War, Gender, and Nation in 19th-Century Europe: A Preliminary Sketch

If military service had become a rite of passage for young men in much of Europe well before the mutual slaughter began in the summer of 1914, neither its ubiquity nor its meaning to those it embraced were foregone conclusions.1 To be sure, the fundamental challenge offered by the declaration of the levée en masse in revolutionary France in 1793 represented an important first step, as did monarchical Prussia’s turn in 1813 to the near-general conscription of those men considered young and fit enough to join the fight. Indeed, Prussia’s response to the Napoleonic challenge intertwined military service, citizenship, and manhood in the gendered construction of a nation at war that bore a striking resemblance to those ideals manifest in the mobilizations of 1914.2 Nonetheless, near-universal manhood conscription took many more decades to predominate on the continent, (never mind the United Kingdom, which did not resort to it until 1916).3

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Why 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 “Why Atrocities?”



“Wilhelm Groener, Officering, and the Schlieffen Plan.” PhD diss., Georgetown University, 2006.

“The Bavarian Army and French Civilians in the War of 1870–71.” MA thesis, Universität Augsburg, 1994.

Articles and Chapters

“Die deutschen Greueltaten im Krieg 1870/71 am Beispiel der Bayern.” In Kriegsgreuel: Die Entgrenzung der Gewalt in kriegerischen Konflikten vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert, edited by Sönke Neitzel and Daniel Hohrath, 223–39. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2008.

“Bürgerliche und adlige Krieger: Zum Verhältnis zwischen sozialer Herkunft und Berufskultur im wilhelminischen Offizierkorps.” In Adel und Bürgertum in Deutschland II: Entwicklungslinien und Wendepunkte im 20. Jahrhundert, edited by Heinz Reif, 25–63. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2001.

“The Bavarian Army and French Civilians in the War of 1870–1871: A Cultural Interpretation.” 1 War in History 8, no. 3 (2001): 271–93. DOI: 10.1177/096834450100800302.

“Particularistic Traditions in a National Profession: Reflections on the Wilhelmine Army Officer Corps.” In Newsletter des Arbeitskreis Militärgeschichte e.V. 11 (2/2000): 16–18. Archived at Portal Militärgeschichte.

“Christof Vischer: Wie man junge Fürsten und Herren aufferzihen solle, 1573.” In Fürstenspiegel der Frühen Neuzeit, edited by Hans-Otto Mühleisen, Theo Stammen, and Michael Philipp, 219–27 (biography and commentary) and 228–51 (source excerpts). Frankfurt a.M.: Insel Verlag, 1997.2

Book Reviews

Review of Milena Veenis, Material Fantasies: Expectations of the Western Consumer World among East Germans (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press in cooperation with the Foundation for the History of Technology, 2012). In Tijdschrift voor Sociale en Economische Geschiedenis 9, no. 4 (2012): 93–94.

Review of Heidi Mehrkens, Statuswechsel: Kriegserfahrung und nationale Wahrnehmung im Deutsch-Französischen Krieg 1870/71 (Essen: Klartext Verlag, 2008). In H-Soz-u-Kult (November 6, 2008), http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/rezensionen/2008-4-113.

Teaching Aids

“Chemical Warfare.” In History in Dispute, vol. 5, World War II, edited by Dennis E. Showalter, 104–7. Detroit: St. James Press, 2001.

“Hitler and the United States.” In ibid., 132–35.

“Resistance Movements.” In ibid., 244–46.

Select Posts at History of Knowledge

“Organizing and Communicating Historical Knowledge: Some Personal Observations.” February 3, 2017.

“Sources: Child Labor in the United States.” May 1, 2017.


  1. Reprinted in Warfare in Europe 1825–1914, edited by Peter Wilson, 135–58. The International Library of Essays on Military History, edited by Jeremy Black (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2006). 
  2. I used the specimen in the Oettingen-Wallersteinsche Bibliothek, housed at the University of Augsburg. Since then, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek has digitized its own copy. See urn:nbn:de:bvb:12-bsb00039783-7

Atrocities in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870–71

An essay on the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) that I wrote last year appeared in print this fall in a book about war atrocities from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century.1 The essay focusses on German soldiers and French civilians using the example of the Bavarians. It examines why soldiers sometimes departed from generally accepted standards in Europe about sparing civilians the effects of war as much as possible.
Continue reading “Atrocities in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870–71”