son from the Rhineland heading to Calais in 1370 and a cotter from Scotland selling his goods to buy an arquebus in 1620, but within their estates they were marginal.
People in the 14th century were bitching that the soldiers of their day were a bunch of jumped-up thugs, so I’m not surprised that they were complaining in the 16th and 17th century. They might have got more desperate over time but that is the kind of big statement that I’d have to bone up on 16th and 17th century history to be sure of.
- This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by Philologus.