Book Review: The Campaign of Germany in 1866

       This work is the Official History of the 1866 Seven Weeks’ War prepared by the Prussian General Staff after the war. I got this book for use in my thesis and it probably would not be of interest to anybody except for hard-core history fans or specialists. That being said, it is one of the better official histories I have ever read.        It is readable and concise and includes a wealth of information. Perhaps the best part of this work from a historian’s perspective is that it is based on primary source documents that are no longer available because they were destroyed in the closing days of World … More after the Jump…

The First Crusade

            The First Crusade was arguably the most successful of the various numbered Crusades; however, they were not particularly well equipped for a campaign in Asia Minor.   It is no surprise that they were not, as the climate in Anatolia is completely different from Europe.   What is amazing is the way in which the Crusaders persevered in spite of the hardships they had to endure throughout the march across Asia Minor.  

            The main Crusader army seems to have had an appreciation for the difficulties involved in a march across Anatolia; no doubt; the counsel of the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I Comnenus (1081–1118) was helpful in their choice of march route.   Prior to leaving the region of Nicaea to continue the Crusade, the leaders held a council at Pelekanum where the Frankish leaders and the Alexius discussed further plans for the Crusade.[1]  It was decided that the Crusader army would move as a series rather than together so that there would be more flexibility in deployment, and to simplify logistics.

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The Rise of the Crusading Ethos, Politics and Religion in the Eleventh-century

Europe in the tenth and eleventh centuries was a continent in transition.   The states of Europe were still in flux and the kings of Europe had limited authority outside their own personal demesne.   Although individual French kings did wield considerable power, they waged a constant struggle to have their authority recognized by the great magnates in France, especially after the fall of the Carolingian dynasty in the ninth century.[1] The rest of Europe was no exception, in England the king was engaged in a great struggle with his leading barons and the Pope that would not be settled until the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215.[2]

More after the Jump…The Rise of the Crusading Ethos, Politics and Religion in the Eleventh-century

Some Thoughts on 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 … More after the Jump…

Book Review: Bernard Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain

Porter’s book is in many ways an eye-opener.   It was a surprise to discover that Britain’s empire was not a topic of national discussion until the latter portion of the imperial period.   If porter’s thesis is correct and the people of Britain were by and large ignorant of the empire and willfully so as he makes clear in his introduction then that makes a hash out of most of the post-colonialist arguments he is criticizing.[1] It is Porter’s position that Britain was not “steeped” in imperialism even for the segment of society from which most imperial administrators were drawn until comparatively late in the imperial period itself.The Absent-Minded Imperialists has much to tell us about the way in the British Empire was perceived in Britain itself during the imperial period.   Porter makes an excellent argument that while the empire materially affected the lives of many Englishmen through such things as raw materials, some culinary habits, and trade; these things did not necessarily mean that the average Englishman was consciously aware of the extent of Britain’s empire on a day to day basis.   He also demonstrates why this could be so.   Once he really delves into the ways in which the British Empire affected the British home culture he proves his point quite well.

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Communist Manifesto and the Present

This is a piece that talks about Marx, The Communist Manifesto, and how or even if, Marxism is still relevant in the contemporary world.

            The verdict of history regarding Marxism would seem to be on the side of those who claim that the Marxist program has been a colossal failure.   None of the predictions made by Marx in his manifesto have come true, certainly not his central theme in which the masses reap the benefits of an equalization of status in society.   It is certain that everywhere Marxism has been tried it has failed China, Russia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Cuba among others.   Marxism has failed and failed spectacularly.   However, it continues to exert an attraction for those who felt that society should provide for all or that are disenchanted with the capitalist system and fell that there must be some better way of running the world.

David Horowitz made this point extremely well when he pointed out that: “since the ‘Manifesto’ was written… 100 million people have been killed in its name.   Between 10 and 20 times that number have been condemned to lives of unnecessary misery and human squalor, deprived of the life chances afforded the most humble citizens of the industrial democracies that Marxists set out to destroy.”[1]  Apparently people are not willing to give up their economic autonomy as easily as Marx thought they would be and so they must be forced into doing what Marxists perceive as being in their best interests.

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Old versus “New” Historiography

Below is a piece I wrote for a class I took in World History for my BA in which I had to analyze the differences between Rankean history and the influence of the Annales school and what has come after.   If I remember right, I got an A on this assignment even though the professor thought I was a little too disparaging of the postmodernists.   I am disparaging of postmodernism in general, that is probably one reason I have chosen not to pursue a career in Academia as I had once aspired to do.

The main difference in the debate, if it is a debate, between old and new historiography seems to be politics and its place in academic or scholarly work as well as the usefulness of other disciplines to historical scholarship.   The Rankean or scientific historians of the old historiography would like to see historians as group distance themselves from politics contemporary or otherwise and focus on trying to make their histories be as fact based as possible while only presenting opinions in their interpretation of events.   The new historiography, represented by the historians of the Annales School or sometimes claimed by the postmodernists and deconstructionists of the Foucault or Derrida schools seems to want to insert politics into history at every opportunity.   Indeed, the postmodernists take is almost that politics is inescapable and if that is so then why not wallow in it and abandon any hope of objectivity or neutrality?  The Annales School however is more rigorous in its application of logical thought to history and instead seeks to develop a synthesis of history and other disciplines and does not focus as much on politics as the postmodernists do.

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The Military Revolution?

I saw this piece (Warfare of the Future) on RCP today and it got me to thinking about the Nature of Revolutions in Military Affairs (RMAs) in general. I dont think there are a whole lot of people out there that are not in the military in into to military history that are very conversant with the idea of a RMA. The idea was first proposed by historian Michael Roberts in a series of lectures in England in 1955. It has gained currency among the current crop of thinkers in the worldwide defense community, especially think-tanks and weapon makers. The RMA is the current killer-app of defense thinking.

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The Actual Writing of a Thesis-Part 2

I rediscovered the importance of an outline over the past few days of working on my thesis. Idiot me did not do an outline as I have one for all my papers in the past both undergrad and Graduate level. I have no idea why I thought i could tackle a project as large as Master’s Thesis with only a Table of Contents to use as a guide. I say rediscovered because I started writing and after about 20 pages I realized I have essentially been wasting my time because I tend to ramble when I do not have something to keep me focused.
After I realized I was rambling I stopped and took a brief break to figure out what I was doing wrong and how I could fix it. That is when it struck me that I don’t have an outline. It was definitely a V-8/face palm moment. I then settled down and decided to write an outline.

More after the Jump…The Actual Writing of a Thesis-Part 2


This is a curious word and does not mean today what it meant to the Ancient Romans who coined the term. Merriam-Webster defines decimate as:

DECIMATE; transitive verb
1: to select by lot and kill every tenth man of
2: to exact a tax of 10 percent from
3a : to reduce drastically especially in number
b : to cause great destruction or harm to

It is 3a and b that is more commonly used today however, it is definition one where the word came from. Specifically the Roman military practice of decimation in which mutinous or cowardly units were sentenced to be decimated. This was never a common punishment, most extreme punishments are only effective if they are both extreme and rare. There are a few instances in recorded sources of a unit being decimated one of which is the Legio III Augusta which was decimated in A.D. 18 after allowing one of its subunits to be annihilated in battle.

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The Actual Writing of a Thesis

I am about 20 pages into writing my thesis and it is killing me.   I generally really enjoy writing, especially writing about history.   I have studied my topic for about 3 years now and actually visited the battlefield twice.   I find myself wanting to hurry writing the introductory chapters so I can get to the good stuff.   It is getting increasingly difficult for me to motivate myself to write, I suppose I will struggle through it somehow though. Writing my thesis is exciting and boring at the same time. The best comparison I can think of is sitting on a screen line in Iraq overwatching a … More after the Jump…

WW II Tanks Panther-T-34 visual comparison

Was talking about WWII tanks at work today and while looking at pictures of the various tanks the visual similarities between the German Panther and Soviet T-34 Jumped out at me. The top photo is of a Panther and the bottom photo is a T-34.   I have always read that the Panther was developed specifically to counter the threat of the T-34 but it never hit me how alike they looked.   They have a similar turret, glacís plate, commanders cupola, even the tracks looks superficially similar at a glance.   It just started to make me wonder if the German designers of the Panther had a captured T-34 … More after the Jump…

The Albigensian Crusades

Most everybody has heard about the Crusades. Generally, what people mean when they speak of the Crusades is the series of wars fought between Christianity and Islam. However, within the whole area of Crusading one particular episode sticks out, the Albigensian Crusade. The first Crusade waged wholly against fellow Christians, if not the last. It is also significant for a phrase that originated during the Crusade that has remained in use since that time and last but not least, it was the impetus for the founding of the Inquisition.

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Bread and Circuses

I was driving back to the office from an appointment today and heard on the radio that there were demonstrations in Athens this morning in sympathy with the Italians against proposed austerity measures.   I immediately started to reflect on the number of demonstrations/riots in Europe in the past few months because of budget tightening measures necessitated by the rapidly failing social states of Europe.   The first phrase that came to my mind was how angry people get when their bread and circuses get reduced which got me to thinking of where the phrase Bread and Circuses came from.   The phrase comes from the Roman playwright Juvenal who wrote … More after the Jump…

Today is the Day

Well, today is the day my final theses class starts. I have already looked at the syllabus and am very curious how this is going to go. I have exactly 16 weeks to submit a proposal, get approval, write a draft, make revisions, and submit a final thesis for defense. I have been looking forward to this for at least 4 years and working towards it for the past 3. I guess I am both nervous and excited. Nervous because I am not quite sure if my proposal will be accepted without some major reworking and excited because I am getting ever closer to being done with college.   At … More after the Jump…