Category: 2014s

    2014 Archival Seminar Report

    Here is my report on the 2014 Archival Summer Seminar in Germany. Besides saying what we did, it discusses why, and it considers the various specialties of those who attended.

    Terence Zuber, Military History, and Culture

    Officers on foot and horseback posing for a picture at one of the big annual maneuvers held for the emperor.

    Officers, some on horseback, at a Kaiser Maneuver in 1898. Source: Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg.


    I recently noticed that the English translation of Der Schlieffenplan: Analysen und Dokumente, edited by Hans Ehlert, Michael Epkenhans, and Gerhard P. Groß, is now available from the University Press of Kentucky under the title The Schlieffen Plan: International Perspectives on the German Strategy for World War I. Interestingly, Terence Zuber, who sparked much of the debate on German war planning prior to the Great War, declined to allow his chapter from the German original to be included in this English translation.1 It wasn't his best piece anyway, far more peevish than usual, and there is plenty of his work on the supposedly nonexistent Schlieffen Plan already available in English. Be that as it may, if Zuber's thesis about Schlieffen's war planning has been conclusively disproven, the assumptions underlying his work have received less attention.2 That matters because his work on Schlieffen continues to be widely read and discussed, having made a big splash when it first came out. Moreover, he continues to write and publish books on German military history.

    Continue reading →

    German Scholarly Monographs

    At the end of his English-language review of Anne Sudrow’s long book (in German) about the shoe in National Socialism, Neil Gregor has some choice remarks about German academic publishing, particularly dissertations and the second advanced dissertation (Habilitation) that would-be professors in Germany have to write.1 Of course, he does not mean all or even most scholarly books in Germany, but as an editor and historian, I do have to deal with the tendency he describes rather a lot. I'm sure translators will feel Gregor's pain too.

    Continue reading →

    Why Study Atrocities?

    I study European history, so why did I post about Sand Creek earlier today? And why excerpt seemingly gratuitous violence? I have no expertise in U.S. history, but I am interested in the history of violence per se, which can reveal a lot about peoples and cultures at a given point in history. Further, the U.S. Civil War has some important structural similarities to the Franco-Prussian War, and perhaps to other European wars in the mid nineteenth century.1 Given the causal relationship between the U.S. Civil War and the expansion of violence against Native Americans out west, there might be a case, for example, to include France’s nineteenth-century colonial conflicts in such a comparison. However, my main interest relates to cultural taboos---or lack thereof---about specific kinds of violence against specific categories of people, assuming those people have not been perceived to violate any important taboos themselves.

    Continue reading →

    Sand Creek

    In the New York Times, Ned Blackhawk reminds us, “It’s the 150th anniversary of one of the most appalling massacres of Indians ever.”

    In terms of sheer horror, few events matched Sand Creek. Pregnant women were murdered and scalped, genitalia were paraded as trophies, and scores of wanton acts of violence characterize the accounts of the few Army officers who dared to report them. . . .

    Sand Creek, Bear River and the Long Walk remain important parts of the Civil War and of American history. But in our popular narrative, the Civil War obscures such campaigns against American Indians. In fact, the war made such violence possible . . .

    See the full article here. There are more details in the Smithsonian Magazine, and a few sources from the time here.

    Hat tip: @myHNN and @wcronen on Twitter.

    Digitized Resources for World War I Research

    At Portal Militärgeschichte, Markus Pöhlmann reports that a joint German-Russian digitization project has made available a substantial number of World War One–era German military documents at the Russian defense ministry's central archive. There is also a digitized collection of the German secret services from 1912 to 1945.

    Additionally, the multi-volume Der Weltkrieg 1914-1918 (The World War), published by the Reichsarchiv in excruciating detail, is now available digitally thanks to the Upper Austrian State Library in Linz. As Pöhlmann points out, this work continues to be essential for operational history because it was written on the basis of documents that were largely destroyed in World War Two.

    Finally, the Austrian-Hungarian counterpart has been digitized in Linz too: Österreich-Ungarns letzter Krieg 1914-1918 (Austria-Hungary's Last War).

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Old postcard from early 20th century that reads 'Thanksgiving Greetings'. A wild turkey is below the text and above the text is a jack-o'-lantern with 5 small children peering from behind it.

    Housekeeping

    I have closed my old blog, Clio and Me, and I will be slowly migrating select material to this blog. I will keep the original dates of the migrated posts, point out where I first published them, and update any outgoing links as necessary, but I will probably not carry over old comments, unless something strikes me as especially relevant in this new context.

    I hope the slow migration does not cause havoc with subscriptions.


    Update, November 24, 2014: I am doing the same kind of housekeeping (or curating) for my old blog about writing and learning English, Language for You. But I am not bringing much of that over here, because most of those posts were only short grammar and language tips for my ESOL and history students.

    'Not a Military Historian'

    At a recent lecture on the Great War, Roger Chickering said, “I'm not a military historian.”1 The phrase stuck in my mind because he said it two more times during the course of the lecture and discussion. I’m sure he was trying to avoid letting the discussion get sidetracked by narrower debates about military operations, which was fair enough in the context of his talk about a series of common structural elements in Germany’s, France’s, and Great Britain’s wars. Nonetheless, his words bothered me.

    Of course, there was nothing surprising about the statement. And Chickering really can’t be called a “military historian” in the narrow sense of the term. Nor can I, his former student. But if stating that one is “not a military historian” makes sense in terms of the prejudices of too many academic historians, it also cedes the ground of professional competence to those historians who only focus on the battlefield.

    As legitimate as narrower operational and tactical studies of warfare are, their authors cannot be allowed to enjoy a monopoly on the interpretation of the more military-technical aspects of warfare. The broad expertise and perspective of the historian who studies war’s manifestations away from the violence is also needed for the battlefield and everywhere else that people were killing or being killed for ostensibly political aims.


    1. Roger Chickering, “Imperial Germany’s Peculiar War, 1914–1918,” Georgetown University, October 23, 2014. 

    Work Update

    Although this blog would seem to indicate otherwise, I am still alive. Here's what I've been up to besides my usual not-blogging:

    Archive Seminar

    Someone else will be doing the GHI's archive seminar next year. Part of me wishes I was still doing it, because I enjoy working with the students, and I was looking forward to rethinking part of the program. At the same time, I need all the time I can get at the GHI for editing at the moment.

    Editing

    I'm finishing up the editing for a translated monograph by Annelie Ramsbrock called The Science of Beauty: Culture and Cosmetics in Modern Germany, 1750-1930. It has been a challenge in terms of making the translation more accurate and readable, while at the same time working to keep my inner control freak in check.

    Research

    I have been revisiting my Groener project, but most of my reading is on gender and war in the middle decades of the nineteenth century in Europe as part of a handbook project. I'm enjoying this work, and I'm managing to do it because I'm not teaching this semester—probably not next semester either.