This work represents a new basis for the study of the Army of the Prussian King Frederick the Great; it is an indispensable standard work for anyone interested in the military and cultural history and the crafts of that era. It depicts the uniforms of an army whose military successes laid the foundation for the rise of 18th centuryPrussia as a major European power, and which, like its royal commander became the military ideal for all of Europe. Their particular style and the grandeur of their equipment were widely copied, and – uniquely for that day – collected by Frederick’s successors for posterity. The result of those efforts is the world’s best collection of 18th century uniforms, now in Berlin’s Deutsches Historisches Museum, located in the old Royal Arsenal, the Zeughaus. Here, for the first time, all of the more than 200 items are presented and described individually and in detail, with high quality colour photographs and precise measurements.
Many of these original pieces were previously unknown, or had been seen only in drawings or poor quality old photographs. Supplementing these illustrations are photographs of items from other European collections. The total of some 1500 photographs shows an almost complete series of fusiliers’ and grenadiers’ caps, along with such items as cuirassiers’ coatees and hussars’ dolmans, sabretaches, caparisons, cartridge boxes and hats. There are also several uniform coats, including one worn by King Frederick himself.
In addition, this work includes a complete reproduction of the Lace Pattern Book of1755, a manuscript containing the original embroidery and braid patterns of over 100 Prussian regiments, which is kept at the Deutsches Historisches Museum.
Finally it contains reproductions of the portraits of a large number of Prussian Army officers of the Seven Years’ War period, many of them previously barely known; most are from the Field Marshals’ Hall of the Prussian Military Academy in Groß-Lichterfelde. Also shown are drawings and black-and-white photographs of items from the old Zeughaus Collection that have since been lost.
The text includes explanations of the uniforms and their development, and short histories of each regiment in the Old Prussian Army. It is prefaced by historical essays on the Army of Frederick the Great and the history of the Zeughaus Collection, and includes an in-depth examination of the materials, designs andproduction methods of the uniforms and trimmings, from the point of view of modern textile conservation.
Written by the man who masterminded the British victory in the Falklands, this engrossing memoir chronicles events in the spring of 1982 following Argentina’s takeover of the South Atlantic islands. Adm. Sandy Woodward, a brilliant military tactician, presents a complete picture of the British side of the battle. From the defeat of the Argentine air forces to the sinking of the Belgrano and the daring amphibious landing at Carlos Water, his inside story offers a revealing account of the Royal Navy’s successes and failures.
At times reflective and personal, Woodward imparts his perceptions, fears, and reactions to seemingly disastrous events. He also reveals the steely logic he was famous for as he explains naval strategy and planning. His eyewitness accounts of the sinking of HMS Sheffield and the Battle of Bomb Alley are memorable.
Many Britons considered Woodward the cleverest man in the navy. French newspapers called him “Nelson.” Margaret Thatcher said he was precisely the right man to fight the world’s first computer war. Without question, the admiral’s memoir makes a significant addition to the official record. At the same time it provides readers with a vivid portrayal of the world of modern naval warfare, where equipment is of astonishing sophistication but the margins for human courage and error are as wide as in the days of Nelson.
It’s been a while since the last Air War Publications release, but we are happy to write that we now have two electronic articles available for purchase from our website (http://www.airwarpublications.com/e-articles), these being:
- ‘Christmas in Courland 1944’, by Andrew Arthy
- ‘The Life of Fritz Schröter’, by Andrew Arthy & Morten Jessen
More electronic articles are on their way, including the following:
- ‘JG 2 Aces’ by Leo Etgen & Andrew Arthy
- ‘The Death of the Top Mustang Ace’ by John Beaman
- ‘Camouflage Commentary 1 – RLM 77’ by David E. Brown
- ‘Stories from 1. Wüstennotstaffel’ by Adam Thompson & Andrew Arthy
- ‘Handley Page Hampden in Swedish Service’ by Mikael Olrog
In addition, we are very pleased to announce that Morten and David West are currently working on a new book project, about the Henschel Hs 123 biplane. This will be a comprehensive history of this fascinating ground-attack aircraft.
Work continues on our Air War Courland and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Defending Southern Italy book projects, and we hope to make significant progress on both of them during 2013.
The first book-length biography of John Thomas North (1842-1896), known as ‘Colonel North’ in Britain and throughout the world as ‘The Nitrate King,’ this book utilizes sources in Britain and Chile and traces North’s spectacular life from a mechanic in Leeds through his thirteen years in Peru and Chile culminating in his status as one of the richest and best-known men of his generation. North is today almost completely forgotten in Britain and remembered in Chile only to be vilified as the archetypal predatory capitalist. This book calls for a revaluation of North and examines several controversies—principally the enduring allegations that North manipulated the War of the Pacific and the Chilean Civil War of 1891. The book describes North’s business activities; his re-invention as country gentleman at Avery Hill mansion; and his generosity, including the gift of Kirkstall Abbey to the city of Leeds.
“Well-written . . . and contributes new information about North’s life and the relation of that life to the economic development of Chile.”–Michael Monteón, Professor of History, University of California, San Diego
“A revealing, entertaining, and long-needed biography of one of the nineteenth-century’s most flamboyant and controversial international capitalists–’Colonel’ John Thomas North. Edmundson adeptly exploits previously unknown archival materials, the contemporary press, and a vast academic literature on the nitrate industry and Chilean politics to bring the ‘Colonel’ back to life in all his complexity.”–Brian Loveman, Professor of Political Science, Emeritus, San Diego State University and author of Chile: The Legacy of Hispanic Capitalism and No Higher Law: American Foreign Policy and the Western Hemisphere since 1776
“The author’s research, conscientiously carried out in English archives, and the collaboration of experts in information and of libraries, not only proves the seriousness of Edmundson’s work, but also the tireless idea of unraveling the life and actions of North in Chile and in other countries where he made investments.” ‘El regresso de John Thomas North,’ Diario 21, Iquique, Chile. May 2, 2011 (trans.), Dr. Pedro Bravo-Elizondo (Ret.), Professor of Latin American Literature, Wichita State University.
From the Author
This is the first book-length biography of John Thomas North (1842-1896), known as ‘Colonel North’ in Britain and throughout the world as ‘The Nitrate King’. I have used sources in Britain and Chile to trace North’s spectacular life from mechanic in Leeds, through thirteen years in Peru and Chile, to become one of the richest and best-known men of his generation, and the first Honorary Freeman of Leeds. While writing my previous book – A history of the British presence in Chile – I was struck by the fact that North is today almost completely forgotten in Britain, and remembered in Chile only to be vilified as the archetypal predatory capitalist. My book calls for a revaluation, and examines several controversies–principally the enduring allegations that North helped manipulate the War of the Pacific, and was active in triggering the Chilean Civil War of 1891. The book describes North’s business investments; his re-invention as country gentleman at Avery Hill mansion; and his generosity, including the gift of Kirkstall Abbey to the city of Leeds.
STOP-PRESS: ‘The Nitrate King’ has been nominated by Palgrave-Macmillan for the PROSE Award 2011 – The American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence.
William (Eddie) Edmundson works as a consultant in Recife, Brazil, following a career in teacher training and management with the British Council that has taken him to Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and his most recent appointment as Director Cuba. He has a B.A. (Hons.) in English literature from Leeds University, a postgraduate certificate in education (Bangor University), and a masters in linguistics (Reading University). His first book focusses on Chile: ‘A history of the British presence in Chile’ (Nov. 2009). His second book is a biography of ‘The Nitrate King’ – John Thomas North – who was born in Leeds and made his first fortune in Chile. This book is available from April 2011 in the US, and May 2011 in the UK.
Born in Leeds in 1842 Colonel North was an engineer who was sent to Chile in 1869 to deliver a consignment of British equipment. He spotted the possibilities in the undeveloped Chilean / Peruvean nitrate fields and by various means gained control of a significant proportion of them. He also set up shipping resources to provide water for the industry and its workers, and invested in a mineral railway. He took advantage of the War of the Pacific in 1879, which led to Chile taking the nitrate-bearing territory from Peru and Bolivia, to buy up ownership at an advantageous rate, and, along with his co-investors, made a massive fortune, and returned to England as a tycoon. He was a famous celebrity in his day, although considered by some newspapers as a rogue who fleeced his investors, and was heading for trouble when he died unexpectedly at a relatively young age in 1896. He invested widely, in Australia, the Congo, Belgium and South Wales, where his name still adorns buildings in my home town. Several of his concerns continued into the 20th century, although many of his investors lost money, as so many did in 19th century get-rich-quick investment schemes, this was due to the continuous fluctuations in nitrate demand. His non-nitrate investments had a better track record. Many Chilean historians, and several left-wing ones see him as a robber baron, who stripped Chile of its wealth, but current reappraisals see it slightly differently, as he invested in and modernised the nitrate industry. The chapters in this book look at different aspects of his life and career. The contents are -
P001: Introduction P007: We Had Adventures of All Sorts P015: I Was Better Acquainted Than Any Other Foreigner P025: Don Juan Thomas North P037: The Nitrate King P057: The Grand Promotion Army P075: Colonel North P097: The Sensation of the Hour P107: A Visit to the Nitrate Kingdom P129: A Millionaire Stripped Bare
This is a readable book, well-written, and although short, covers its subject in sufficient detail – worth getting from the library, as I did, if you are interested in Victorian entrepreneurs and engineering. G. Simon
This beautifully presented book captures the spirit of a little known war where the Royal Navy played a peripheral but crucial role. The power of the British Empire was at its height, thanks to the reach of the Royal Navy and officers from that service who often found themselves far from home and in positions of power way beyond their rank.
The clerical hierarchy’s suspicion of apostolic movements like the Waldensians and its concern for controlling the authorization to preach were sharpened by the growth of Catharism and its ecclesiastical structure: a real counter-church that shared certain basic elements of belief, organization, and ritual with the Bogomils who emerged in Bulgaria in the early tenth century. References in the West to groups with Cathar-like beliefs appear sporadically in the eleventh century and increase from the 1140s onward, from England to Germany, northern Italy and Occitania. Those reports are discussed in later chapters of this book. Occitanian Catharism surfaces clearly in the 1140s, and by 1167 an international Bogomil-Cathar council was taking place in the Lauragais to confirm the boundaries of four Cathar bishoprics. Catharism remained strong in Occitania until the crusade and tenacious even afterwards.
The Cathars called themselves simply `good Christians’. Their church consisted of believers, clergy and bishops. They advocated an austere manner of life and engaged their believers in some form of work such as weaving or cobbling. Differences from Rome centred primarily on the nature of Christ, the structure and role of the church hierarchy, the number and function of the sacraments, the source of evil in the world, and the possibility of salvation for all believers. For the Cathars, Jesus was not truly human; they objected that a good God would not send his son to earth for crucifixion. Moreover, the only sacrament necessary for salvation was the consolamentum, a laying-on-of-hands modelled on the imposition of hands described in the New Testament. It served as baptism, confirmation, ordination, forgiveness of sins, and extreme unction. Neither marriage nor the Eucharist was considered a sacrament, but the Cathars shared a symbolic breaking of bread. Cathars and Bogomils held the belief that matter was created by the rebellious angel Lucifer and that the last fallen soul would be saved at the end of this world. Their myths, recounted in the Interrogatio Iohannis, describe Satan’s creation of the visible world and humankind. Furthermore, both groups rejected icons and practised a simple repetitive liturgy emphasizing the Lord’s Prayer, an Adoremus formula, and multiple genu¯ections. The relationship between the Bogomils and the Cathars and the history of Catharism itself have been reevaluated extensively in recent years.
Why did these dualist beliefs implant themselves so successfully in Occitania? In contrast to Italy, where Catharism assumed a strongly urban base, Occitanian villages provided the principal stronghold for Cathar believers. Certainly Toulouse, which Cistercian preachers decry as the caput erroris, represented a centre for heresy and resistance to the Roman Church. The invaluable research of J. H. Mundy has illuminated the socio-historical background of Catharism in that comital city and helped to establish that Cathar believers belonged to all social classes. Mundy has also brought to light the attacks on heretics and usurers waged by the White Confraternity under Bishop Fulk of Toulouse in the early thirteenth century. Although earlier research sought explanations for the success of Catharism in Occitania among these and other economic factors, they do not appear to provide a solid explanation.
The castrum, the fortified village or town organized around a castle, and not the city, offered Catharism its most frequent foyer and the path for its dissemination from household to household. The Occitanian system of partible inheritance probably accounts for the representation of all social classes among the Cathars. Southern nobles, many of whom were impoverished as individual land holdings diminished because of repeated subdivisions, often lived among their subjects in the castra. Some famous castra were hill or mountain-top villages, although those developed later than the villages built near rivers or at lower elevations. Ruins of various villages are now being excavated, notably the castrum at Montségur. Three important centres of Catharism – Verfeil, Lombers and Fanjeaux – were inhabited by numerous nobles. Catharism was perhaps introduced by the upper class and then filtered down to other classes, but it also spread horizontally, from one family to the next. Villages allowed extraordinary freedom for Cathars to teach, worship and live together in community, and some families passed between city and country in search of refuge. Cathar houses played a religious and socio-economic role, as we have seen; people were welcomed there for instruction in trades and religion.
Recent research has explored the evidence for literacy among the Cathars. Although the language of Catharism was predominantly the vernacular, its scholarly leaders composed treatises and other documents in Latin. Peter Biller, surveying the use of written materials among the Cathars, underscores the evidence for formal correspondence among Cathar leaders. Letters conveyed between Occitania and Lombardy must have been written in Latin. Liturgical texts in Occitan contain headings and some prayers in Latin; extant theological works were written in Latin, and references are made to others composed in Latin or in a mixture of Latin and vernacular. Furthermore, there are numerous references to Cathars reading and commenting on books, and also to learned Cathar perfecti.
The fact that Catharism flourished in Occitania at the same time as troubadour poetry has provoked much speculation on possible causal relationships. The notion that troubadour songs, particularly the hermetic genre of trobar clus, constituted encoded statements of Cathar beliefs and thereby a type of mysticism has been refuted resoundingly by historians of Catharism and romance philologists. The connections that historians of Catharism have established between Cathar followers and poets of courtly love are primarily political. It was logical for the poets to favour the cause of Catharism, a product of their native soil, while the crusaders were considered foreigners whose invasion devastated Occitan society.
What intrigues us is the possibility that medieval clerics perceived a link between courtly love and heresy which parallels the opinion now refuted by historians. René Nelli asserted that the friars disapproved of the courtly love poetry of the Midi because of its exaltation of adulterous relationships and considered it responsible for the lax morality that fostered heresy. Romance philologists have shared this view to explain the eventual shift in troubadour lyrics from praise of the lady to that of the Virgin. To what extent the friars’ unedited writings such as sermons reflect such notions and whether Cistercians shared the same suspicions constitute interesting questions for further research.
Certainly Cathar beliefs and the courtly love of the troubadours were tolerated in the same milieu, even though they did not proceed from the same principles. Some Occitanian nobles protected both Cathars and troubadours. Moreover, the Cathar perfects probably tolerated the sensual love praised by the troubadours at least as much as the institution of marriage, although they opposed both in theory. Such attitudes certainly would have provoked the anger of the orthodox clergy, who routinely denounced the Cathars for their opposition to marriage and for feigning chastity. If the Cistercians connected Cathar practices to troubadour poetry, Bishop Fulk would have had strong reason to be embarrassed by his youthful poetry.
Whoever knew that Britain was a hair’s breadth away from declaring war on America in 1862?
“A friendly little war, one might say. For us, it’s an attractive course of action. First, we can prevent Napoleon from establishing a permanent base in the Americas. Second we put ourselves in a position to help the Confederates – if that suits us – or to keep them out of Mexico if they win their war.” Lord John Russell (the Foreign Secretary) to Lord Palmerston (the Prime Minister)
A Friendly Little War is a gripping new novel that sheds light on Europe’s powerful and relatively unknown role in the outcome of the American Civil War. The book will delight lovers of historical dramas, action adventures, and old-fashioned romance novels alike. The hero, Yankee Charles Bartlett, finds himself drawn reluctantly into the world of nineteenth-century intrigue and diplomacy when he is sent to Europe to spy for his President, Abraham Lincoln, after disgracing himself in the Battle of Bull Run. His on-again, off-again romance with his bewitching Irish landlady, Lady Carra, will keep readers intrigued until the last page.
“Aficionados [of the American Civil War]… are strangely ignorant about what happened in Europe or on the high seas. Yet it was there that the fate of the Confederacy was determined. Not Antietam or Gettysburg or Vicksburg decided the destiny of the United States as a nation. The decision was made in the chancelleries of Europe, and, except for a few major battles, the outcome was influenced more by what happened on the sea than on the land.” Philip Van Doren Stern Introduction to: The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe
Meticulously researched, the book immerses the reader in real world events and historical characters across both sides of the Atlantic and through the complexities of nineteenth-century international politics, in which every country is a pawn in a game of diplomatic chess. Bartlett finds himself negotiating the corridors of power in France, entwined in the fledgling Irish independence movement, negotiating with Spanish forces in Mexico and stealing top-secret weapon designs.
About the author
John Sherman, who died of a stroke in 2007, was the two times great nephew of the famous Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman (who has a cameo role in the book) and the only living male descendant of the general and his three brothers.
He was born and brought up in Venezuela and educated at Yale and Harvard. He worked in the banking and investment sector in Latin America, New York and London. His talent for writing lay dormant until his retirement upon which he combined his love of history and literature in the writing of this outstanding novel. He is survived by his wife, Xandra, and two of his three sons, Charlie and Peter. His third son died last year, tragically young, from cancer. Proceeds from the sale of this book will be divided equally between The Stroke Association and Cancer Research and it is dedicated to John and his son Ian.
WITH a population of around 10,000 during World War II, Peterhead seemed unlikely to be one of Hitler’s top targets.
But a new book – Luftwaffe Over Scotland, by Les Taylor – claims the fishing port was the second most bombed place in Britain after London.
The reason was not because of its strategic value, but Peterhead’s geographical position. It was the first urban area the Luftwaffe saw as they attacked the UK from Norway.
The town was bombed 28 times during World War II – followed by Aberdeen with 24 raids, Fraserburgh 23, Edinburgh 18, Montrose 15 and Glasgow 11.
In total, there were more than 500 German air raids on Scotland – ranging from single aircraft hit-and-runs, to mass bombings by 240 planes.
During the air war in Scotland, 2500 people died and 8000 were injured.
And more than 200 enemy aircraft were shot down on Scottish territory. Although Peterhead was attacked more times than any other Scottish town, Clydebank suffered the greatest loss of life in one raid – the Clydebank Blitz.
In the book, Les reveals that the terror bombing of the Clydeside – which killed 800 people over two nights – was never planned by the Nazis.
Les, 48, who lives near Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, has spent the last five years carrying out detailed research for the book.
He read hundreds of documents from municipal authorities, the German military, the former Scottish Office, newspaper clippings, the Imperial War Museum and interviewed eye witnesses.
He said: “From that first attack until the Battle of Britain, all the action took place over Scotland.”
The worst loss of life came in Clydebank in March 1941, when 236 German planes were sent to bomb naval targets such as the Admiralty oil storage farm at Dalnottar and the old John Brown Shipyard.
Les said: “It has never been explained before why so many people in Glasgow were killed in that raid.
“But it was because of what is known as ‘creepback’ – keeping away from the fierce anti-aircraft fire.
“The Germans were forced to release their bombs early over Glasgow to avoid the gun fire and get away from the danger area.
“The bombing was never intended. The bombs were scattered across the Glasgow area. Of the 1300 people who died, only 500 were in the intended target area of Clydebank.”
The Greenock Blitz, again over two nights, in May, 1941 – the second and last of the German mass bombings in Scotland- claimed 250 lives.
But British night fighters from Ayr, who engaged the bombers, caused the fleeing Germans to also drop bombs across south-west Scotland, too.
However, the Germans did strike their intended targets in both raids – and only three German planes were downed, all in the Greenock attack.
However, Les said that raid was considered a failure because only one person was killed for every two tonnes of explosive dropped – roughly one per cent of the military’s pre-war planning calculation.
In total, a massive 1000 tonnes of explosive was dropped in the two raids alone – equivalent to one of the war’s most infamous attacks on Coventry.
Scotland’s main interest to Hitler was that it was home to so many strategic naval anchorages.
One of the most important was Scapa Flow in Orkney, from where a major air battle was fought three months before the Battle of Britain.
In 1940, between April 8 and April 10, up to 60 German bombers attacked at a time.
“It was in effect a rehearsal for the Battle of Britain,” said Les. “It was also the first time radar was used to intercept and attack enemy planes, which was a major factor in the Battle of Britain. The tactics used in Orkney were just the same.
“The Germans mounted the attack as part of their invasion of Norway and to try and drive the Navy out of Scapa Flow. In my view it should be officially recognised as The Battle of Orkney.”
Scotland claimed many UK firsts during the war. The first civilian victim of the war in Britain was James Isbister, who was killed in a German air raid on Orkney on March 16, 1940.
The previous October, the Luftwaffe carried out their first raid over Britain, with an attack above the Firth of Forth on two warships. A total of 16 sailors were killed aboard HMS Mohawk.
The same day, painter and decorator Joe McCluskie was shot in the stomach. He was hit by friendly fire from a Spitfire chasing a Junkers 88 over central Edinburgh. Fortunately, he survived.
Les said: “This book is the first complete record of German air attacks on Scotland. Following the summer of 1940, the nature of those attacks turned to terror bombings against civilians.”
The first strafing occurred in July, 1940, when a Junkers 88 machine gunned Queen Street in Peterhead. Incredibly, nobody died.
Hitler wanted to match the British terror bombing of German cities by inflicting the same devastation on the UK.
He appointed General Major Dietrich Pelz as attack leader and his first raid came on April 21, 1943, when 125 people were killed in Aberdeen after 29 German Dornier 217s from the elite KG2 Squadron attacked the Granite City.
It was also the last German raid on a Scottish city during the war, though the honour of being the last casualty fell to a Mrs McGregor on the same day.
The farmer’s wife, from Fraserburgh, was hit on the head from a falling slate after a bomb exploded near her house. Luckily she survived.
Scotland also staged the last air battle in Europe, which was fought off the Aberdeenshire coast on April 21, 1945.
Mosquitoes from the Banff strike wing intercepted 18 torpedo bombers – only four made it back to Norway.
Reviewed by Andreas Fahrmeir (Historisches Seminar, Universität Frankfurt) Published on H-German (January, 2010) Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher
Mike Rapport is one of the few scholars who write European history not as the history of a few select countries, but of the entire continent. Rapport is at home in the history of the Balkans as well as France, Italy, Germany, Russia, and Scandinavia, and well versed in the historiography published in English, French, and Italian. Rapport’s well-rounded viewpoint is one excellent argument for anyone suffering from “1848 fatigue” after the sesquicentennial celebrations and their aftermath in conference volumes and historiographical reviews to put aside any skepticism regarding the possibility of anyone presenting a novel perspective; the book itself is another. In it, Rapport offers a narrative history of the events of 1848 in those European countries and regions affected directly by the revolution–France, Italy, the German states, Denmark, and Rumania–with some remarks on areas where the impact was more indirect (Britain, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, and Scandinavia). This book is less obviously an academic textbook than Jonathan Sperber’s excellent survey of the revolutions of 1848, and less encyclopedic than the survey of national events and overarching themes edited by Dieter Dowe and others for the 1998 anniversary.
Rapport divides his book into an introduction and four large chapters. The introduction presents the tensions that erupted into revolution in 1848: constitutional debates and demands for broader participation in government, the “social question,” and calls for national unity. Rapport distances himself from interpretations of 1848 as a “bourgeois” revolution. In line with the results of recent research, he emphasizes the limits of the social impact of industrialization even in the more economically advanced European countries. The first extensive chapter describes the collapse of the old order in the spring of 1848. The following three chapters continue the chronological account, but combine it with particular themes. “The Springtime of Peoples” is concerned with various attempts to institutionalize the gains of the revolution’s first weeks, which led to various clashes between competing national agendas. “The Red Summer” takes the story forward and highlights the increasing incidence of social conflict that encouraged, if it did not bring about, the split between a radical-socialist Left and a conservative-liberal center. “The Counter-Revolutionary Autumn” focuses on the resurgence of the pillars of the old order: courts, conservative politicians, and the military, partly exemplified by the return of Louis Napoleon to France. “The Indian Summer of Revolution” is devoted to the defeat of the remaining islands of revolutionary republicanism in Germany and Italy and to the war against the Hungarian revolution in the first half of 1849. The book’s conclusion describes the conversion of France’s Second Republic into a Second Empire, but does not pursue the story in other European countries into 1850 (which witnessed Prussia’s attempt to impose a German nation-state from above) or 1851 (when the last remnants of the Hungarian army moved into exile from Ottoman captivity).
Rapport’s account is lively and eminently readable. Though it steers clear of presentism, the conclusions of each chapter discuss the legacy of 1848 for the history of Europe (and individual European countries) in the twentieth century: debates and decisions on the emancipation of religious and ethnic minorities; the trials and tribulations of parliamentary and republican government; or the paradox of attempts by parties composed of socially privileged members to ally with the lower orders against the forces of order without affecting the distribution of property.
Confusion and chaos were two of the lasting impressions the revolutions of 1848 left behind. This effect makes organizing any narrative of events difficult. While it is plausible to (re-)construct a typical revolutionary trajectory (liberal-democratic union, social and national tensions, conservative resurgence, and the revolutionaries’ defeat), these phases occurred in different countries at very different times. Not all “March ministers” in German states, for example, were actually appointed in spring. In Germany, the “red summer” coincided with the peak of the nation-state debate in autumn. The Indian summer of revolution in some places (notably in Rome, Venice, central Italy, and southwestern Germany) delayed the conservative resurgence until well into 1849, and given Prussia’s non-conservative politics, one could argue that it was only fully in place in Germany in 1851. The decision to organize the narrative around broad themes thus involves some (inevitable) back-and-forth, thus requiring the reader to keep the chronology in the different regions in mind.
Rapport’s “year of revolution” is clearly centered on France. The revolutionary events that had already begun in 1846 (the Krakow rebellion, the Lola Montez crisis in Bavaria, or the Swiss civil war), which Karl Marx took to be the beginning of the revolutions, do not seem as decisive to Rapport: Paris provided the spark that set Europe ablaze. The organization of his book highlights this implicit thesis: each phase of the revolution, the radical Indian summer excepted, begins with an event in Paris that provides a signal of change, transmitted by modern means of communication (telegraph, railway, steamer) to the rest of Europe and setting events in other countries in motion. Thus the elements of chance, chaos, and contingency, which shaped much of the year everywhere, appear most pronounced in descriptions of French scenes; once the outcome in Paris was decided, it was likely to be repeated elsewhere. This position could be debated at length–I would be inclined to highlight the variation between revolutionary demands and thus the revolutions’ relative independence. The model of a central revolution in Paris with complementary revolutions elsewhere also downplays the connections between events: for example, the impact of refugees from crackdowns in Germany (on Marx’s Cologne paper, for example) and Italy on developments in France.
To my mind, Rapport’s account is at its best when it reconstructs the genesis of individual revolutionary events, blending lively and complex narratives with structural observations. It is somewhat less colorful in its descriptions of individuals. This result, too, stems from a narrative choice: the story begins in early 1848 and ends in the middle of 1849, thus providing little room for describing the political or intellectual experiences of most revolutionaries–or their fate after 1849. It is characteristic that most illustrations are of mass scenes, not portraits–except of conservative generals. Likewise, in contrast to some recent research on the revolutions, Rapport is inclined to treat the military outside France as a fairly homogenous, reliable tool of state power, rather than questioning whether the resurgence of the military might have something to do with the politicization of the armed forces against some of the radicals’ demands. This reservation should not be read as a criticism of Rapport’s brilliant book, merely as a description of his narrative choices and his implicit interpretation of the revolution. Focusing more on individuals and chronology would have involved different problems, such as the need to submerge common patterns too much. Overall, I do not think a better account of the revolutions could have been written in the space available.
Rapport’s account of the outcome is pessimistic. France reverted to a Bonapartist empire, though 1848 may have served as an apprenticeship in democracy. Elsewhere, liberals demonstrated that they preferred national unity to freedom and were unable to even grasp, let alone cope with, the gravity of the social question. While this account rings more true than some celebrations of the impact of 1848 in commemorations did, one could place a bit more emphasis on the introduction of parliaments and the expansion of the franchise in most German states and the further isolation of non-constitutional regimes in post-1848 politics.
Overall, Rapport has provided a standard survey of the revolution of 1848, one that should attract broad interest inside and outside of the classroom.
. Michael Rapport, Nineteenth-Century Europe (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2005).
. Jonathan Sperber, The European Revolutions, 1848-1851 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
. The English translation is Dieter Dowe, ed., Europe in 1848: Revolution and Reform (New York: Berghahn Books, 2000).
. Eva Maria Werner, Die Märzministerien: Regierungen der Revolution von 1848/49 in den Staaten des Deutschen Bundes (Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2009).
. Sabrina Müller, Soldaten in der deutschen Revolution von 1848/49 (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1999).
Long after the war was over, after the fighting had ended, after Bunker was dead, and Abrams too, after the boat people and all the other sad detritus of a lost cause, the eldest of General Abram’s three sons, all Army officers, was on the faculty of the Command & General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. There someone reminded him of what Robert Shaplen had once said, that his father deserved a better war. ‘He didn’t see it that way,’ young Creighton responded at once. ‘He thought the Vietnamese were worth it.’
-A Better War
There is no greater analytical tool than Occam’s Razor, but if I had to pick one worthwhile rival, it is to approach every problem in politics and history with the following mindset : the conventional wisdom is always wrong. This is, of course, far too sweeping a generalization, but it is shocking how often it turns out to be true, and even when it isn’t, it is always helpful to approach a seemingly settled problem skeptically. Just in the past few years there have been several really good history texts which have taken this approach–Hitler’s Willing Executioners, The First World War, The Pity of War–and though they’ve produced predictable howls of outrage, the very controversy they’ve stirred up has forced those who defend the conventional wisdom to do so with far greater rigor, and that’s all to the good. Lewis Sorley’s A Better War challenges the accepted view of Vietnam, does so with great authority, and will hopefully thereby foster a significant re-examination of this sorest spot in the national psyche.
The basic premise of the book is that late in 1970 or early in 1971 the United States had essentially won the Vietnam War. That is to say, we had defeated the Viet Cong in the field, returned effective control of most of the population to the South Vietnamese and created a situation where the South Vietnamese armed forces could continue the war on their own, so long as we provided them with adequate supplies and intelligence, and carried through on our promise to bomb the North if they violated peace agreements. This situation had been brought about by the changes in strategy and tactics which were implemented by Army General Creighton Abrams when he replaced William Westmoreland in 1968, after the military triumph but public relations disaster of the Tet Offensive. Where Westmoreland had treated the War as simply a military exercise, Abrams understood its political dimensions. Abrams, who had worked on developing a new war plan at the Pentagon, ended Westmoreland’s emphasis on body counts and destroying the enemy and switched the focus to regaining control of villages. He understood that eventual victory required civilian support for the South Vietnamese government and this support required the government to provide villagers with physical security from the Viet Cong.
Abrams was accompanied in implementing this new approach by Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker and by William Colby, the new CIA chief in Saigon, who provided greatly improved intelligence reports and oversaw the pacification program. Together they managed to salvage the wreckage that Westmoreland had left behind and they retrieved the situation even as Washington was drawing down troop levels. In 1972, with the Viet Cong essentially eliminated as an effective fighting force, the North Vietnamese mounted a massive Easter offensive, but this too was decisively defeated.
Having failed to achieve their aims militarily, the North Vietnamese turned their attention to the Paris Peace Talks. They were extraordinarily fortunate to be dealing with Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, two opportunists of the worst sort, who were willing to negotiate a deal which left the North with troops in South Vietnam. When President Thieu balked at this and threatened to scuttle the talks, the North backed off of the whole deal and Nixon ordered the 1972 Christmas bombings of Hanoi. For eleven days, waves of B-52′s, each carrying 108 500-pound and 750-pound bombs, pummeled the North. For perhaps the only time during the entire War, the North was subjected to total war, and they were forced to return to the negotiating table. Sorley cites Sir Robert Thompson’s assessment that :
In my view, on December 30, 1972, after eleven days of those B-52 attacks on the Hanoi area,
you had won the war. It was over.
At that point, the Viet Cong had been destroyed, we had definitely won the insurgency phase of the War. Additionally, the North had been defeated in the initial phase of conventional warfare, and had finally had the War brought home to them in a significant way. Though the overall War was certainly not over, it was sitting there, just waiting to be won.
So what happened ? Sorley has identified several problem areas that led to the eventual demise of the South. First was the really disgraceful way in which the U. S. bugged out. Having gotten the North back to the bargaining table, Nixon and Kissinger cut a deal–the January 27, 1973 Paris Peace Accord–which allowed the North to keep its forces in South Vietnam. At the time they were some 160,000 in number (as compared to the 27,000 that we were down to by then). Then, despite innumerable assurances, Nixon refused to resume bombing in order to enforce the accords. This enabled the North to use the cover of a cease fire to move more men and materiel into the South. Meanwhile, Congress, with bills like the Fulbright-Aiken Amendment, and extensive cuts to the military budget, pulled the logistical rug out from under the South. At the very time that the North was stockpiling arms, supplied by China and Russia, the South was having its supply of arms seriously curtailed. It was South Vietnam’s bad luck, at its hour of greatest peril, to be saddled with a feckless ally. Imagine having to depend on the U.S. for the logistical support which is your life’s blood at a time when it was being run by Nixon and Kissinger at the executive level and by folks like Ted Kennedy in the congressional realm. Sorley, properly, lays much of the blame at the doorstep of the American political leadership.
A second problem, one for which the military itself must bear more blame than Sorley acknowledges, is that the American press, and through them the public, had lost faith in the War. It had dragged on much longer than American attention spans could tolerate. Political and military leaders had repeatedly misled the public about the prospects of winning the War. The Peace Movement had shaken domestic support for continuance of the effort. Events like the My Lai massacre and systemic problems like drug use, many of them exacerbated by the politically mandated transition to an all volunteer armed service, had undermined the morale of the troops and of the broader public. Like the boy who cried wolf, when the news they carried was finally true, that victory in the War was finally within our grasp, the military could not find anyone to believe them.
Third was the failure to ever stop the North from using the neighboring countries of Cambodia and Laos as supply lines and sanctuaries, and the related failure to carry the ground War into North Vietnam itself. By effectively agreeing to make South Vietnam the battlefield, the U. S. ensured that the War was always being fought, at least to some degree, on North Vietnam’s terms. The modern equivalent would be something akin to issuing rules of engagement, known to everyone, for the Gulf war, which only allowed U. S. troops to fight the Iraqis in Kuwait, never to follow them into Iraq itself, never envisioning an ultimate assault on Iraq itself. Luckily, this seems to have been one of the lessons that the military learned in Vietnam. Never again can U. S. forces be sent into combat with rules so favorable to the enemy.
Finally, and most importantly to South Vietnam itself, even after all the years and dollars, the U. S. had not succeeded in creating a viable South Vietnamese officer corps to take over command of the situation as we pulled out. There were many dedicated and courageous men, even a few good commanders, as Sorley shows during the fighting in the final North Vietnamese offensive in 1975, but not enough. Moreover, the military, indeed the entire society, was so riddled with corruption that the citizenry generally distrusted them. This, combined with the demoralizing effect of watching us turn tail, left the South poorly prepared psychologically to continue the War.
And so, when the final push came, all of these factors came together and created the environment in which the resistance of the South utterly collapsed. Sorley writes movingly about Brigadier General Le Minh Dao, commanding the 18th Infantry Division ARVN, and the valiant resistance he mounted at Xuan Loc. Attacked by first three and then four divisions, the 18th held out for a month, destroying three North Vietnamese divisions before succumbing. The American advisor, Colonel Ray Battreall, said of this action :
That magnificent last stand deserves to live on in military history, if we can overcome the bias,
even in our own ranks, that ARVN was never capable of doing anything right.
But, of course, we’ve long forgotten this valiant stand, as we’ve forgotten so much else about the War, a War that officially ended with the South’s surrender at 10:25 on April 30, 1975.
One book can not change peoples’ minds about a matter as contentious as the Vietnam War. In fact, the intellectual classes and the Baby Boom Generation have so much of themselves invested in the idea that the War was wrong and unwinnable that it’s unlikely that any number of books could change their minds. But as the years go by and as new generations take a fresh look at the War, it is important that they approach it with an open mind. They, and we, may still conclude that we should never have been there or that there was never a chance that we could win, but those conclusions should be arrived at after examining all the evidence and considering the different possibilities. No one undertaking this task should fail to read A Better War; it is historical revision of the very best kind, thoughtful and thought provoking.
I am writing in response to the many critical reviews of this book, as to the actual book. Many reviewers call this revisionist history, and claim that Lewis Sorley’s admiration for General Abrams biases the work. Sorley is obviously a great fan of General Abrams, but hey, most people who knew him were fans of his. He was a great soldier, leader, and General. I studied guerrilla warfare before I went to Vietnam (1966-1967). I was part of the Westmoreland multi-battalion offensive actions against the communist forces. I returned to Vietnam (1970-1971) to experience the Abrams emphasis on population security and control. Both type operations are necessary to successfully win a guerrilla war, but Abrams emphasis was clearly the better long term strategy. I suspect that most of the critical comments about this book are written by those most against America’s presence in Vietnam. I my opinion, Sorley speaks the truth here. He has done a masterful job of presenting the way the war was fought after the 1968 Tet offensive. Like it or not, that is the way it really was. It is a story that not enough people have heard.