THE MERCENARIES by Anthony Mockler


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Anthony Mockler's selective treatise on the motley men-of-arms who've brightened or blackened the name mercenary, makes them more accessible and less sinister: ""So strong is this almost instinctive feeling that to be a mercenary is in itself immoral that if is generally forgotten how recent and how illogical this sentiment is."" Among the worthy mercenaries of the past were the courageous French free companies who contributed to the decline of feudalism, the adventurous condottieri who played a vital role in the sudden explosion of Italian self-confidence and national pride that ushered in the Renaissance, and the ferocious Swiss soldiers whose feats in foreign battle solidified and buoyed the infant Swiss Confederacy. But by the time the Hessian troops helped England lose the American Revolution, the dash of former days was gone: their discipline was good but their pluck ""was limited by the general reasonableness of the time."" The French Foreign Legion recaptured the old glory, though more through myth than reality. Mercenaries have fared none too well in the twentieth century, and Mockler examines with overmuch detail their most infamous appearance, fighting for the Katangese secession in the Belgian Congo. There's a future for them in black Africa, but probably more as military advisers than actual combatants. The author's purpose is ""entertainment rather than instruction""; his success is largely in the latter category.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1969
Publisher: Macmillan