The Battle of Marignano in 1515 is thought to exemplify the irresistible rise of technology in warfare and the deployment of integrated weaponry – i. e. infantry, artillery and cavalry – in battle. The Swiss and the French were about evenly matched, each with 30 000 soldiers, but the French were better supplied, had strong defenses, and their artillery was optimally positioned. For this analysis we ask the question: Did François I prevail because he was able to bring superior military resources to bear at the right place and the right time (“just in time”) in mid-September 1515?
In order to answer this question, we have to briefly compare the two sides, taking into account in particular logistics, weaponry and tactics, and then decide whether this oft repeated narrative is in fact correct. The result will come as no surprise: it’s all far more complex.