The latest edition of the Journal of Military History has been published. It includes the annual George C. Marshall Lecture in Military History. This appears to be a contentious piece, and if the abstract is anything to go by I do not think I agree with Bacevich’s interpretation but I shall have to wait until I read it.
The 2012 George C. Marshall Lecture in Military History
Andrew J. Bacevich, ‘The Revisionist Imperative: Rethinking Twentieth Century Wars’
What students want (and citizens deserve) is an account of the past that illuminates the present. The conventional narrative of the twentieth century, exalting World War II as an episode in which Anglo-American good triumphs over Nazi evil, is no longer adequate to that purpose. Today, the “lessons” that narrative teaches mislead rather than guide. The moment is ripe for revisionism. Historians need to respond to the challenge, replacing the familiar and morally reassuring story of a Short Twentieth Century with a less familiar and morally ambiguous story of a still unfolding Long Twentieth Century.
Nate Probasco, ‘The Role of Commoners and Print in Elizabethan England’s Acceptance of Firearms’
Even though commoners comprised the great majority of Elizabethan England’s fighting men, their role in the nation’s transition into the firearms age remains unclear. Common citizens and local officials generally protested the costs and dangers of firearms, and when they did purchase them, they often transgressed Elizabethan weapons statutes. The debate over firearms also played out in print, and many gun advocates relied upon dubious information to promote them, which, along with governmental backing, allowed guns to overtake longbows. Firearms became established among the populace, however, only after they agreed to accept the new technology due to an impending Spanish invasion.
Daniel McMahon, ‘Geomancy and Walled Fortifications in Late Eighteenth Century China’
In the late eighteenth century, an advisor to China’s Hunan governor, Yan Ruyi, tendered a proposal to build fortifications in the west Hunan area of Pushi as, among other advantages, this would improve the regional geomancy (divination by figures or lines, known in Chinese as fengshui). This essay explores why a reference to fengshui is found in a Qing dynasty defense report and, in this context, what relationship geomancy had to military arts in China’s imperial history. As will be seen, Yan’s readers would not have found the reference odd. Chinese fengshui and military arts share an environmental focus and key concepts (qi and shi), as well as a long history of the use of fengshui methods in intelligence-gathering, sabotage, and walled fortification. This compatibility made geomantic considerations significant to both imperial military planning and “militarized” middle Qing culture.
Frederick C. Schneid, ‘A Well-Coordinated Affair: Franco-Piedmontese War Planning in 1859’
The American Civil War (1861–1865) and the Wars of German Unification (1864–1871) have overshadowed the military history of the Second War of Italian Unification (1859–1861). Yet, this war witnessed the integral use of railroads and steam-powered navies to achieve military victory. The histories immediately following the war purposely obscured the extensive military planning and the premeditation of the Franco-Piedmontese general staffs. The Second War of Italian Unification should be given greater attention as one of the first “modern” wars of the industrial age.
James Tyrus Seidule, ‘Treason is Treason’: Civil War Memory at West Point, 1861–1902’
The United States Military Academy educated the most successful and iconic Confederate generals. How did West Point reconcile the memory of Confederate graduates who, while famed for their martial prowess, fought against the U.S. Army? In the Gilded Age, West Point neither forgot nor forgave Confederate graduates for fighting against the U.S. Army. The memory of wartime chaos, Congressional criticism, and Confederate graduates’ betrayal left the Military Academy feeling defensive. This defensiveness led West Point to create a series of written and stone memorials, mainly in the 1890s, highlighting West Point’s role in saving the Union. All of the memorials excluded Confederate graduates.
Anthony R. McGinnis, ‘When Courage Was Not Enough: Plains Indians at War with the United States Army’
This article investigates how Indian warriors, using their own specific style of a rather limited warfare, confronted the American newcomers to the Great Plains, particularly the U.S. Army. Plains intertribal warfare bore no resemblance to the “modern” warfare practiced by the Americans, who also had vast advantages in population and resources. The tribes hostile to the whites, for a variety of reasons, continued to pursue their traditional brand of fighting and, therefore, were unable to have any permanent success against the army.
Alexander Statiev, ‘Blocking Units in the Red Army’
After the German offensive toward Stalingrad began in 1942, Joseph Stalin issued Order No. 227 (the “Not a Step Back!” order), institutionalizing the blocking units that already existed in some divisions. This article examines the units and their place among the Red Army’s other draconian policies. Historians interpret Order No. 227 as exceptionally harsh, yet the policies stemming from it were exceptional primarily in their methodical application rather than in their essence. A logical outcome of “the end justifies the means” Stalinist philosophy, blocking units made the army steadier and contributed to its victory. This was the only fact that mattered to the Soviet leaders, and they ignored the moral issues raised by the existence of the units.
Timothy K. Nenninger, ‘Casualties’ at Leavenworth: A Research Problem’
The following essay is a cautionary tale about doing research, verifying not only the bias but the factual content of sources, and using multiple means to solve historical research problems. The author presented a version of the essay at a December 2009 symposium in Madison, Wisconsin, sponsored by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum and the University of Wisconsin (UW) History Department, to memorialize the life of Richard Zeitlin and to celebrate the return of a full-time professor of American military history to the UW faculty.
Ingo Trauschweizer, ‘On Militarism’
This essay traces the usages of the term militarism from the late eighteenth century to the present in order to contextualize the current debate over an American militarism. It departs from the common assumption that Germany represents an ideal type of modern militarism and shows that recent scholarship suggests a wider European phenomenon of bellicosity and militarization in the age of the world wars. It concludes that significant elements of militarism have emerged in the American warfare state, but it questions the notion that this represents an adaptation of conventionally understood European militarism.
Geoffrey Parker, ‘A Soldier of Fortune in Seventeenth Century Eastern Europe’