|Image from Amazon|
Saturday, August 13, 2022
Saturday, July 16, 2022
REVIEW: The Shadows of Total War: Europe, East Asia, and the United States, 1919–1939 ed. Roger Chickering and Stig Forster
Image from Cambridge University Press
The Shadows of Total War is the fourth volume in a series of five collating the proceedings of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C’s conferences on total war. This collection of 18 essays examines the concept through the interwar period, covering a spread of topics from military history as well as interdisciplinary perspectives. The strength of the volume is unequal, with the third and fourth parts, ‘Visions of the Next War’ and ‘Projections and Practice’, bearing out as much stronger and cohesive to the theme of total war. More so than in the first two parts of the volume, these later essays interrogate the social, philosophical, and policy implications of responding to the First World War as a total war and preparing – materially, ideologically, or both – for the next war as one of similar calibre.
Saturday, June 25, 2022
How form impacts persona and message in the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen
|Photo by Elina Sazonova|
Saturday, June 4, 2022
|Image from Amazon|
When does a war become total? David Bell answers that typological question by illustrating the first time, to his eyes, a war ever bore the social, philosophical, and practical hallmarks of a conflict that saw mass mobilisation, radicalised war aims, and blurred the civilian-soldier line – hallmarks that, arguably, best encapsulate total war as a concept. The central thesis of The First Total War is that the Napoleonic wars demonstrated a significant break in military culture from the limited style of warfare that followed the religious wars. Bell illustrates this well and suits his purpose with this volume, although his argument forfeits detailed evaluation of total war as a continuity of features.
In Bell’s argument, the chief arena of change is social and philosophical rather than technological, though he certainly highlights the distinction between infantrymen fighting pikes versus cannon. Within the first chapter, Bell highlights the lack of distinction between spheres of life in the officer corps, where the theatre of aristocracy is staged in equal parts at court and during the campaign. Here, war is a part of social identity and a bridge to intellectualism, crossed by figures like Lauzun, Marquis de Sade, and Napoleon. These figures show their faces throughout, such as in the chapter on the National Assembly debating warmaking powers, but the throughline of cultural transformation is less clear in the rest of the book, which shifts its focus to the atrocities and radicalisation of a revolutionary army sweeping across Europe. In a way, the somewhat ambling structure of the book reflects the decline of the aristoracy as the centre of the military story into just another level of the corps in an increasingly distinct military identity.
Saturday, May 28, 2022
|Image from Goodreads|
I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad book - these tropes wouldn’t be popular if they weren’t the perfect coat hanger for a multitude of tales. The thing is, tropes work when you do something interesting with them. For me, The Glass Spare almost reached that place, but sadly fell short.
Saturday, May 14, 2022
|Image from Wiley|
Nothing radically new was presented and I often found the persuasiveness and cogency of the arguments to have been hindered by their briefness, and in some areas also by their lack of thorough interrogation. For example, I very much appreciated his deconstruction of the “warrior ideal” and the role it has played and continues to play in our personal and cultural construction of what war means to us. However, I found some of the logic used to interpret data on women in the armed forces to be unconvincing, even if the broader argument it fit into made sense. This lack of cogency is likely owed in large part to the broad brush strokes with which he paints most of his examples. Given that my answer to the titular question was “no” before picking up the book, I do wish that there had been deeper interrogation, but I recognise that the text is limited by its length.
Monday, February 21, 2022
|Image provided by the author|