logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Military-History
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-07-15 17:45
The First World War from a different perspective
Pandora’s Box A History of the First World War - Jörn Leonhard,Patrick Camiller

For the English-language reader today there is no shortage of histories surveying the First World War. Thanks to the centenary, several new volumes have been added to the fine books written over the years, giving readers a choice of works ranging from those of contemporary authors such as Winston Churchill, C.R.M.F. Cruttwell, and Basil Liddell-Hart to more modern studies by historians such as John Keegan, Hew Strachan, David Stevenson, and G. J. Meyer. Yet even when these authors have pursued a balanced approach and incorporated available German-language sources into their account, they usually have an inherent British or Allied focus resulting from a combination of factors.

 

This is just one reason why Jörn Leonhard's book stands out as a history of the conflict. Originally published in German in 2014, its translation into English offers readers of the language a survey of the war from an historian coming from a perspective rooted in a different set of sources and influences than those of his British and American counterparts. Yet this is just one of the many distinguishing characteristics of his fine work, which offers what is easily the most comprehensive single-volume history of the war yet written. Within its pages he offers an account that begins with an examination of the factors that lead to the war and ends with its postwar legacy. Along the way he discusses the war in all of its myriad aspects, from the politics and economics of the conflict to its effects on society and culture. No front is left unexamined, and all of it is integrated into a narrative that moves with considerable fluidity from topic to topic.

The result is a work that is massive in scope yet one that offers an insightful account of the war that defined the 20th century. There is little that escapes his coverage, which is informed throughout by a perspective that will be fresh for many English-language readers of the war. It makes for a book that has set the new standard by which histories of the First World War are judged, and one likely to remain the standard for some time to come.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
url 2018-07-09 16:16
Podcast #110 is up!
Bayly’s War: The Battle for the Western Approaches in the First World War - Steve R. Dunn

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Steve R. Dunn about his account of the Royal Navy's battle against the U-boats off the coast of Ireland during the First World War (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
url 2018-07-06 15:31
Podcast #109 is up!
World War II at Sea: A Global History - Craig L. Symonds

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Craig L. Symonds about his sweeping naval history of the Second World War. Enjoy!

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-06-17 00:27
One command's struggles against the U-boats
Bayly’s War: The Battle for the Western Approaches in the First World War - Steve R. Dunn

Over the past few years Steve Dunn has carved out a niche for himself writing books about various aspects of the First World War at sea that have often be overshadowed by its more dramatic personage and battles. His latest book is an account of the Western Approaches (the waters off of the south of Ireland) centered around the effective, no-nonsense figure of Admiral Lewis Bayly. When he assumed position of Senior Officer of the Coast of Ireland station in 1915, he took over a command that was struggling in the war against the U-boats. Like the rest of the Royal Navy its officers and men were working out how to respond to the deployment of this new weapon of war, a task made more difficult by the shortage of appropriate ships and the competing demands made on the available resources by the demands of war. As a result, sailors went to sea aboard inadequate vessels and pursued ineffective tactics such as trawling the Irish Sea in the (usually vain) hope that they might entangle German submersibles or force them to exhaust their batteries.

 

Upon taking command in Queenstown Bayly brought a renewed determination to the station. Focusing on the war, he set the tone for his men by curbing the social activities and customs that had endured from the prewar era. With the aid of new ships and more men he carried out his orders vigorously, protecting merchant shipping and hunted down U-boats by any means possible. In this his command received a boost in the summer of 1917 with the arrival of the first warships of the United States Navy. This proved Bayly’s finest hour as commander of the station, as he established harmonious relations with American officers as they worked to protect the vessels transporting the doughboys to the front. The esteem in which they held him was reflected after the war with their efforts to support and honor Bayly in his retirement.

 

Dunn’s book provides readers with a succinct and effective description of the war off of the Irish coast. Though he concentrates on Bayly, he does not do so to the detriment of his coverage of the many men who fought and sacrificed in their battles with the U-boats. While this comes at the cost of a degree of repetitiveness in his accounts of U-boat attacks and the efforts to sink them, it is a minor issue with what is otherwise a worthy study of a part of the war covered only in passing in larger accounts of the naval history of the First World War.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-05-20 15:15
Napoleon at his peak
Napoleon: The Spirit of the Age: 1805-1810 - Michael Broers

The second volume of Michael Broers's projected three-volume biography of Napoleon Bonaparte covers the five years of his life between the start of his campaign against the Austrians in 1805 and his marriage to Marie Louise in 1810. This was the period which can be regarded as Napoleon at his peak. With his victories against the Austrians in 1805 and the Prussians and the Russians in 1806-7, the French emperor exercised a dominance over Europe that was unprecedented. Yet one of the themes that emerges from Broers's narrative is the fragile nature of Napoleon's control, as he details the ways in which his power began to evaporate almost as soon as he won it.

 

As Broers details, the main reason for this was the circumstances in which it was won. When Napoleon led the Grande Armée our of its camps around Boulogne and into central Europe, he commanded one of the finest military forces in existence, one that was well trained and consisted of veterans of the many wars that France had fought since 1792. Yet it was an unsustainable force, one that Napoleon's regime scrambled to finance even as it won its great victories against the Austrians. The end of the Austrian campaign led to the discharge of many of those veterans, who were replaced by younger, less experienced conscripts in subsequent campaigns.

 

Though Napoleon still won many victories with his new recruits, this was just one of the many challenges he faced. Another was with his efforts to control the lands his forces occupied, as he proved far more successful in defeating the armies of the old order than he was in controlling their territories. Here Broers's expertise as an historian of the era is employed to his greatest effect, as he demonstrates how the French occupation of southern Italy in 1806 foreshadowed the problems the regime would face in Spain just two years later. Napoleon's efforts to establish his brother Joseph as king of Naples proved less than successful, as French reforms such as the end of feudalism quickly turned the Neapolitan aristocracy against the regime, forcing the French to maintain a military presence the region could not afford, and confronting Napoleon with a low-level uprising he did not know how to win.

 

Further hampering Napoleon's efforts to cement his dominance of Europe was his reliance upon his family as puppet monarchs. Here Broers astutely dismisses traditional criticisms of his use of them as rulers of the regions he conquered, pointing out that the practice was commonplace for ruling families throughout European history, Yet his brothers ultimately did not live up to the (often impossible) demands Napoleon placed upon them, and suffered the fore of his ire as a result. His frustration with them also informed his growing concern over the issue of succession, as his difficult marriage of Josephine had not produced the heir he so desperately desired. Though his efforts to wed a Russian princess ultimately proved fruitless, his negotiations with the Austrians proved more successful, and in 1810 he became the son-in-law of his twice-defeated opponent Francis II. Yet as Broers ends the volume he makes clear that the seeming solidity gained by the Napoleonic regime still rested on a foundation of sand, with Napoleon facing rebellions in occupied territories, resentful monarchs in the rest of the continent, and an ongoing war against Britain that showed no sign of resolution.

 

Broers describes all of this is a clear narrative that moves briskly through the many of events of the emperor's busy life. Drawing upon the bounty of the ongoing Correspondance générale series as well as recent scholarship on various aspects of his reign by the leading scholars of the era, he provides a fuller picture of Napoleon's rule than was possible for previous biographers. The result is a worthy successor to Broers's previous volume, Soldier of Destiny, and a book which further establishes his biography as the best one yet written about Napoleon Bonaparte.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?