The Significance of The Northern Crusades in History

Modern historians tend to overlook economic factors when investigating historical motivations. The first Northern Crusade (The Wendish Crusade), as commonly narrated, was a branch of the Second Crusade, undertaken on behalf of St. Bernard de Clairvaux’s furious pulpit outreach to retake the holy land. Ideological motivation is difficult to overlook when analyzing historical empires: the majority of empires and religions are so closely intertwined that it is almost impossible to separate them. This is true of Roman Catholicism no less than for the Vedic seers who wrote the Rig Veda, the Achaemenids who patronized Zoroastrianism, and the cult of Quetzalcoatl in Aztec Mexico. Early Islam and Maccabean Judaism are virtually … Read more…

My First Peer-Reviewed Article

I received notification this morning that my first Peer-Reviewed article has been accepted for publication.  It is an annotated bibliography of Frederick the Great for Oxford University Press (OUP) Online and it has taken me awhile to write it up.  The process of writing it is pretty interesting in and of itself and I am going to describe how that went. I was first contacted by OUP last November asking if I had any interest in writing an article.  The initial contact had the proposed subject and that Dr. Dennis Showalter is the Editor-in-Chief for the project. Because I get blog related spam and fishy requests and offers all the … Read more…

The Battle of Jena-Auerstädt: 14 Oct 1806

Relative locations of the engagements on 14 Oct 1806

The Battle of Jena-Auerstädt was fought in Germany on 1806 between the French Imperial Army and the Prussian Royal Army. It is actually two separate battles separated by about twenty miles. Both the French and Prussian armies were split leading to two separate engagements one was fought by Napoleon and Davout commanded the French Corps at Auerstädt. The battle at Jena was the larger of the two as far as forces involved are concerned but the action at Auerstädt was operationally the more decisive. Combined, the Prussians suffered a devastating defeat that they could not recover from and led to the virtual surrender of the kingdom in the face of … Read more…

Book Review – Iron Kingom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark

This massive tome lays claim to being a complete history of Prussia, and if he doesn’t achieve it, he doesn’t miss it by much. It is fairly large at over 700 pages but Dr. Clark has a pleasant writing style that makes the book easy to read. He is not so much recounting events as using the historical events to tell the story of Prussia. The book opens with the retelling of the Allies abolishment of Prussia as a political unit in 1947 then goes right to the beginning of Prussia with the establishment of Prussia as a political unit under German sovereignty under the Great Elector in the years … Read more…

Battle Analysis-Sedan, 1870

Map of Battle of Sedan - Image Courtesy: http://www.marxists.org/glossary/events/f/pics/sedan.gif

The Battle of Sedan, fought on 1 September 1870 displayed the superiority the Prussian Army had attained over the French in the nearly sixty years since their devastating defeat at Jena in the Napoleonic wars. The battle was notable for several developments in warfare, which were showcased by the Prussian and French army’s different abilities to effectively utilize the new technologies and methods existing. The most dominant military technologies of the time were railroads, repeating rifles, and modern cannon. While the French had at their disposal the Chassepot rifle which was superior to the Prussian needle-gun, their artillery was inferior in both quantity and quality to the Krupp guns deployed … Read more…

145th Anniversary of the Battle of Königgrätz

Austrian War Memorial on the Heights of Lipa on the Königgrätz battlefield

Since I wrote my MA thesis on the Battle of Königgrätz I figured I would put up a post here noting that today is the 145th anniversary of the battle, which was fought on July 3rd. The battle was significant for many reasons but the most notable is that it marked the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire against the Prussians and thus signified the start of undisputed Prussian leadership of what would become modern Germany. After Königgrätz all the German states had no choice but to fall in line behind the Prussian Confederation and conform to Prussian practices. It was the culminating battle of the second of the Wars of German Unification … Read more…

Was the Franco-Prussian War Modern?

The Franco-Prussian war was a modern war although it was not the first of Europe’s modern wars.  The Franco-Prussian war was also not a total war because while it was intensive in manpower while it lasted, its limited duration did not force a radical reorganization of both countries economies in order for it to be waged. In order to determine whether the Franco-Prussian war was a modern war or not we must define what a modern war is.  Is it a war in which all the modern implements of war as well as the modern methods of raising armies are employed?  Is it a war in which all the resources … Read more…

Why the Western Front Stalemated in WWI

The conventional explanation for why the Western Front in World War I settled into a stalemate is that the power of defensive weapons was stronger than the offensive methods employed.  The theory is that the defensive potential of machine-guns, artillery, repeating rifles, and trenches was unbreakable with infantry and artillery alone.  This simplistic explanation does not suffice under close scrutiny though.  If this were so, why were the Germans not stopped in France until after they had removed troops to the Eastern front for the Battle of Tannenberg and why were the French stopped cold when they attempted to invade Germany in August 1914? The reasons for stalemate are complex; … Read more…

The Political Acumen of Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was probably the most accomplished politician that Germany has ever produced.  He was almost single-handedly responsible for the emergence of the nation of Germany during the nineteenth century.  He was appointed Prime Minister of Germany in 1862 by the Prussian King Wilhelm I (1797-1888) in the middle of a constitutional crisis in Prussia in which the Reichstag refused to authorize a state budget.  Bismarck handled this crisis with ease by using the machinery of state to collect taxes without the Reichstag thus making them irrelevant.  He continued to collect taxes and finance the state for four years until finally the Reichstag was forced to retroactively approve … Read more…

The German Way of War?

Is there such a thing? That question hit me this morning as I was reading a book review in an old copy of the Journal of Military History. The book in question was Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942 (Modern War Studies), by Robert M. Citino and it was reviewed in the January 2009 issue of the Journal. The reviewer made mention that one of the prevalent theories about the German army is that in World War II they fought a completely different war than the one they were designed for and that goes far to explaining the ultimate German defeat. The argument is that the German … Read more…

The Actual Writing of a Thesis-Part 9

Well, I figured it is time for another update.  I have made the first round of changes to my rough draft and turned them back in and my thesis made it past my professor and is now in the hands of the second reader.  It went up to the second reader Tuesday and I should get it back sometime next week for corrections, if any.  If there are no corrections needed it will go the department Chair and then I will get a final grade for the thesis and the thesis class.  At that point I will be done with my thesis and should only need to receive word from … Read more…

The Actual Writing of a Thesis-Part 8

I got my rough draft back from my Thesis professor this morning with the first round of requested corrections.  It actually looks much better than I thought it would.  There are not as many corrections as I expected and so I will start working on revising it tonight after I get home from work.  I just quickly glanced at it this morning.  I guess it will take me two or three days to make the requested corrections. After I make corrections and resubmit it as a final version, it will go to a second reader in the history department for a final round of changes.  After the second reader gets … Read more…

The Wendish Crusade

            The people of Northern Germany known as the Wends were not one homogenous people but rather organized themselves in a tribal structure.  The tribes from the Saxon border west were the Wagrians, Polabians, Abotrites, Rugians, Liutizians, and Pomeranians.[1]  These tribes were loosely organized under local princes and there was no overall king or authority figure.  The Wends were polytheistic nature worshipers who had many shrines and temples throughout their lands.  The priestly class was the most influential next to the secular lords and the Wends were deeply superstitious even going so far as to avoid battle if the auguries were unfavorable.

            The Wendish Crusades were Crusades in name only, the Danes and Saxons used the Crusading name to mask a naked grab of the territory of the pagan Wends.  The Danes and Saxons had been encroaching on Wendish territory prior to the start of the Wendish crusades in 1147, but their gains had only been short-lived and limited to forcing some of the Wendish nobility to pay tribute.[2]  The Danes and Saxons who had only come to Christianity in the eighth and ninth centuries took wholeheartedly to the message preached by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) to fight the pagans “until such a time as, by God’s help, they be either converted or deleted.”[3]

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Book Review: Frederick the Great On The Art of War

Jay Luvaas is a professor at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle Pa.; he coauthored a series of Battlefield Guides of U.S. Civil War battlefields that became almost instant classics. He has authored several books of military history such as “The Military Legacy of the Civil War: The European Inheritance”, “The Civil War: In the Writings of Col. G.F.R. Henderson”, and “Napoleon on the Art of War”. He has also authored many articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Parameters, the Journal of the U.S. Army War College and the Civil War Times Illustrated. Professor Luvaas prefaces his work by pointing out that the book is not a straight chronological … Read more…