III New institutions for the teaching of gunnery

During the second half of the sixteenth century, the Spanish monarchy experienced a huge increase in its needs for gunners to handle a fast-growing number of cannons.43 This led to the emergence of a new type of institutions. In the 1560s, a first school of gunners opened in Milan, following the model of the Venetian neighbour.44 In the next decade, similar schools were created in Sicily and Andalusia.45 The abundant documentation about the school created in Seville in 1576 shows that the teaching included a practical component on a shooting ground and a more theoretical component in the form of lectures given by a mathematician.441 The training was validated by a formal examination through questions which were asked of the apprentice by veteran gunners in front of royal officers. Such an institution represented an important innovation in a society where the vast majority of technical knowledge was transmitted informally, from the master’s hands to the apprentice’s.47 Compared to the traditional system of apprenticeship, where one master trained a handful of apprentices over his whole career, the schools of gunners multiplied the transfer of skills, enabling one master gunner to teach his art to dozens of individuals per year.41* Because they massively supplied the state with skilled labour necessary for the large-scale deployment of artillery, these new institutions directly strengthened the transformations at the core of Parker’s concept of military revolution.49

After the losses of the Invincible Armada in 1588, the Council of War launched a programme to reinforce the teaching of gunnery in the Iberian Peninsula. By the end of the century, the Spanish monarchy boasted a vast network of schools of gunnery in places such as Burgos, Hondarribia, San Sebastian, Pamplona, Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz, Ferrol, A Coruna, and Barcelona.50 Portugal was not left aside. In August 1588, right after the departure of the Invincible Armada from Lisbon, the Council of War asked a certain Bartolome de Andrada “to teach in school” in the castle of Sao Jorge.31 Andrada had served the king as a master gunner in Sicily, where he was teaching his art in one of the four schools on the island.32 He had come all the way to Portugal to join the armada against England but eventually did not embark, because he fell sick just before departure. After his recovery some weeks later, the Council of War decided to make fruitful use of his special teaching skills and his ability to speak several languages - particularly relevant given the fact that gunners converged on Lisbon from all over Europe - and thus opened the first school of gunners in Portugal. Several years later, the same role was performed by Juan Carlos, a veteran soldier whom the Council of War considered “the best expert in gunnery, artificial fires, explosive mines and night shots.”53

By that time, the teaching of gunnery had increased in Portugal. In 1590, the captain general of artillery, don Juan de Acuna Vela, claimed that several master gunners were in charge of teaching their art in the castles of Sao Jorge and Sao Juliao in Lisbon and in the fort of San Felipe in Setiibal.54 According to his words, their lectures were public and intended for anyone who might be interested in learning how to use cannons.33 Nevertheless, this allegation did not mean that attendance to the lessons was not filtered. Exactly the same set of vocabulary was used to describe the lectures in the Seville school, but only subjects of the Spanish Habsburgs were allowed to sign up for the lessons, and foreigners with even decades of residence in Spain had to struggle with the royal administration to be admitted.56 What the captain general of artillery probably meant by “public” lectures was mostly that they were free of charge for students, the cost being covered by the monarchy.

Besides these schools created in the fortresses of Lisbon and Setiibal, lectures on artillery were also implemented in naval settings. In 1589, Lazaro de la Isla, chief gunner of the royal squadron of galleys stationed in Portugal, started his own school of gunners.57 A year after, his personal initiative received the official approval of the Council of War “to teach the art of gunnery, geometry and artificial fires.”58 Being the son of a gunner and having fought in the battle of Lepanto (1571), the capture of Tunis (1573), and the conquest of the Azores (1583), Lazaro de la Isla was undoubtedly an expert in artillery.59 In 1595, he published a famous artillery treatise in Madrid, later re-edited in Valladolid (1603) and Lisbon (1609).611 After several years of artillery lectures on board the galleys, he pursued his teaching career in the schools of gunners in Burgos (1597) and Cadiz (1604).61 The trajectory of this expert from one training centre of the Iberian Peninsula to another strengthened the idea that the teaching of gunnery implemented in Portugal was fully inserted into the wider network of schools which was built by the government of the Habsburgs in the last decades of the sixteenth century.