Dec. 2015 reading

DiscussãoMilitary History

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Dec. 2015 reading

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Dez 9, 2015, 7:42am

As for relevant books so far this month I've finished Lincoln's Autocrat (C) and Warship 2013 (B). The first is mostly a political life of Edwin Stanton with malice aforethought, and since the author (from other writings) essentially seems to believe that Lincoln acted unconstitutionally in regards to confronting succession I find it hard to take seriously. This is particularly since Marvel really doesn't get to grips with the questions I mostly had, which were in regards to Stanton's effectiveness as Secretary of War. As for the second book it's an okay entry in the continuing annual series.

Dez 10, 2015, 6:49pm

Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire by Roger Crowley suffers again from his 9/11 Giuliani-like fixation on a war between Christians and Muslims. As his own text shows the Portuguese true priorities are business, business, military with religion coming in a distant third (and given insufficient resources to accomplish anything).

These explorer/merchants/soldiers were crazy and the odds not in their favor. The opportunity was too lucrative, though, in undercutting the previous Arab-Venetian trade by 600%. I wish that Crowley had mentioned how dramatic the spice trade shifted from Venice to the Atlantic, really a Nokia to Apple moment. While the Habsburgs and the French kings were fighting over Italy, they failed to notice that India (and Asia would have been much richer targets). One wonders what would have happened if not the demographically marginal countries of Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands had taken the lead but the multitudes of France.

Another element missing in Crowley's narrative is that the new military technologies of artillery, handguns and organized infantry was used also by non-Christian conquerors such as the Ottomans (e.g. against the backward Hungarian knightly army) and Babur in India. As always with Crowley's books, average readers will get a false confirmation about the Rambo Jesus Western Way of War.

The Guardian has a portrait of Edward Luttwak who seems to enjoy playing evil Loki. Statements such as "You know, I never gave George W Bush enough credit for what he’s done in the Middle East. I failed to appreciate at the time that he was a strategic genius far beyond Bismarck. He ignited a religious war between Shi’ites and Sunnis that will occupy the region for the next 1,000 years. It was a pure stroke of brilliance!" will infuriate both the left and the right. Luttwak seems to enjoy seeing the world burn.

Dez 10, 2015, 9:11pm

Dez 10, 2015, 10:49pm

Editado: Dez 11, 2015, 2:21pm

Not really military history, but in regards to Portuguese imperial history I might mention Frontiers of Possession (B+), which examines how issues of boundaries under the unified Hapsburg reign on the Iberian Peninsula fed into the creation of Portuguese and Spanish national identity.

Dez 16, 2015, 4:52pm

Dez 18, 2015, 2:23pm

Empire of Sand: The Struggle for the Southwest,1862 (Civil War Campaigns and Commanders Series) ..another great little volume in the McWHiney series.

Dez 21, 2015, 2:19am

I've begun T.E. Lawrence's classic memoir, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. 60 pages in, it's fascinating.

Editado: Jan 13, 2016, 6:49am

To this point in the month I've further knocked out Forts of the War of 1812 (B+), Israeli Fortifications of the October War 1973 (B+) and Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the
Monongahela and the Road to Revolution (A+). The first two are your basic Osprey booklets, but the third is a really excellent examination of the battle with new source material from French-language archives and written by a man with good insight into how the First Nations fit into this campaign and a good sense of the lay of the land; this is apparently after having walked the length of Braddock's trail and paddled the main French supply route!

Dez 21, 2015, 11:50am

>10 Shrike58: Good to hear about the Braddock book. I have it on my various wish lists.

Dez 21, 2015, 1:55pm

About the only thing I could mark it down for is for a somewhat pat epilog but in terms of putting the battle into context there's little more that could be desired. At the very least it made me think about the Highland Uprisings (which I've never really dwelt on) as radicalizing events for the British officer class.

Dez 24, 2015, 11:19am

Offered as a Kickstarter tie-in to the Ancient History Magazine launch, Dacia: The Roman Wars, Volume 1 is a great introduction to those sturdy opponents of Rome in a wonderful Conan-the-Barbarian/Angus McBride style. The panel on Trajan's column are a great source about that conflict. In Roman times, the details could be examined from the surrounding houses whereas today, the column is standing in the open, so that one has to go to museums in Rome or Bukarest to have a close look at gypsum copies of the panels. Recommended.

My not so positive review of Osprey's newish MAA title Armies of Castile and Aragon 1370-1516 has attracted the attention of the author (who has replied to critical blog posts elsewhere too). The main fault lies in the MAA format with its 48 pages limit. Adding a few pages (to 64) and color would really help. The current focus of cramming everything into one booklet due to commercial constraints of only limited pubic interest does not work, as the booklets produced do not do justice to their subjects.

Even under these constraints, in my view, the author's expertise should expose the reader to great and not easily found objects. Using valuable space for illustrations of John of Gaunt and Columbus leaves insufficient room for actually presenting the armies of Castile and Aragon. Only the 1440 era is well covered with two plates. The bibliography features two German titles but only a single Spanish one and again wastes space by including Oman's and Fuller's classic titles. A local expert would have produced a more helpful further reading list and a lot more local images.

Dez 30, 2015, 4:10pm

Finished Remembering An Unsung Giant: The Douglas C-133 Cargomaster and Its People by Cal Taylor. Superb book, excellent throughout. Very comprehensive history of the C-133 from design through use, with many interesting detailed and lot of great photographs.

Dez 31, 2015, 12:35pm

I'm reading The Conquering Tide by Ian Toll, which follows on his previous book Pacific Crucible as the second of a three-volume history of the Pacific War.

Jan 13, 2016, 6:49am

to finish up the year there were Hungarian Fighter Colours, Vol. 1: 1930-1945 (A) and Bankrupting the Enemy (B).

The former covers much more then simply the painting schemes of Hungarian fighter aircraft and I was interested in how the authors related the travails of the aviation history buff during the Communist era; one amusing point is that participant interviews are not always all they're cracked up to be, as the pilots often didn't particularly remember how their own aircraft were painted (...grey is grey).

As for Miller's take on 1930s financial warfare I have to admit that it really didn't grab me. The question that Miller seemed to start with was whether how FDR signed off on the currency freeze was a fit of misunderstanding or an exercise in plausible deniability; there is no way to tell for sure but the second would seem to have been the case.