Welcome to Military History Carnival 7!
Wars and battles
Let's start at the sharp end of military history: actual combat. To Flanders Fields, 1917 reflects upon the huge scale of the Passchendaele campaign on the Western Front, and how its misery was shared between Germany, Britain and its Empire. The Battlefield Biker leads us through a failed assault against American Indian tribes — though a successful retreat — by the US Army in the Washington Territory, in 1858. Naval hiring policies should probably discriminate against drunkards and rebels, or so I infer from Cardinal Wolsey's Today in History post on the Battle of the Kentish Knock in 1652. The previous year, on the other side of England, the Isles of Scilly were also under assault, as Mercurius Politicus narrates in a beautifully illustrated post. And, getting back to the Great War period, Great War Fiction examines a slightly different form of fighting — a riot by Canadian troops waiting in Wales to be sent home.
The largest number of posts this month concern representations of war, in various forms. Errol Morris, the documentary maker (no, I didn't know he blogged either) delved deeply into the question of which of two photographs of a road, taken during the Crimean War, came first: the one with cannonballs on the road, or the one without. It seems like a trivial question, but in trying to answer it Morris illuminates the larger question of how historians know anything about the motives of people in the past. (See also Barista's thoughts on Morris's posts.) We don't have to speculate about the motives underlying Ian R. Richardson's fabulous photos taken at an archaeological dig near the site of the First World War, Messines: as Plugstreet tells us, he was trying to recreate the feel of the haunting scenes captured by the great Australian war photographer, Frank Hurley.
Frog in a Well: China examines some pro-Japanese cartoons produced in China in the 1930s — some well after incidents like the Rape of Nanking, which one would naively expect to have cooled Chinese feelings towards Japan. A Soviet Poster A Day (yes, really!) tells us the story behind a World War Two poster about a famous Soviet sniper, entitled "That's the way to shoot — every shell is a foe". Or, as one of the commenters suggests, "One shot, one kill."
History Survey recommends four movies about the Second World War, in four different languages; while a Polish blog, Historia i Media (fortunately for me, the post is in English) wonders what the historical value might be of a brand new castle, complete with electricity and modern plumbing.
UKNIWM blogged about the opening of a major new British war memorial, at Alrewas in Staffordshire. It's unique in that it is devoted to all those military personnel who been killed in the service of their country since the end of the Second World War. As Andrew Keating points out, another novel feature is the space for 16,000 or so extra names, reserved for future deaths.
The purpose of war memorials is to ensure that future generations "never forget". But in some places, people have never been allowed to remember: Clioaudio points us to a documentary aired by al-Jazeera on the problems Spain still has in confronting the brutal legacy of the Civil War. And there are those who remember, because they were there, but have never had their memories recorded: War in the Mediterranean stresses the urgency of getting veterans to recount their stories before it is too late.
For want of a better word. Quite possibly the only review of Michael Howard's new book, Liberation or Catastrophe?, to mention Lyotard is that by Investigation of a Dog — but I'm sold! Civil Warriors has an example of a gendered reading of the letters of a minor Confederate general, but make sure you read the whole of the introductory paragraph first. Actually, reading the first paragraph last (like I did) might be even more fun. More serious is Civil War Memory's report on a lecture by Peter Carmichael on the intellectual roots of two major interpretations of Robert E. Lee (pro-Lee, moralising and "Victorian" vs anti-Lee, revisionist and "modernist"), and why they will never see eye to eye. And Blog Them Out of the Stone Age discusses an article by Richard Betts which questions (but ultimately affirms) the very idea of strategy, and how this might be useful in teaching military history.
Fun and games
War, or at least military history, is not always grim. As evidence, I offer two posts on Xerxes' invasion of Greece in 480 BC. Popcorn & chain mail rightfully mocks the recent movie 300 (which allegedly has something to do with Thermopylae), while the skwib uncovers the lost PowerPoint slides of the battle of Salamis. Coming Anarchy points out that, contrary to many computer games and movies, most pre-modern armies did not use uniforms, making it difficult to tell friend from foe. American Presidents Blog examines the not-so-illustrious sporting career of a future Supreme Allied Commander Europe and US President. And Osprey Publishing Blog reveals what is possibly the least inspiring eve-of-battle speech ever uttered. Well, it probably wasn't funny then, but it is now!
Included in this classification
I couldn't cram these into the above categories, which anyway are completely arbitrary. So, in no particular order: behind AotW looks at a Stetson who fell at Antietam, and traces his family connection to a more famous bearer of that name (think hats). Early Modern Whale looks at a book by Joseph Swetnam, author of The schoole of the noble and worthy science of defence and The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward and Inconstant Women (sadly, it's the former which is under discussion here). Quid plura? relates an incident in 1945 when a young American chaplain took the initiative to help save some of Germany's past. Thoughts on Military History uncovers a fantastic resource for anyone interested in the history of modern artillery. And bringing up the rear, The DC Traveler recommends an amphibious tour of the US capital's streets and waterways by DUKW — though they have these in London too, and I have to say I wasn't tempted when I was there recently!
That's all for this edition of the Military History Carnival. I hope you've enjoyed reading it, as I've enjoyed writing it! (Even though it's a singularly non-airminded carnival this time around …) Thanks to everyone who contributed suggestions.
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