Civil Wars

A Perplexing Journey: David Armitage’s Civil Wars

I first encountered David Armitage through a textbook in my Atlantic World survey course sophomore year at Gettysburg. That book, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History, is an outstanding bit of intellectual history. I still have it, packed away in a box somewhere, and it was likely one of the first inspirations for my eventual turn away from American history and towards a larger perspective. When I learned of Armitage’s 2015 history of comparative civil wars, it was only a matter of time before I got around to reading it. While its contents didn’t quite live up to my expectations, Civil Wars certainly proved as intellectually stimulating as I’ve come to expect from this distinguished historian.... Read More
1920px-American_troops_in_Vladivostok_1918_HD-SN-99-02013 1280px-Izmir15Mayis1919 King_Faisal_I_of_Syria_with_King_Abdul-Aziz_of_Saudi_Arabia_in_the_mid-1920s

False Anniversary: Prolonging the Great War Centennial

Last Sunday marked the hundred year anniversary of the First World War Armistice between the Allied Powers and Germany, last of the Central Powers to ask for a cessation of hostilities. Surely by now you’ve all seen countless articles and media commemorating the end of the Great War, and 2018 will almost assuredly mark the end of any official centennial observances. They’re all wrong.... Read More
Commandant_Eichelsdoerfer

Complicity or Respect? Conflicting Themes in HBO’s Band of Brothers

I recently had the pleasure of re-watching HBO’s Band of Brothers as I introduced Heather to it for the first time. Unlike most other historical media I consume (or re-consume), I won’t be writing a general review for this miniseries. Band of Brothers is beloved and much talked about, and I frankly have nothing new to add to the conversation. While watching, however, I noticed something odd. In the final two episodes lurked a cognitive and thematic dissonance that, given recent trends in American and world politics, was thrown into higher relief than on other viewings.... Read More
Distant Revolutions

Ripples of Republicanism: Timothy Roberts’s Distant Revolutions

It is unwise, as the saying goes, to judge a book by its cover. More specifically, I have increasingly found that the titles and jacket descriptions of history books can be highly misleading as to the nature of the information, and arguments, within. Such was the case with Timothy Roberts’s Distant Revolutions. Heather and I recently acquired this book in an effort to learn more about its titular upheavals after mentioning it in our 2018 historical anniversaries post (found here). I expected a refreshing dose of perspective to American ideas of our own exceptionalism; instead, I found a fascinating history of connections that crossed the Atlantic and bridged the upheavals of 1848 with that of 1861.... Read More
Hostiles-movie-poster

Certain Points of View: Scott Cooper’s Hostiles

Late last year, I caught wind of a new Western starring Christian Bale entitled Hostiles. I wasn’t able to catch it while it was in the theater, but after hearing positive rumblings about it on the interwebs, I resolved to keep an eye out for whenever it might appear on a more convenient streaming service. I’m happy to say that time has finally come. Prepared for a movie that I had heard was not for the faint of heart, I settled in for what turned out to be a grim story that is either a complicated reflection of historical memory or a simplistic fantasy with an overlay of modern sensibility.... Read More
Gibraltar

In Defense of the Rock: Roy and Lesley Adkins’s Gibraltar

We Americans have a habit of paying closer attention to our own history than what goes on in the outside world. Perhaps we can be forgiven for doing so concerning our own war for independence, but even here there is a global story to be told that does not regularly appear in American narratives of the conflict. France and, later, Spain’s entry into the conflict on the side of the fledgling United States made the American Revolution a successor of the Seven Years War, known as the French and Indian War in America, with fighting taking place wherever the map bore British red. Roy and Lesley Adkins bring one of these disparate theaters to light after years of neglect. The American Revolution occasioned one of the longest, fiercest battles in British history as the Empire fought to maintain control over one of its tiniest outposts: the Rock of Gibraltar.... Read More
tripartite

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
37610781_2249881681692166_5833360569234620416_n

Far from Home: A Crazy Tale of Myth and Memory in Downtown San Francisco

One hot afternoon this June, Heather and I made our way up to San Francisco from our new(ish) home in the ‘South Bay.’ It was, and still is, our first full summer out here in the Bay Area, and we wanted to see the sights, take in the ambiance, and check out the legendary San Francisco Pride events. While strolling around the green space outside City Hall, I was intrigued to see a statue from behind that seemed to beholding an animal. This was indeed the case, and as my surprise at seeing a miniature lion in a statue’s arms began to register, I was floored by an even bigger realization: this was a statue unlike any I had before seen in America.... Read More
Chinese_workers_WWI_munitions_factory_(14591966191) 37230602_1803856599694057_4564733642105946112_n safe_image

What’s in a World War? A Point/Counterpoint

What if I told you that what we know as the First and Second World Wars should really be known as the Second and Third, or even the Third and Fourth? Our habit of only identifying the conflicts that took place from 1914-18 and 1939-45 as ‘world wars’ betrays a modern arrogance, that somehow the world only reached the capacity for global conflicts recently, within the last century. My own work with imperial history has indicated that this is far from the truth... Read More
9780785827481

Not Quite, but Getting There: Ian Barnes’ Historical Atlas of Native Americans

I admit, this seems like a strange choice of book to review. What can the possibly be to say about an atlas? Ian Barnes’ Historical Atlas of Native Americans, however, is more than simply a collection of maps; it is a general overview of the history of Native Americans from the Stone Age to the present, illustrated with artifacts, drawing, paintings, photographs, and, of course, maps. These elements, coupled with the intriguing state of being authored by a white, British, academic, called for reflection on their execution.... Read More