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What’s in a World War, Part II: Let’s Shorten This Up a Bit

Years ago, in my American Military History class at Gettysburg, our professor began our foray into the Second World War with a curious statement: World War II should actually be considered to have begun in 1937, with the Japanese invasion of China. While normally I would applaud efforts to reduce Eurocentrism and emphasize global connections, I internally scoffed at what I then (and still) considered to be a ridiculous notion. The whole world was not at war yet, only Japan and China; how then could you say that the Second World War had begun? This memory was called to mind recently as Kevin and I reflected on how we define world wars and global conflicts in modern history (found here), and my thoughts began to wander to other, less orthodox, conclusions. Though Kevin and I did not exactly agree on a precise definition of a ‘world war,’ we did agree on three general criteria. Perhaps the most fundamental of these, and the starting point of our debate, was the scope of fighting. A world war is typically a war in which fighting occurs across most of the world. We even later reach the conclusion that this fighting must be connected in some way, as part of a single, cohesive war effort. I was led further and further towards a daring question: if Japan and China’s isolated fight should not count as the beginning of World War II, why should Britain, France, and Germany’s?... Read More
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Making History, Marking History: The Great Anniversaries of 2018

To mark the first anniversary of Concerning History, we’re taking a look at some of the major historical moments being commemorated this year and providing some recommendations for further reading. There are plenty of other events out there worth marking, however, so if you have one you think we should have included, we invite you to scroll down to the comments and share it with us.... Read More
Youth Demands a Peaceful World

Infiltrated! Reds in the World Youth Congress

It’s been some time since I’ve written here about my research on the World Youth Congress Movement. I’m still chipping away and just got back from a trip to Amsterdam, Manchester, and London, where I was trawling around archives in search of evidence of the nature of the relationship between liberal internationalists and communist youth. […]... Read More
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Not all Fantasy: Game of Thrones and its Historical Inspiration

As has been written elsewhere, George R. R. Martin took inspiration for his epic fantasy from the history of England, particularly the War of the Roses, a contest for the throne of England in the late medieval era that pitted the northern York family against the southern Lancasters for control of England’s throne. However, his wider world of Essos and Westeros is inspired by human history as well. Today, I’m going to examine the historical inspirations for the Valyrian Freehold, or just Valyria, the dragon-taming empire that controlled much of Essos and whence the Targaryen family came to build Dragonstone in the Narrow Sea centuries before Aegon the Conqueror and his sister-queens conquered the Seven Kingdoms.... Read More
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A Nervous World: Present Day Reflections from Austrian History

In my previous post, I took a moment to reflect broadly on the Austro-Hungarian Empire, an anachronism in its own time and an Empire very much lost to history, its legacy splintered across central and eastern Europe. As I explained then, imperial Austria’s history is of special interest to me for these very reasons which […]... Read More
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The Strange Longevity and Disappearance of the Habsburgs’ Patchwork Empire

The great modern European empires we read about in our history books are gone. British, French, German, Italian, and Russian imperial ambitions all collapsed, in turn, over the various disasters which befell their empires during the course of the twentieth century, suffering from two world wars, occupations, revolutions, and the ever-blowing, seemingly inevitable winds of […]... Read More
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Investing in Young People: The Last Best Hope for a Progressive World?

When President Obama gave his farewell address on January 10, 2017, he took on the momentous task of consoling supporters crushed by the results of the 2016 election. Despite his own frustration and disappointment, Obama did his best to strike a positive note: That’s why I leave this stage tonight even more optimistic about this […]... Read More
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Sweet, Sweet Nostalgia: Reaction and “Reform” throughout History

“Make America Great Again.” These four words have become one of the most infamous phrases in the English language since the successful presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and with good reason. How do we define great? Who thought things were great? If we aren’t great now, when were we great, and when did we stop being so? Far from originating with Trump, this idea, that somehow the United States has lost its way from the glory of its just-out-of-reach past, has taken hold in the psyche of certain disaffected sections of its population. Though this reactionary sentiment may sound dissonant to the modern ear, it actually fits quite smoothly into a much longer historical tradition of cloaking nostalgic navel-gazing in terms of reform and progress.... Read More
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A Furry Whirlwind: Netflix’s Frontier

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century trade on the American frontier has seen a slight increase in its media depictions in recent years, and I couldn’t be happier. With such offerings as The Revenant and Taboo, the brutal misery and cutthroat business of imperial exploitation in the (by then not-so) New World have been brought compellingly to life. I was excited to learn of another addition to this genre with Netflix’s Frontier. Focusing on the struggle for dominance in the fur trade around Hudson’s Bay in the late eighteenth century, Frontier offered an intriguing possibility for exploring the changing face of empire in America after the cataclysmic shifts of the Seven Years War and American Revolution.... Read More
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Overflowing with Detail: Jacqueline Rider’s Jacobites

At some point in their high school European History course, American students are inevitably taught the series of events set in motion by the English Civil War. Culminating in the Glorious Revolution and the signing of the English Bill of Rights, these events are presented as pillars of shared Anglo-Saxon principles of liberty and jurisprudence before the course moves on to other things. Rarely covered is the fallout from that revolution, which would span seventy years and three open conflicts within the now-British state. I myself only learned of these risings through my undergraduate coursework and, realizing I still had never delved into the exact history of the most prominent of them, that of 1745 (or “the ‘45”), I sought to rectify the situation. The book that came to hand was Jacqueline Riding’s Jacobites, and while I could not has asked for better, it was certainly not without its trials.... Read More