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Subject: Military History Bookshelf for February, 2012 rss

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Jur dj
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ajoer wrote:
So, yeah, not a whole lot of political interest beyond what Seaton has contributed and the three volume history of Paul Carrell way back in the 60s.

Which, incidentally, is still the case. Aside from this book and the other two cited above, even Amazon doesn’t list a lot of stuff on this battle. Which, when you think about it, is pretty amazing. 7 million men involved, casualties as high as anything in WW1, much less WW2 and nobody talks about it much. Of course, a lot of this is due to the destruction of German records in WW2 and the closing of the Russian archives by the Soviets and their imitators in Putin’s regime of thugs, but still a shame and a disservice to all the brave men and women who turned back the Nazi tide for the first time.


Books on the Battle for Moscow may not be as common in English as Normandy, but Barbarossa as a whole does have a fair list of recent publications (that is, since the opening of Russian archives in the 1990s), eg Glantz and Overy. Compare that to the Hungarian campaign of 1944, or the Ethiopean Campaign.
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Jean-Pierre Maurais
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I read two books on the same subject but with differents conclusions.





From Blurt it ``Christopher Browning's publication of "Ordinary Men" in 1992 was significant in that it was among the first works to move the culpability of the Holocaust away from a small group of German political leaders and the world of high politics and extend it to the larger German population. Following on this same theme, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen published Hitler's Willing Executioners in 1996 and went several steps further to assert that not only did ordinary Germans actively participate in genocide, but that they were naturally predisposed to participate in the Final Solution. It was this book that had the German historical establishment up in arms and the general German population lining up at bookstores to purchase a German copy of Goldhagen's sensational and scandalous book.

The most unusual aspect of the debate between Goldhagen and Browning is that both historians based their respective books on nearly the same set of primary sources. As Browning himself has also noted, it was highly unusual for two historians to arrive at such different and mutually exclusive conclusions when studying the same sources. Consequently, the Goldhagen-Browning debate also raises some important questions about the nature of the historical discipline, the question of "objectivity" and the historian's role in creating a historical narrative.``
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Alfred Wallace
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For what it's worth, most of the pros I've spoken to are squarely on the Browning side of the debate. I haven't polled a representative sample, mind, but my dollar's on Browning.

It's not that unreasonable to draw different conclusions from the same primary source material; you have to use your best judgement, the context you know from other sources, etc. Distinguished Scholar and I disagree on how to interpret a certain dataset; he thinks the numbers in it are large, and I think they're small. The underlying difference is from what vantage point to look at them. Distinguished Scholar isn't being dishonest or crazy; his position is entirely reasonable (if wrong). My understanding is that he thinks the same about my approach...

What's been drummed into my head, rather than an objective/subjective dichotomy, is the importance of being honest rather than dishonest. An honest historian doesn't hide any data (even the stuff that doesn't fit the model), admits when they're not sure of an answer to a question, and has a certain humility towards the source material. Dishonest historians hide the facts that don't fit their story, claim omniscience, etc.

EDIT: No, I'm not putting names to any of that.
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Jean-Pierre Maurais
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I have just finished the two books. According to me, there is no winner. Both have good arguments. For me, Browning's explanation is solid but minimize the influence of antisemitism among the german population. The holocaust would never have worked as well without a strong support from the population. On the other side, I would say that the weakness of Golhagen position is to overshadow the possibilty that other factors, even if less important, have had an influence on the actors of the holocaust. Regards.
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Lawrence Hung
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The Soviet side has Stalin’s obvious stupidity (both in the purge trials and in 1941) to worry about, the obvious stupidity of their forces’ conduct in Barbarossa and the civilian panic in October to avoid.


Stupidity might not be the exact word for Stalin. Many archival evidences now suggest that he was going to plan an attack on Germany in 1942, while he still thought there was enough time in 1941 to build up the defensive earthworks along the border. Somehow, the offensive-defensive strategy was hung in the balance and neither posture was adopted in 1941, which resulted in military disasters.

Quote:
And the Western Allies’ craven kowtowing to Stalin started right there before the final apocalypse before Moscow.


Not sure what you are referring to above here. But the Western Allies did not craven kowtow to Stalin according to my reading. It was because they wanted Hitler to turn against Stalin in the east first. A lot of Stalin's demand before the war was unmet by the West, then Stalin turned to Hitler for the Non-Agression Pact for the land spoils in the Baltics.

Quote:
Aside from this book and the other two cited above, even Amazon doesn’t list a lot of stuff on this battle. Which, when you think about it, is pretty amazing.


I keep clicking the "Wish List" button when there are books on the WW2 Eastern Front mentioned here in this thread. There are many many books on the subject, unless you are specifically talking about the political aspect.

One book I am reading now and is very commendable - "Stalin's Folly":



It is now $6.4 only, a real bargain!
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The latest "Ancient Warfare" magazine just arrived at the end of last week.



Hey Wendell...not sure if you can make it out from the picture, but the fellow has a robe with the star burst symbol just like your guys in our Successors (third edition) session. The comment on his clothing notes that it was a common symbol from the time period and probably Macedonian in origin. The fellow depicted is actually from southern Italy.
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Mike Shepherd
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Christopher
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I am reading this, in anticipation of my next play of Phantom Fury:

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Philip Thomas
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The Great Favourite: The Duke of Lerma and the Court and Government of Philip III of Spain, 1598-1621 by Patrick Williams

Mostly about Spanish domestic politics but various military events are described- the war with the Dutch up to the Twelve Years Truce, conflicts in Germany and Italy and the beginning of the Thirty Years War. Interesting treatment of an understudied period of Spanish history.
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Carlos Cardozo
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Anyone reading anything about WWI Aviation? It's my new favorite topic.




Also, I've been reading my first and only love, Napoleonics:

http://www.amazon.com/Nelsons-Trafalgar-Battle-Changed-World...


Great book!
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Sam I Am
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Just finished reading "Africa's World War" by Gérard Prunier. A very detailed and in-depth look at the war in the Congo in the aftermath of the rwandan genocide. The book is a little intimidating at first, because of the amount of players, factions, countries and groups involved. The author manages to weave a compelling narrative and shed light on a very complex conflict.

Put up a short review on goodreads.com
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Philip Thomas
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The Sicilian Vespers: A History of the Mediterranean World in the Later Thirteenth Century by Steven Runciman

The subtitle is perhaps more accurate- the Vespers itself is just one chapter in this magisterial volume about the 13th century Mediterranean. Pope fighting Hohenstaufen, Guelf fighting Ghibelline, Angevin fighting Byzantine, Aragon fighting Angevin, France invading Aragon, there's plenty of military history here, with a good dose of politics and religion as well. First published 1958, but it doesn't seem dated to me. Runciman's narrative is as compelling as ever.
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Mark
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Quote:
nyone reading anything about WWI Aviation? It's my new favorite topic.


Not reading at the moment, but I will when it turns up.

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Alfred Wallace
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Fresh off the presses:



Haven't really looked at it, except to verify that his coverage of occupation isn't up to snuff. (Says the occupation historian.) I have a feeling this is heresy around here, but I'm glad to see him not writing about fortifications...
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Andy Daglish
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The Road to Guilford Courthouse is by an author who clearly felt he had to write it, as a first attempt, save a smaller examination of Delaware militia. Its very readable, first setting the scene of the Carolinas as there were at the start of the Revolutionary war and then progressing smoothly to the relatively short campaign there. Its notable that the battles are not given any undue emphasis, although it seems that many questions are answered, for example the motivation of the revolutionaries to fight. That this can't have had much to do with "liberty" was suggested by a British observer of the slaves in Charleston, who of course heavily outnumber the whites. The rest of the book is similarly balanced, to a remarkable degree, perhaps because the bulk of it appears pro-British but the Americans win in the end.

Various heroes are described in their divers attributes, but one is marked out throughout for possessing only one, which is dauntless aggression. Banastre Tarleton [both are family names from the Liverpool area, originally names of towns], the Green Dragoon, pursues the King's enemies relentlessly, and though its not stated, one gets the impression he achieved that rarest & most powerful military effect, of making them all scared of his attentions. The author's apparent acknowledgement of this may be backed by showing Tarleton in combat on cover of the book, on the one hand at his unlucky defeat at the Cowpens, but on the other fighting the opposing cavalry commander to the very end with the last sword-strokes of the action, and nearly besting him. After the war Tarleton joins the Prince Regent's set, perhaps to make his Royal Highness feel better about himself, and has a long but stormy relationship with his girlfriend Perdita. Eventually nearly everyone forgets him but he rises to the rank of general, without purchase, and is finally honoured with the Order of the Bath, by his old friend the King.
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Brian Gannon
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Wargames » Forums » General
Re: Military History Bookshelf for February, 2012
I spend so much stinkin' money at Half Price Books, I should be a partial owner by now.

Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu - Bernard B. Fall



Stumbling Colussus - David Glantz



Stalingrad - Antony Beevor


The Landmark Thucydides - Robert. B. Strassler
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Jim Ransom
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sassypickle wrote:


Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu - Bernard B. Fall


The Landmark Thucydides - Robert. B. Strassler


thumbsupthumbsup for these 2!
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James Lowry
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Finished of Lost to the West last weekend.

It's a very good readable brief history of the Byzantine Empire, and I recommend it as such to anyone who would like to familiarize themselves with the subject.

However, the subtitle "The Forgotten Byzantine Empire that Saved Western Civilization" suggests a particular thesis for the book, which it does not follow. Byzantine culture is brought up on occasion, as well as the rise and fall of education during various periods. However, 'saving Western Civilization' only comes in at the end with the population fleeing the Ottoman Empire, and bringing copies of various Roman and Greek works that had lost in Western Europe.

I'd kind of like to see a detailed look at just how certain works have been transmitted down from ancient times to today, but that is a specialized subject, and not part of this book. Similarly, there is only passing mention, at the beginning and at the end, of how 'Byzantine' history has been 'lost' to Western culture, not least because of how it has been somewhat artificially removed from 'Roman' history.

But it is good, light, general history, and if you enjoy it, I highly recommend the author's podcast, 12 Byzantine Rulers, which was done to go along with this book. Conversely, if you enjoyed the podcast, you will enjoy the book.

And now I'm onto re-reading Terence Wise's Medieval Warfare:
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James Lowry
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atilla66 wrote:
I'm about 300 pages into this one. It's a nice read. Presents a good overview of the American Civil War. I suppose I'll have to dig into Shelby Foote when I finish.

I also highly recommend Bruce Catton.
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Alfred Wallace
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Rindis wrote:
atilla66 wrote:
I'm about 300 pages into this one. It's a nice read. Presents a good overview of the American Civil War. I suppose I'll have to dig into Shelby Foote when I finish.

I also highly recommend Bruce Catton.


I'll also say that you don't have to read any of them...feel free to explore any special topic that interests you instead.
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Jur dj
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Finished Bogdan Musial's Kampfplatz Deutschland: Stalins Kriegpläne gegen den Westen

I've put my full review here:
http://boardgamegeek.com/article/8558456#8558456
If you think there is stuff to debate about the book, maybe it's best to have it in the dedicated thread

This book´s main contribution lies in the daring attempt to bring together all the developments relevant to the rearmament of Soviet Russia in the 1930s in one coherent frame. Furthermore, Musial contends that after the failure of autonomous revolution in the early 1920s, Bolshevik doctrine leadership under Staline became that the Red Army would be the instrument to spread the revolution by armed force. Finally, Musial gives an interesting view on the chain of events leading up to the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Despite Stalin´s long term intention to strike west, Hitler´s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 cannot be defended as a preventive strike.

Some points I found interesting:

Although the title and Musial suggest that Germany was the primary goal of Soviet plans throughout this period, the book spends surprisingly little time convincing the reader that Germany is indeed the specific target of revolutionary ambition, rather than that the direction is more generally to the West. It isn’t particularly relevant to most of the arguments made in the book, but surprising all the same. Maybe the publisher felt that a more specific focus on Germany was necessary to sell the book.

Musial’s main line of argument integrates fundamental ideological choices with military build up, industrialisation, collectivisation of agriculture and purges. That is an audacious undertaking, because it assumes a coherent and consistent line of policy over almost 15 years. Even with hardheaded bureaucrats like Stalin, this looks a little too much to believe.

I was curious to see how Musial, a Polish political refugee in the 1980s, would judge the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in 1939. Musial argues Hitler had more to offer than Chamberlain and Briand. While the latter could only offer a defensive alliance (and they didn’t try very hard at that, although Musial doesn’t note this), Hitler could offer a partition of Eastern Europe in spheres of interest.

However, Musial doesn't end up condoning Hitler's attack in 1941 as a preventive war against Soviet aggression. Instead he argues that both Hitler and Stalin saw a confrontation as inevitable, and prepared for the final showdown. Musial’s account shows that the Red Army was in no state in 1941 to take the offensive, and that only in 1941 did Stalin & co decide that the time had come for the revolution to take the offensive.
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James Lowry
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atilla66 wrote:
I mention Shelby Foote because some who wrote one star reviews on Amazon of Battle Cry claim that McPherson's treatment of the war has a politically correct Northern bias and Foote's treatment is more "balanced". Some writing one star reviews of Foote's civil war books claim that Foote has a Southern bias. I figure that after finishing a book with a Northern bias, it might be interesting to read a civil war book with a Southern bias.
So far, I think McPherson's treatment of the war has been reasoned and balanced, but maybe that's because I have a Northern bias. If I decide upon reading a few chapters of Foote that I don't care for his approach, then I certainly have no problem trying a different author. There's no shortage of books on the American Civil War.

Ah yes, the ACW, still being fought by proxy 150 years later.
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Zarathustra
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atilla66 wrote:
I mention Shelby Foote because some who wrote one star reviews on Amazon of Battle Cry claim that McPherson's treatment of the war has a politically correct Northern bias and Foote's treatment is more "balanced". Some writing one star reviews of Foote's civil war books claim that Foote has a Southern bias. I figure that after finishing a book with a Northern bias, it might be interesting to read a civil war book with a Southern bias.
So far, I think McPherson's treatment of the war has been reasoned and balanced, but maybe that's because I have a Northern bias. If I decide upon reading a few chapters of Foote that I don't care for his approach, then I certainly have no problem trying a different author. There's no shortage of books on the American Civil War.


Having read Foote I love him and as a Kansan I have a strong Northern bias and this is not subjective -- our state history courses in school are pretty plainly pro-Union. Plus, we are still fighting the Border War. Heck our state motto is "to the stars through difficulty" Those stars aren't in the sky but on the US flag.

I found he was praising and harsh to both sides. What he does have is a bias towards specific figures, especially when it comes to the cavalry. I think he is a little romantic about the grand raids performed by the South. I won't spoil it by telling you who he has special affinity for.

Anyway, that is a relatively minor and easily spotted issue. The other failing of the books is the relative lack of maps and the utter lack of photos. Having read McPherson in college, I felt like Foote offered a more in depth but equally accessible entry point into the ACW.

edit: turned flags to stars and Boarder to Border.
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Wendell
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Benjro wrote:
... Kansas ... still fighting the Boarder War. Heck our state motto is "to the stars through difficulty" Those flags aren't in the sky but on the US flag.


I knew Kansas' motto was Ad astra per aspera but I had no idea it was about becoming a star on the US flag! Makes sense, though.
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Philip Thomas
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Danton by David Lawday

Thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating biography of one of the leading figures of the French revolution. The author even manages to evoke sympathy for the man who brought the terror into existence (and was devoured by it in his turn).

Not very much military history though. Danton makes the occasional trip to Belgium, authorising a disastrous attack on Holland, and the opening years of the French revolutionary wars form the backdrop and, to a degree, excuse for the terror.
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