Noel Geoffrey Parker
25 December 1943
|Awards||Heineken Prize (2012)|
|Alma mater||Christ's College, Cambridge|
|Doctoral advisor||Sir John Elliott|
|Main interests||Military Revolution|
Noel Geoffrey Parker FRHistS FBA (born 25 December 1943) is an English historian specialising in the history of Western Europe, Spain, and warfare during the early modern era. His best known book is The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500–1800, first published by Cambridge University Press in 1988.
He holds his BA, MA, PhD, and LittD degrees from Cambridge University where he studied under the historian Sir John Elliott.
Parker has taught at the University of Illinois, the University of St Andrews, and Yale University. He is currently the Andreas Dorpalen Professor of History at the Ohio State University.
Parker was a consultant and main contributor on the BBC series, Armada: 12 Days to Save England.
In 2023, he was elected to the American Philosophical Society.
Parker argues that what distinguishes the “Western way of war” accounts for its extraordinary success in conquering most of the world after 1500:
The Western way of war rests upon five principal foundations: technology, discipline, a highly aggressive military tradition, a remarkable capacity to innovate and to respond rapidly to the innovation of others and—from about 1500 onward—a unique system of war finance. The combination of all five provided a formula for military success....The outcome of wars has been determined less by technology, then by better war plans, the achievement of surprise, greater economic strength, and above all superior discipline. 
Parker argues that Western armies were stronger because they emphasized discipline, that is, "the ability of a formation to stand fast in the face of the enemy, where they're attacking or being attacked, without giving way to the natural impulse of fear and panic.” Discipline came from drills and marching in formation, target practice, and creating small “artificial kinship groups” such as the company and the platoon, to enhance psychological cohesion and combat efficiency.
According to Tonio Andrade and William Reger:
Few people of his generation have had such an important influence on our understanding of the early modern world. He’s written on military history, financial history, the history of crime, Spanish history, Dutch history, religious history, global history, and most recently, environmental history. His work is known throughout the world—he’s been translated into more than a dozen languages—and he’s particularly revered in Spain and the Netherlands. He has trained and mentored several generations of scholars by instilling in them his characteristic and successful recipe for historical research: focusing on big questions but keeping one's feet on the ground, or, as he might put it, one's ass in the archives.
Parker is a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA). He is a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE).
He was awarded the Joseph Sullivant Medal by OSU in 2021. In 2014, Parker was awarded the British Academy Medal for his book Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century.
Amongst the foreign honours he holds, he is a member of the Order of Alfonso X the Wise and was granted the Great Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic by the Spanish government. He has received honorary doctorates from the Catholic University of Brussels (Belgium) and the University of Burgos (Spain). He is also a corresponding member of the Spanish Real Academia de la Historia (since 1987), and member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2005. In 2012 he was awarded the Dr. A. H. Heineken Prize for History by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences for his outstanding scholarship on the social, political and military history of Europe between 1500 and 1650, in particular Spain, Philip II, and the Dutch Revolt; for his contribution to military history in general; and for his research on the role of climate in world history.
In 1999, he was awarded the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for lifetime achievement given by the Society for Military History.