Archive | September, 2012

Review Corner: “The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe”

30 Sep

The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe. Edited by Clifford J. Rogers. Westview Press, Oxford. 1995. ISBN: 0813320534. Tables. Figures. Notes. Index. Pp. xi. 387.

 Reviewed By Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

            The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe edited by Clifford J. Rogers is a book on the evolution of military technology, tactics, and doctrine in early modern Europe. Clifford J. Rogers, a historian with a Olin Fellow in Military and Strategic History at Yale University is an expert and has published numerous articles on military history.

            This book is a collection of articles written from different perspectives by several prominent historians like Jeremy Black to John A. Lynn who analyzes and discusses on the ‘Theory of Military Revolution’ in early modern Europe. Rogers’ thesis is to describe the evolutionary military transformation that shaped Europe into an imperial power. It was also scholarly written in order to provide a collection of excellent argument by focusing on the authors’ responses to the topic.

            Rogers begins the book by criticizing mainstream historians lack of interest in ‘Military Revolution’ by emphasizing more research on economic and social affairs. The book discusses extensively on the time period, the mid-sixteenth through the mid-seventeenth centuries, from where the term ‘Military Revolution’ originated. The essays written by Rogers, Black, and others explore the development of scientific, technological, and technical aspect within the early modern European militaries.

            The book also highlights the advantages of centralize states like France Louis XIV and Sweden Gustavus Adolphus in modernizing its national armies as military and political objectives intertwined with one another. Articles by Lynn and others suggest the phenomenal military growth were directly link to the state economy. For example funding received from taxes contributed to enormous defensive fortification in Mantua and offensive advancement in naval gunship technology within the Portuguese fleet. This book also states that the European military innovations and doctrines achieve tremendous success against non-western nations.

            Rogers’s book does not have a bibliography or appendix section but it contains an index section. The editor, did assembled the best military historians of the period to produce a collection of brilliantly written articles which included cited sources in its individual notes section after every essay. Historians who contributed to this book used primary and secondary sources from a variety of European archives, journals and documents. It also included statistical tables on casualties, mobilizations, and production outputs. Plus the book has genealogy and fortifications figures that would make the reader find it interesting. This book however does make up for its non-existing images and illustration by being highly informative by demonstrating to the reader how a controversial topic could be debated by academic professionals in an intellectual manner.

            The strength of this book was in the multiple military historians that offered a contemporary and intellectual strategic analysis on the qualities of transcontinental evaluation of military affairs. Roger’s thesis successfully analyzes the impact of social change on the conduct of war, concepts of discipline, and hierarchy structures in European military. I strongly recommend The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe edited by Clifford J. Rogers to military historians, scholars, and enthusiasts in general.


Review Corner: “Blundering to Glory: Napoleon’s Military Campaigns”

30 Sep

Blundering to Glory: Napoleon’s Military Campaigns. Owen Connelly. Rowman & Littlefield Publisher Inc. 3rd Edition. Lanham. Maryland. 2006.ISBN: 0-84202-7807-0 Maps. Index. Bibliography, Bibliography Essay. Pp. vii. 260. $24.95.

 Reviewed By Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

Blundering to Glory: Napoleon’s Military Campaigns is a comprehensive academic analysis of Napoleon military conquest of Europe. The author, Dr. Owen Connelly senior faculty member at the University of South Carolina and has published numerous books on Napoleon-related topics and military history. Connelly draws his experience by serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army Rangers and was an executive officer of the Rangers’ Amphibious and Jungle Warfare Training Camp in Florida before obtaining his Ph.D. in History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

            Connelly’s thesis is to investigate the general conception of Napoleon as a military genius by emphasizing the fact the French general was an opportunist who was blessed with good fortune. This book gives an extensive look at the viciousness of Napoleon and persuasively demonstrates that Napoleonic conflict was more lethal, frequent, and merciless than prior conflict on the European continent since the Thirty Years’ War. It also builds on interesting notion of Napoleon’s lack of planning seem to be the Emperor’s trump card over his adversaries. This historical research offers an intelligent assessment of warfare during the Napoleonic era and Europe as a whole.

            The book begins with Connelly’s criticism on the common acceptance by most scholars on the notion of Napoleon military prowess. Connelly uses primary sources and findings to research and convince most well-educated readers of Napoleonic warfare in order to challenge the norm accepted by general readers. The author also uses a variety of historical examples like the Russian and Peninsular campaign in order to add an insightful interpretation on the Napoleonic Armies level of preparedness for conflict for a long period of time.

            The author dedicate the first chapter to Napoleon’s childhood in Corsica and the rest to his military campaign during his career as an officer, general, statesman, and Emperor. One has to keep in mind that Napoleon was not only a general but a politician who too often aware of the implication of public opinion. Therefore, Owen’s argument that Napoleon as an opportunist is valid due to his crucial dual role as a leader of the French Army and France herself played significantly to his attitude on the battlefield.

            This book also assesses the rudimentary but significant foundation on the necessity for Napoleon to exhibit grandeur tasks, constant, and regular warfare with Europe in order to sustain his regime and the ideals of French identity/nationalism. The need for power, prestige, and territory will compel any individuals in command to express an aggressive attribute in order to dominate and defeat its adversaries. There are some cases in history whereby the leadership will artificial introduce a mandate society in order to maintain power or unify a nation. One example was Nazi Germany, who recruited World War I veterans and the disgruntled workers to tackle and fight Communists or anti-Nazi political figures in order to maintain power (1933-38).

Owen’s the book analyzes Napoleonic warfare from region to region by dividing each chapter to the different campaigns such as Spain, Italy, Russia, and etc. There were few discrepancies which the author considered victories for Napoleon which is debatable since the British did some tactical maneuvers to outfight and outlast their numerically superior opponents. The author ends the book by leaving it to the reader to decide whether Napoleon was the greatest general or he played the hand of the fortunate till Waterloo.

            Owen’s book contains cited materials with a complete bibliography. The book contains maps that illustrate the difficulty in conducting combat operations during the Napoleonic Wars and also demonstrates Napoleon tactical command in facing his often impatient and overconfident adversaries. It also contains an index and bibliography essay section which makes great reference point for researchers and students alike. Also the general reader will find the bibliographies to be very helpful for further researching on the subject. Owen’s bibliography section demonstrates excellent used of primary and secondary historical research materials of Napoleon’s campaigns.

In my opinion, Owen ability to scholarly reveals that Napoleon military triumphs were due to his enormous army and the competency of his adversaries. Owen successfully conveys his thesis on Napoleon the opportunist rather than the common acceptance of Napoleon’s military brilliance. I strongly recommend Owen’s Blundering to Glory: Napoleon’s Military Campaigns to historians and enthusiasts in general.

Review Corner: “Clash of Wings”

30 Sep

Clash of Wings. By Walter J. Boyne. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994. ISBN 0-671-79370-5. Photographs. Appendix. Selected Readings. Index. Pp. 415.

 Reviewed By Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

            Walter J. Boyne’s book-Clash of Wings-is purely an excellent single-volume analysis of the air campaigns in World War II. General Walter J. Boyne served in Korea and Vietnam as a fighter pilot for the United States Air Force. His combat experience made him an expert on the ever-changing world of military aviation and air doctrine.

            Boyne’s thesis gives a general survey of the great air campaigns of World War II. This book also exams the technical development of the time that coincides with the implementation of new aircraft, weapons, and tactics. It also explains the successes and failures by nations to adapt to the air war evolution.

            This book starts out with the tactics and strategies adopted by World War II powers (Chapter 1). The real test came for the Allies and Axis powers were during air operations (Chapter 2) because for each successes and failures new tactics were developed and employed. The Japanese adopted a light frame aircraft for a more maneuverable aircraft (Chapter 3) and the Germans deployed tactical planes for a lighting war strategy (Chaps 4-5). In the beginning of World War II all air doctrine by major Axis and Allies powers was still at an experimental stage.

            Boyle’s book provides an accurate analysis on the air doctrine of all participants during World War II. For instance the opportunity lost by the Germans in gaining air superiority in World War II (Chaps 6-8 & 10) was a failure in contemplating the objectivity of conducting campaigns over vast distances. The book emphasize that concentrating on a single air doctrine would limit the operational ability of a nation to conduct total war. Strategic bombing (Chapter 9) conducted by the British and Americans was to limit and bleed the Axis ability to conduct war. This caused the Axis powers, especially Germany to develop new technologies to counter the Allies heavy bombers.  Boyle points out with every action as an equal or opposite reaction, as the Allies adopted escort fighters (Chapter 11) to counter the new German tactics.

            Although, this book is well research, but it does not have citations in the form of footnotes or end notes to demonstrate which sources Boyle obtain his information. In order to give the reader a visual comprehension of the air war the book contains vintage images of the aviation, people, and collateral damage. The appendix section elaborates on the aircraft types and statistics on major aircraft. Boyle’s book contains an index section, but he substitutes the bibliography with ‘selected readings’ section where a reader might find further information.

            Clash of Wings does not offer new information on the air campaign of World War II. The strength of this book is the dedication of Boyle keeping his research and analysis concise with the book’s thesis. The book is useful in understanding the tactical and strategic techniques of Allies and Axis powers in conducting air operations during World War II.  With this in mind, I do recommend this book for historians and enthusiast in general.

Review Corner: “Forward into Battle: Fighting Tactics from Waterloo to the Near Future”

30 Sep

Forward into Battle: Fighting Tactics from Waterloo to the Near Future. Paddy Griffith. Presidio Press Book, New York. 1981. 1990. ISBN 0-89141-471-1. Figures. Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Appendix. Index. Pp. xii. 228. $15.00.

 Reviewed By Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

            Forward into Battle is an academic analysis of the impact of modern weaponry in the evolution of fighting tactics. The author Paddy Griffith’s book was heavily influenced by John Keegan’s book-Face of Battle. This book is not only the best of the latest attempts at battle tactics history; it is useful at analyzing the past and future battle tactics.

            Griffith thesis was to prove that man and technology win battles. He sets out by rejecting the common knowledge that Wellington’s Infantry won the Battle of Waterloo (1815) by firepower. Methodically, he adds a scholarly and chronological interpretation on the evolution of battle tactics from the early industrialization age to the late Twentieth Century. The book begins with the interaction between soldiers and machinery in combat, which is also the center point of Griffith’s analysis.

            Forward into Battle’s academic strengths lay in examination of different time periods from Waterloo to Vietnam (Chaps. 2-5). Griffith followed a systematic theme that supports his thesis by giving the reader a brief timeline in the development by the different doctrine in each nation. The author constructs a solid method in examining the rapid instinct of the soldier on a static battlefield to an empty one then the deployment of tanks on a moving battlefield and finally to the unclear battleground of Vietnam. Griffith argues that the heavy artillery bombardment in World War I, to the tank battles of World War II, and the aerial bombing of the Viet Cong trials in Vietnam still requires the infantrymen component in seizing, defending and securing battlefield objectives.

            While this book was directed in analyzing battle tactics, but Griffith place an importance on the evolution in technological advancement in weaponry. The point he made by citing examples from the Falkland Wars and Arab-Israeli Conflict (Chapter 6) was the emptiness of past battlefield were coming to at end. The reason is that combat units are becoming more visible to their opponents as the speed of battle can move back and forth in a matter of hours or minutes.

            However Griffith’s book contains cited materials along with a comprehensive end notes section. This contains the illustration of battle formations and maps to paint a visual for the reader. Along with an index section the appendix section is dedicated to the abbreviations and technical terms used in the book. Finally, the bibliography section is subdivided into “General and Strategic Thought”, “Napoleonic Wars and Earlier”, “Mid-Nineteenth”, “First World War, Second World War”, “Vietnam”, “Other Wars Since 1945, and Into the Future”, “Combat Stress and Psychology”, “Memoirs and Biographical Materials”, and “Combat Fiction”.

            The strength of this book is its ability to link the symbiotic relationship between the soldier and weapon in adapting to the ever-changing field of battle. In a single volume Griffith did an excellent job in illustrating the key component of a weapon is the soldier. It is well written for young historians to grasp the necessity of being analytical and precise. I strongly recommend Forward into Battle for historians and enthusiast in general.

Review Corner: “The Price of Loyalty: Tory Writings from the Revolutionary Era”

29 Sep

The Price of Loyalty: Tory Writings from the Revolutionary Era. Edited by Catherine S. Crary. McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1973. ISBN 0-07-013460-X. Drawings, Bibliography, Index, Pp. xxvii, 481.

 Reviewed By Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

            For enthusiasts fascinated in the Loyalist (Tories/Tory) during the American Revolutionary Era, The Price of Loyalty is a book that dives into the trials and tribulations of Tories in Colonial America. This book is a collection of journal, articles, and letters written by Loyalist about their experiences during the political and social crisis of Colonial America. The editor, Catherine S. Crary compiled numerous primary sources of Tories writings in order to recollect on their psychological, political, emotional and economical responses during the Revolutionary Era.

            This book was published in part of ‘The Bicentennial of the American Revolution Anniversary’ in order to focus on the complexity of Colonial society during the Revolutionary Era. The main theme of this book is to depict the cost of allegiance that set Loyalist a part from the rest of Colonial communities. It also focuses on individuals responses on key events from the early days to the aftermath of the Revolutionary Era.

             The book starts out with the mindset of Loyalist prior to the Revolutionary War. “Bewilderment, Equivocation, and Defiance” (pg 11) dives into the questioning by Loyalist of events like the Boston Tea incident to the boycotting and crackdown of British imports. Although the book does not directly elaborate on the general situation of the Tories but it gives an insight on the political position that an individual held.

            Furthermore, The Price of Loyalty exams the philosophical notion of loyalty to the first mass exodus from the Colonies to England and Canada from documents and Tories letters. The articles in “Animosities Afire” (pg 133) bring to light the sense of lawlessness brought about by the Patriots. The articles coincide with the main theme of this book by exploring on the subject of human cruelty, torture, and struggle for survival.

            Finally, this book elaborates on the reluctant of some Loyalist to return home after the Revolutionary War. “Casting Accounts” (pg 351) supports the theme of this book by referring to the labeling of Tories as traitors and the struggle in gaining acceptance within the post Colonists society. An important point that continues throughout this book is the personalization of individuals on their experiences and will to endure in a time of chaos.

            However, Crary’s book is based primary sources with a collection of multiple authors who narrate a brief description on who wrote and what was the article about. It also contains a comprehensive bibliography with excellent footnotes and an index section. The strength of this book is in the personal reminiscences of multiple of individuals about the sense of security lost and hope of reconciliation dash in their personal struggle of being loyal to the Crown.

            The Price of Loyalty offers information on the sacrifices and misfortunes of Loyalist in Revolutionary America. It portrays Loyalist as a common person who was torn between their neighbor and King. This book is useful in bridging the mental gap between Patriots and Loyalist. I do recommend this book for historians of American Revolutionary Era and enthusiast in general.

Review Corner: “Sagittarius Rising”

29 Sep

Sagittarius Rising. By Cecil Lewis. Peter Davies Ltd: University Press, Edinburgh, 1936. Pp. viii, 332.

 Reviewed by Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

            For enthusiasts fascinated in World War I aviation, Sagittarius Rising is a book that dives into the trial and tribulations of an aviator. The author, Cecil Lewis accumulated his life experiences as a British Flying Corps fighter pilot into this book in order to illustrate man determination to conquer flight and air supremacy. Even if it lacks the scholarly prerequisite, the book is an important first hand account of early aviation and air-power from the perception of a fighter pilot.

 Lewis was caught up, as he affirms, in the advancement and experimentation of Anglo-French aircraft designs in World War I. He trained and piloted in a variety of aircrafts from Shorthorns to Longhorns, and Parasol to the infamous Monare. His contributions during the war made him sort of expert on early modern aviation.

The book starts out by; Lewis elaborating on the selection process of pilots to the dangers of training that claimed more lives than actual combat. He presents the commitment of Anglo-French command in the evolution and deployment of the aircraft as a strategic arsenal in reconnaissance missions prior, and during the Somme operation. It was in skies over the Somme; Cecil Lewis was awarded the Military Cross.

Even Sagittarius Rising is a memoir version on the conversion and advancement of World War I aircrafts from an instrument of communication into a weapon by trial and error was superbly executed. Lewis also constructed the progression of signal operations from its infancy into the era of tactical combat patrol maturity with the emphasis on the man, moment, and machine. The night-time bombing of London by German Zeppelins and Gothas bombers pushed the envelope of technological improvising by the British to counter the threat. Thus, an experimental squadron with Lewis at its helm was formed and ordered to device new techniques and tactics in conducting night patrols.

The last chapters of the book (Chaps. 7-9), Lewis questions the morality of war than leaping into his postwar exploits and adventures by training Chinese pilots in China for Vickers Limited. This book does not solely concentrate on aviation, but expanded on the human aspect of psychological and emotional distress created by World War I within the British and French society.

However, the book is based on Lewis memory. He does not provide any source material, references, or footnotes for his allegations and information. Lewis does emphasize on the triumphs and tragedies that brought about improvements that transformed the British Flying Corps into a formidable fighting force.

            Sagittarius Rising offers information on the inspiration and development of the aircraft into a weapon in World War I. The strength of this book is in the personal reminiscences of Lewis about the contributions and sacrifices of individuals made by laying their lives on the line to break into new frontiers. This book is useful in bridging the gap between adventurers or pioneers and the common person. I do recommend this book for historians of World War I and aviation enthusiasts in general.

Review Corner: “The Bayonets of the Republic: Motivation and Tactics in the Army of Revolutionary France, 1791-94”

29 Sep

The Bayonets of the Republic: Motivation and Tactics in the Army of Revolutionary France, 1791-94. John Lynn. Westview Press. Boulder, Colorado 1996. ISBN: 0-8133-2945-0. Appendix, Notes, Maps, Illustration, Bibliography, Index. Pp. xi. 356. $43.00.

Reviewed by Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

John Lynn’sThe Bayonets of the Republic: Motivation and Tactics in the Army of Revolutionary France, 1791-94is a comprehensive and specific breakdown of the French Revolutionary Army combat effectiveness. Dr. Lynn, the author has published numerous books on Western and non-Western history, and currently serves as president of the United States Commission on Military History and vice-president of the Society for Military History.

            Lynn’s thesis is to investigate the combat effectiveness of French Revolutionary Army as a triumphant fighting force. This book analyzes and emphasizes on the core ideals such as nationalism, politics, and national prestige that personify individual Frenchmen during battle through motivation and basic training. It also explains the French commitment to the Revolution and liberty for victory which differs from the rest of Europe, which subjugate them to an aristocratic war.

            The book examines the combat motivation shown by Frenchmen during training and during battles. Lynn emphasizes that there is more to training a soldier that need to be studied in order to unravel the notion of combat effectiveness that continues to influence in today’s military doctrine. The author uses training manuals and sources from French generals to show superb insights into the whole course of French military tactical engagements. Lynn’s depiction on the physical and psychological challenges to the French Army prior to the actual combat was intuitive to the reader.

            This book also explores the importance of leadership, discipline, and ideology in boosting morale among troops, the close family and kinship within a combat unit, and the utilization and exploitation of French identity/nationalism. It also analyzes the genuine technicalities of French battle tactics that invest in “levee en masse” instead of professionalism. Lynn also discusses the importance of infantry replacing cavalry while emphasizing the cooperation with infantry on the battlefield by pointing out precession of tactics and importance of motivation in order to execute a battlefield operation.

            The author draws from an extraordinary range of primary and secondary sources such as French poetry, song books, and as well as historical records to describe what actually took place on the battlefield. This book contains cited materials with a supplementary bibliography for the reader’s references. It also contains an appendix and index section along with a good set of end notes. There is an illustration to go along with the text, but the descriptions itself are so in-depth that the author’s words paint a vivid picture worthy of a novel.

            Lynn’s book is a great contribution to the world of academia due to its unique analysis on the subject of combat motivation and tactics in the French Revolutionary Army. It is important for psychologist and sociologist to understand the history of combat motivation on troops in order to contrast it with today’s military. One could relate the tactics of a conscripted army differ from a professional due to the origin or background of combat troops. Effectiveness of combat troops on a tactical level was due in part to the training and motivation presented to its troops prior to combat. In the big picture one would suggest that the components of discipline, motivation, ideology, and training would galvanize an individual in becoming a good soldier.

            A couple of points that the reader would find lacking are the lack of information on the French Revolutionary adversaries which face-off on the battlefield during the time period. For instance the rest of Europe deployed professional soldiers against the French but failed to capitalize on their strengths. The other point would be the coordination of tactical intelligence and command within the French Revolutionary Army which was not given a deeper analysis or a closer examination. Aside from the few points above that would add extra substance it was an excellent book that incorporated the physical and psychological conditioning of a French soldier for combat.

            The strength of this book it is an easy read and Lynn’s ability in accurately portraying the Revolutionary French Army by scholarly examining its decisive training and tactics, which win battles and shape the French identity if not Europe as a whole. Lynn’s thesis successfully argued the effectiveness and influences of French motivational training and battle tactics which continues to hold relevance in today’s militaries. I firmly recommend Lynn’s The Bayonets of the Republic: Motivation and Tactics in the Army of Revolutionary France, 1791-94 to historians, students of history, and enthusiasts in general.

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