This is the 14th Military History Carnival, with a special theme of Contested Boundaries. Today is also the day that Bloggers Unite encourages bloggers to write about human rights (hat tip: Mark Stoneman). I might post something on that theme later today if I have time (and I probably won’t have time), but this carnival edition gives plenty of attention to human rights issues.
We’ll start with the most obvious kind of boundaries: borders. TJ at Battlefield Biker looks back on his own service on the border between East and West Germany. Even in 1988 the Cold War was still very real: we didn’t know then what was going to happen in 1989. Alex at Military History and Warfare looks into the Great Northern War, when the Sweden’s Baltic empire was under threat from Russia and Denmark. At Strange Maps there’s a map of Europe painted onto a First World War helmet. Even within a country there a boundaries that are closed to most people. ProTraveller has photos of 15 top secret bases.
The question of what makes a historian is always being discussed in the history blogosphere. Gary Smailes looks at his own writing career and asks “Am I a historian?”. John David Hoptak at 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry tackles the equally difficult question of objectivity, as people often ask him “What side are you on?”. In the War Reading Room Paul Brewer reviews Nicholson Baker’s new book on World War II, which takes a different approach to writing history (see also part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6). Maybe historians have it easy compared to scientists. P D Smith at Kafka’s Mouse looks at the stereotype of the mad scientist.
Riots and Rebellions
What counts as war and what doesn’t is one of the most contested boundaries in military history. One person’s terrorist or criminal is another’s freedom fighter. This was never more true than in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Mike Cosgrave reviews at Charlie Wilson’s War, an autobiographical account of the CIA’s backing of the mujahideen against the Soviets. Tory Historian at Conservative History compares the IRA to Baader-Meinhof. Meanwhile at Progressive Historians midtowng investigates the origins of the word bandit in the American occupation Haiti in 1915. Saifuddin recounts an expedition sent by Mohammed to put down brigands who were preying on Muslims.
May Day is International Workers Day. Kathy at the G-Spot describes the events at Haymarket Square, Chicago, which the day commemorates. As the protest developed into a gunfight, its could be described as a very real class war. The rebellious workers were treated as criminals, but the police weren’t. Axis of Evel Knievel follows up with the story of violence which occurred in Wisconsin around the same time. Again militia shot and killed striking workers and were not prosecuted. Miland Brown at World History Blog remembers how May Day parades were an occasion for Soviet propaganda. Also on a Cold War theme, you can watch Eisenhower’s famous speech about the military industrial complex at More or Less Bunk.
Even when everyone agrees that there’s a war on, not everyone agrees about the proper way to conduct it. The legal situation got very confused during the war between the US and the Seminole Indians in 1818. Executed Today points out that Andrew Jackson invaded Spanish territory and executed two British subjects. The atomic bombing of Japan continues to be very controversial. Jonathan Dresner at Frog in a Well mentions that recently some new photos of Hiroshima were released and then found not to be photos of Hiroshima. Comments on the photos and at Greg Laden’s blog show that many people still feel very strongly about whether or not the bombing was justified.
At The Dougout Grant Jones takes issue with attempts to retrospectively classify the allied breakout from Normandy in 1944 as a war crime. To put the collateral damage of Operation COBRA into perspective, go to Holocaust Controversies, where Roberto Muehlenkamp makes a rough attempt to work out how many Jewish and non-Jewish civilians were killed by Nazi war crimes and crimes against humanity. J. Carter Wood at Obscene Desserts makes a poignant visit to a cemetery where he saw a monument to German Jews who died fighting for Germany in the First World War. This really brings home how far Jews were integrated into German society and how irrational the Nazis were to persecute them.
Russian Jews fought for the Soviet Union in World War II but were not always treated well afterwards. Sean’s Russia Blog introduces Don Kozlents who fought at Kursk and later emigrated to Israel after much difficulty, but who still identifies himself as a Marxist as well as a Zionist. Over at English Russia there are some spectacular photos of the Red Army in action in Berlin in 1945.
Muhlberger’s Early History linked to medieval soldier of the month from the Soldier in Later Medieval England database. This is a great new resource listing soldiers who served the English Crown in the Hundred Years War – a period when every kind of boundary between English and French was contested.
Racial identity was very obviously at stake in the American Civil War, but this was not just a question of black and white. Fewer people know about the contribution of German Americans to the Union war effort. Brett Schulte of The Order of Civil War Obsessively Compulsed reviews a new book about how the battle of Chancellorsville affected relations between Germans and other Americans. Jim Schmidt at Civil War Medicine looks at medical care (or lack of it) of African American soldiers in the Union armies. At Civil War Bookshelf Dimitri Rotov celebrates the birthday of Louis Gottschalk, “the Creole Chopin”, who was born in New Orleans and supported the Union. Allen at The Whited Sepulchre finds the racial legacy of slavery, civil war, and reconstruction surfacing and being resolved in an old people’s home, where a white woman and a black woman worked together to overcome their disabilities. And at Bull Runnings Harry Smeltzer traces the famous descendants of Hugh Judson Kilpatrick who fought on the Union side (but not at Bull Run). Branson Travel Attractions brings us Branson Veterans Memorial Museum, which includes a sculpture of 50 US soldiers representing each state of the Union.
Women at War
Of all the boundaries contested in war, the one between men and women has most often held up despite the potentially counterproductive consequences of putting gender ideology before military effectiveness. The Battle of Britain is deservedly known as a struggle to preserve liberal democracy in the face of fascism, but it was also a struggle to preserve patriarchy in the face of military necessity. Even at such a desperate time Fighter Command preferred to have combat missions flown by inexperienced men rather than experienced pilots like Amy Johnson. But, as Kate at Osprey Publishing points out, Johnson and many other women still contributed to Britain’s victory by serving in the Air Transport Auxiliary, a role which involved flying planes and risking death. Brett Holman at Airminded finds airmindedness and an androgynous mind when he investigates the mysterious writer known only as Neon who was probably a man pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man. And Susan Higginbotham spares a mother’s day thought for Margaret of Anjou, who has had a lot of undeserved bad press for her role in the Wars of the Roses.
Hunting Tigers Out In Indi-ah
People don’t spend all their time fighting each other. There is always plenty of scope for combat between humans and other species. Jason Bellows at Damn Interesting tells us all about expert tiger hunter Jim Corbett. He specialised in tracking and killing tigers which preyed on people, one of which was so dangerous that it had been chased out of Nepal by the army. He later put his experience to use giving jungle combat training in World War II. Carl Pyrdum has always Got Medieval: this time he finds a battle between monkeys and foxes illustrated in the margin of a bible.
That’s all for this edition. The 15th Military History Carnival will be at Cardinal Wolsey’s Today In History on 14th June. Please e-mail submissions to alunadler at yahoo dot co dot uk or use the submission form. We still need hosts for July and September onwards, so if you’re interested in hosting please get in touch.