Archive | October, 2012

The Winter War of 1939: Frozen Diplomacy or Polar Meltdown?

27 Oct

Research Paper Prospectus Written By Simon Sundaraj-Keun

Finland a land of natural and cultural beauty that is common to the region of Northern Europe as a whole. This winter wonderland was once a frozen battlefield wage between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939-40. The Winter War of 1939 was the catalyst that drifted the Finns into the Axis sphere as un-allied co-belligerents. This war would leave a lasting legacy on Finnish history and politics.

The main question that comes to mind is why did the Soviets start this conflict? Other questions like why did the Finns let it happen? How Soviet quest for national security did impacted its diplomacy? What happen to Finland’s allies during the Winter War? These questions emphasize that the needs of one’s national security could be achieved at the expense of others. There are other factors that will be discussed in this topic which covers the military and domestic political aspects that prolonged the conflict. The Winter War in some aspect was a conflict that pitted two completely different forms of governments against each other.

The clash of liberal and communist ideologies was marred in blood for the honor and glory of the Soviet Union and Finland during the Winter War. This research paper main thesis is to understand the failure of diplomacy and its implication in Soviet-Finnish diplomatic relations in 1939. The Soviet Union backed their diplomatic initiative with its military and Finland’s diplomatic decisions were heavily influenced by its domestic politics. The two states have a different outlook on the problem which would leave the Soviets to emphasize more on security and the Finns to preserve its national sovereignty by any means deem necessary.

Therefore, the investigation of Finland’s diplomatic capability during the Winter War has to begin with a historical analysis to the origin of the conflict. The Winter War (also known as the Soviet-Finnish War or the Russo-Finnish War) broke out when the Soviet Union invaded Finland on November 30, 1939. The Finns were diplomatically isolated due to the fact World War II started on September 1, 1939. Its French and British allies could not send military aid due to the German blockade in the Baltic Sea. Plus Sweden neutrality outweighs Finland’s desperation for aid and supplies in the face of the Soviet war machine.

However the Soviet’s aggressions led to their expulsions from the League of Nations on December 14, 1939. The Soviets became diplomatically isolated by its Western European neighbors who viewed the Winter War as a battle between Communism and the Free World. Soviet Union’s Josef Stalin was not hindered by diplomatic isolation continued the war with belief of conquering Finland by the end of 1939. The Soviets outnumbered the Finns by a ratio of four to one but the Finns manage to infuriate their invaders by prolonging the conflict and inflicting massive casualties.
Finland held out until March 1940, while a peace treaty was signed conceding about 10% of Finland’s land, and 20% of its industrial facilities, to the Soviet Union. Although the Soviet forces ultimately were able to shatter the Finnish defenses, neither the Soviet Union nor Finland emerged victorious from the war. Soviet casualties on the front-line were tremendous, and the country’s international prestige eroded. The Finns miraculously preserved their independence and received extensive international support.

Secondary sources found for this research paper ranges from books, articles, internet websites, and movies that give an insightful and scholarly interpretation on the international support for the Finns. The added information from the variety of secondary sources gives this research paper the ability to assess the diplomatic dilemma faced by Finland during the Winter War. These books do not confine to a single theme but contains multiple themes that paint a better picture on the diplomacy of the Winter War. The existing secondary sources would provide ideas that might be left out in the initial research.

The main objective of the primary sources for this research paper is to give a clearer perspective from the viewpoint of the Finnish and Soviet governments during this time period. There are numerous published primary sources ranging from diaries, journals, memoirs, and newspapers but official government documents and diplomatic treaties would be beneficial in understanding the motivation for war. The problems found within these primary sources are the existence of bias which was attributed to publication of these documents prior, during, and shortly after the conflict. This bias that was found was due to the misconception and distrust of both the Soviets and Finns had for each other. The primary published sources of government documents found were authentic and informative in adding a direct analysis on the origins behind this conflict.

In order to comprehend the Soviet invasion of Finland one has to examine the Soviet-Nazi mutual nonaggression pact (also know as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact) signed on August 22, 1939. This pact allowed the Soviets and Nazi Germany to allocate countries in Eastern Europe between the two powers. Finland came into the picture due to the fact it was a co-signed of the Soviet sphere of influence pact (Soviet-Finnish mutual non-aggression pact) that same month. The Russo-Finnish diplomatic situation spiral down like a maelstrom devouring a Viking longboat when the Soviets wanted the Finns to push back its border 25 kilometers from Soviet city of Leningrad. This move by the Soviets was justified with the Germans military demonstration of speed and potency in conquering Poland in a short amount of time.
The Finns disagree to the terms due to its larger industrial centers was located in and around the disputed territory. So the Soviets staged the Shelling of Mainila, in which the Soviets artillery shelled regions around the Russian village of Mainila, and then announced it was the Finns who shelled the village. The Soviets demand an apology and forcefully insisted the Finns to move its border back 25 kilometers but the Finns denied responsibility and the Soviets request. So the Soviets withdrew from the non-aggression pact and invaded Finland but the Finns stood their ground alone for the next six months.

The conclusion of the Winter Wars was due in part to the inability of the Soviets to defeat the Finns. This research paper is not to prove the military resolve of the Soviet Union and Finland but the used of the military as a tool for diplomatic settlement during this conflict. In a matter of speaking the Winter War was Finland’s fight for survival against the Soviet juggernaut. The results of the Winter War pushed the Finns further into the Axis camp due to the fact they were block into a corner by the Soviets. The Soviets quest for national security demonstrated their military weakness that resulted in an invasion by the Germans in 1941. The research done on this topic is to conclude the impact of the Winter War on Finland who lost a considerable amount of territory to the Soviets during this conflict. It also proves that the Finns were not military defeated but instead came out politically and diplomatically stronger compared to the Soviets during the Winter War of 1939.

This topic research paper is a combination of domestic politics and diplomatic concepts which intermingle with the brief chronological events that spark the outbreak of the Winter War. The fear of neglecting a single of these aspects would deprive the academic value of this paper that would be beneficial to existing scholarly collection. For instance international diplomatic support for Finland during the Winter War was in most part thanks to Soviet’s diplomatic miscalculations by initiating hostilities. The other reason why the Winter War was unique is due to the fact that World War II had not yet begun in earnest. World opinion was for the Finns during the Winter War because it was the only real fighting besides the German and Soviet on-going pacification of Poland. In turn the world concluded that Soviet aggression on Finland was totally unjustified.

The Winter War of 1939: Frozen Diplomacy or Polar Meltdown? is an intriguing topic because it is one of the least discussed events in history due to the fact it was overshadowed by World War II. There are numerous sources which were primary in Finnish and even fewer exist in the English language which makes it difficult in obtaining them for further research. Plus each underlining theme as stated earlier are interconnected with the main objective of what this paper intends to accomplish.

This research will cover the diplomatic and domestic political background that motivated the Soviets and Finns to go to war with each other. In order to completely a successful research one has to examine the impact of war on diplomacy from different angles like the military and politics during the Winter War. Those aspects intermingle with one another by being an important factor that galvanized Finland’s sense of unity and independence in the face of Soviet annihilation.

Finally, there is no right answer for the Winter War of 1939 but there was a breakdown in diplomacy which led to political, territorial, emotional, and psychological ramifications on the Soviets and Finns. The Finns was significantly influenced by the Winter War with a firm emphasis to ally themselves with the Axis powers in order to seek retribution on the Soviets who wronged them. The diplomatic legacy of the Winter War was a direct cause of Soviet Union military adventurism policies and Finland’s arrogance to threat beyond its Eastern border which eventually led to the bleeding of the Finns during World War II.


Primary Published Sources

Finland. Ulkoasiainministeriö. The Finnish blue book; the development of Finnish-Soviet relations during the autumn of 1939, including the official documents and the Peace treaty of March 12, 1940. New York: Pub. for the Ministry of foreign affairs of Finland, J. B. Lippincott company. c1940

Finland. Ulkoasiainministeriö. Finland reveals her secret documents on soviet policy. New York: W. Funk, inc., 1941.
Secondary Sources

Dallin, David J., Soviet Russia’s foreign policy, 1939-1942. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1942.

Engle, Eloise; Paananen, Lauri. The Winter War: The Soviet Attack on Finland 1939-1940. Helsinki: Stackpole Books. 1992

Jacobs, Travis Beal. America and the winter war, 1939-1940. New York : Garland Pub., 1981.

Jakobson, Max. Finland survived : an account of the Finnish-Soviet winter war, 1939-1940. Helsinki, Finland: Otova Publishing Co., 1984

Nevakivi, Jukka. The appeal that was never made: the Allies, Scandinavia, and the Finnish Winter War, 1939-1940. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1976.

Ries, Tomas. Cold Will: Defence of Finland. New York: Brassey’s Publishing. 1988.

Ruotsila, Markku. Churchill and Finland: a study in anticommunism and geopolitics. New York: Frank Cass, 2005.

Schwartz, Andrew J. America and the Russo-Finnish War. Washington, Public Affairs Press. 1960.

Trotter, William R. A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 (also published as The Winter War). Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books. 1991.

Upton, Anthony F. Finland, 1939-1940. London: Davis-Poynter, 1974.

Van Dyke, Carl. The Soviet Invasion of Finland, 1939-40. London: Frank Cass Publishers. 1997.


The Second Boer War: Afrikaners Strive for Freedom (A Historiographical Essay)

23 Oct


South Africa a land of natural and cultural beauty that is unique to the continent as a whole. Beauty can be deceiving as South Africa was once a place of misery and death. The Boer Wars were fought between the British, Afrikaners (Boers/Afrikaans), and Zulus for domination of South Africa. Ideology of freedom, imperialism, and expansionism was marred in blood in the name of the British Empire, Free United Afrikaner State, and a Zulu Homeland.

The main theme of the Second Boer War was Afrikaners struggle for freedom from British aggression. It placed the Afrikaner society and nation under psychological, economical, diplomatic, intellectual, political, and social stress. Military evolution in the Second Boer War took a turn from conventional to asymmetrical warfare. To understand the Second Boer War one has to look at the reasons behind the First Boer War that eventually led to another war. The influences of culture on the Boer Wars would have significant repercussion on South Africa national identity.

There were a number of books written on the Second Boer War but each of one tailored on a specific issue within the conflict but fewer on the First Boer War. The issue was to find legitimate sources which were kept in the National Archive in London. Other primary sources like journals, diaries, documents and newspapers were published and used by numerous authors. Basically the Second Boer War overshadowed the First Boer War and the immediate period between the two. The prelude to any major conflict is to understand the motivation for war.

Before one could indulge into the First Boer War one have to understand the motivation for the British to invade South Africa. The Anglo-Boer War: Why was it Fought? Who Was Responsible? edited by Theodore C. Caldwell contains multiple essays written by different authors. Theodore C. Caldwell main theme is to investigate the political, economical, and military reasoning behind the British invasion of South Africa. The book analyzes the potential South Africa would bring to the British Empire and solidify Britain’s possessions around the globe.

Caldwell’s book also analyzes the great African game played by England, France, and Germany to control the continent. The British fear was the lost of South Africa as potential colony would severely deteriorate Britain holding in Asia. Caldwell’s The Anglo-Boer War: Why was it Fought? Who Was Responsible? investigated the economical potential of South African minerals and resources would bring to the British Empire. The book has an excellent background story to elaborate on the key events that let to the outbreak of the Boer Wars. Most importantly the book explored the reasons behind British motivation after its defeat at the hands of the Afrikaners after the First Boer War. In turn the Afrikaans were determined to fight against the British in the Second Boer War due to Afrikaners victory in the First Boer War.

The First Boer War book written by Joseph Lehmann was an extensive historical account prior to, during, and after the war. Joseph Lehman thesis was to examine British aggression and the Afrikaners’ subsequent struggle for independence that changed the entire course of South African history. These two factors contributed directly to the outbreak of the Second Boer War and events that followed. Lehman’s study was to analyze the length, scope, and numbers of men involved in the first war which was generally ignored as a minor conflict.

Lehman’s book analyzes the economical value of South Africa as a land filled with untapped resources which led to the British occupation Afrikaans’ lands. The author elaborated on the Afrikaners journey from oppressive Europe to Africa in search of freedom. The First Boer War also discussed the Great Trek taken by the Boers into Zululand in order to escape British oppression. In turned the culture differences between the British and Boers began to take shape into a struggle of national identity.

The book comprehensively examines the British underestimation of the Afrikaner’s military potency. It also offered one of the best detailed descriptions on the Battle of Majuba Hill which sealed Afrikaners victory in the first war. Britain was conventionally superior but the Boers on the other hand very ingenious in battle tactics. Society was also Britain’s enemy because the lack of culture similarities led to distrust of the general populace on the British forces. Lehman analysis of the British failure was its lack of mobility, knowledge of the South Africa’s territory, lack of native population support, Zulus attack, overstretched garrisons, and arrogant leadership.

This book did a superb job in analyzing the First Boer War due to the fact that there were few books written on the war. Lehman’s bibliography with primary sources which contain memoirs, documents, journals, and diaries were very useful in accurately portraying the first war. The importance of this research was to point the main contributing factor to the Second Boer War was the First Boer War. The First Boer War contained the peace between the Boers and British but also set the stage for the Second Boer War. The analysis of the problems that arose after the First Boer War would eventually bring Britain and South Africa to war.

Ethnic identity was a contributing factor that ignited the Second Boer War. The term Afrikaner was a generative category given to identify groups of immigrants from Europe as a singular ethnicity. Afrikaners were primary Dutch and Northern German origin but also included Nordic, Irish, Flemish, Franken, and French immigrants who migrated prior to the Boer Wars. The Afrikaners language know as Afrikaans where primary a mixture of Dutch-German with some Nordic, Celt, Flemish, French and other European words. The Africans primary the Zulu was fighting both the British and Afrikaners for a territory of their own. The British was seen as outsiders and oppressors by both the Zulus and Afrikaans. The British under the notion of Anglo interest came to aid its settlers who were seen prosecuted by the Afrikaans.

The intermediate period between the two Boer Wars was a curial time in South African society which was filled with ethnic violence among British settlers, Boer farmers, and Zulu tribes. The used journals and diaries written by common individuals like Freda and Dr. Kay in Music of the Guns by John Henry May. The two journals in May’s book were of two different individuals from an opposite spectrum of a white society. Freda was a fourteen year old farm girl of Russian decent and Dr. Kay was a British physician living in a British settlement within Boer territory. The other book known as Sol Plaatje’s Mafeking Diary: a Black Man’s View of a White Man’s War edited by John Comaroff was about a black man’s third person perspective on the Second Boer War.

Music of the Guns by Henry John May was to analyzed the Second Boer War through the eyes of two different European individuals, gender, social and economical standing within South African society. The journals were written during the Second Boer War but the writers tend to reminisce on the problems prior to the second war. Freda first hand account on about her family’s survival on the outskirts of a city. Freda’s family was farmers and most general historian would categorize them as Boer sympathizers which were not true. The author wanted to show the reader in Freda words the emotions that plague her during the war. Dr. Kay’s journal in Music of the Guns was about his experience during the war. Dr. Kay mentioned extensively about the living conditions of a Boer’s siege and the emotions that was running high during and after the siege.

May’s book was an excellent work on commoners trying to survive the war. It showed the impact of war had on society from two different cultures and social background of a similar ethnicity. Music of the Guns also demonstrated the cruelty of the British in achieving total victory by the used of concentration camps to break the fighting spirit of the Boers. May did an excellent job in compiling the two journals together in order to paint an unbiased picture of a wartime society. May’s book may have done justice to one color of society but John Comaroff’s book will do justice to another color of society.

Sol Plaatje’s Mafeking Diary: a Black Man’s View of a White Man’s War was a diary written by Sol Plaatje a black man working as a map maker during the Second Boer War. The editor John Comaroff wanted to set history right by using Plaatje diary in retelling the story of the Siege of Mafeking through the eyes of a black man. The Black community in South Africa suffered an equal or worst fate than their Afrikaners counterpart during the two Boer Wars. Plaatje’s diary elaborated on life after the First Boer War in a British administrated territory which was claim with the signing of the peace treaty. The book analyzes that Blacks in South Africa wanted to be free along with their Boers counterpart but were stuck between two worlds that had no interest in Black freedom.

Sol Plaatje’s diary illustrated the community of Mafeking was a mix community of Blacks, Colored, and Boers but were under British administration. The Brits successful defended the siege by galvanizing the population to its side during the siege. It also discuss the British tactics in holding out against the Boers with limited resources and ammo until reinforce arrived. Plaatje’s diary explains a community united under the threat of destruction. The book did an excellent job in portraying a united community that existed during the Second Boer War and emphasizes that war was not black or white as seen by many. Sol Plaatje’s Mafeking Diary: a Black Man’s View of a White Man’s War demonstrated that the British had learned the lessons from the First Boer War and was ready to put an end to the second war.

South African politics were very chaotic due to the division of its lands between British occupied territories, the different Afrikaner fractions, and Zululand in between or around both warring forces. The Afrikaans President was Paul Kruger and he ruled South Africa for a couple of decades. To understand Afrikaners’ politics one should know Paul Kruger’s life because he shaped South Africa’s national identity. The Memoirs of Paul Kruger written by Paul Kruger himself was published in 1902 at the end of the war. The book was about his dedication in achieving a Free Afrikaner State. He portrayed himself as a common leader who was given the difficult task in defending a nation from an Empire.

The book analyzes Kruger’s political difficulty in forming an alliance between the various Afrikaners in order to from a united front. Kruger mentioned the political infighting for power sometimes delayed the Boer’s ineffectiveness to resist the British invasion. The Memoirs of Paul Kruger also extensively discussed the diplomatic challenges in obtaining weapons and support for the Boer’s military. Like Winston Churchill memoirs there were some biases within Kruger memoir because its human nature to talk about one’s greatness rather than one’s arrogance.

However Kruger’s book was excellent in portraying himself as a leader during both Boer Wars. The Memoirs of Paul Kruger also consist speeches made during Kruger’s presidency which reflected the psychological mindset of Afrikaans during wartime. The benefit of Paul Kruger memoirs was to give the inside scoop of Afrikaans’ politics, diplomacy, and military preparedness against a British onslaught. Kruger’s book was a great primary source but it should not be taken in entirety because there was no mention about any opposition to Kruger’s administration.

The Growth of Boer Opposition to Kruger 1890-1895 by C. T. Gordon who analyzes Kruger’s rival Commandant-General P. J. Joubert and the opposition party know as Progressive. C. T. Gordon’s main theme of this book’s investigation was an attempt to trace the emergence of an active opposition among the burghers of the South African Republic towards Kruger’s administration. Gordon analyzed the policies that drew criticism from the general population and the main grounds for the growth of opposition to the regime were.

Gordon analyzed the self-style Progressive party that emerged under the nominal leadership of P. J. Joubert. The book also examines the close election results of 1893 which resulted in Kruger’s victory but many opposition supporters believed that P. J. Joubert was the true victor. It also emphasized on the issues and debates that propelled the Progressive party into South African politics. The author did an excellent job in portraying the ideas, action, and political planning done by the Progressive party to challenge Kruger’s regime. The author mentioned that it all changed with the arrival of British forces which unified the South African political fragmentation. The Growth of Boer Opposition to Kruger 1890-1895 analyzed the possibility of South African politics to be left alone if the British did not invade. This book by Gordon paints a different picture on the political instability in South Africa prior to the Second Boer War. The fact remains that the British invaded Afrikaners’ land and this action resulted into a total war between the opposing forces.

In the Second Boer War the Boers were at a disadvantage in numbers and weapons because the British forces with lessons learn from the First Boer War were ready. The British decided to enforce prison camps for Prisoners of War (POW) and to avoid Boers to regroup once defeated. Letters from a Boer parsonage: Letters of Margret Marquard during the Boer War edited by Leo Marquard that elaborates the harsh life of a POW camp by examining Margret Marquard letters during the war. Margret Marquard letters were instrumental in analyzing the social dilemmas faced during war. Leo Marquard examine the emotional roller-coaster ride of Margret Marquard with her correspondences with her husband during combat and then eventual imprisonment.

The book also touches on battle tactics in which Margret’s husband wrote in his letters and later as a POW on the inefficiency of a British POW camp to accommodate prisoners. Letters from a Boer parsonage: Letters of Margret Marquard during the Boer War also elaborates on letters between Margret and her relatives during the conflict. Margret Marquard expressed in her letters on the impact of the Second Boer War on the lives of Boers similar to her class status. It paints the image of war from a social and psychological perspective. The letters by Margret Marquard elaborated the harsh reality and trauma of war could do love to ones behind the front-lines.

Furthermore the harsh reality of war may impact on the lives on people trap in conflict zones or behind a front-line but none who be heavily affected by than those that fought in it. The British in the Second Boer War were conventionally superior and wipe out all that the Boers could muster on the battlefield. It was the one thing the British did not have and it was the support of the population. The Afrikaners changed tactics by dispersing into the bush and declared guerrilla warfare. Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War by Colonel Deneys Reitz and edited by Francis William Reitz. Francis William Reitz main theme was to examine the life of a guerrilla fighter through the eyes of his father, Colonel Reitz.

The book does not discuses extensively on the British and Boers tactics during the first half of Second Boer War. Francis William Reitz’s also wrote on life in South Africa and his relationship with his father prior to the Second Boer War at the beginning of the book. The journal also elaborated on the social background of soldiers similar to Colonel Reitz that fought during the war. Colonel Reitz’s journal elaborated on an individual prerogative when the Boers decided to conduct commando operations against the British. The emphasis on life and survival was an important theme of the book when Boer commandos engaged the British forces in combat.

Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War portrayed an accurate account in Colonel Deneys Reitz words on the atrocities committed by both the British and Boers during the war. The books also mentioned about British adaptability to counter Boers’ commando operations and the depletion of supplies that would eventually forced Afrikaans ultimate surrender. This book edited Francis William Rietz was great in understanding the psychological, social, and emotional struggle faced by the Boer commandos during the war.

British successes against the Boer commandos were its ability to cut the Boers support foundation. Introduction of concentration camps within Boer population centers was the key of British victory. The concentration camps in South Africa shaped the war but it reshaped the psyche of South Africa as a nation. The Anglo-Boer Wars by Michael Barthorp main theme was to examine the adaptability of British military tactics in South Africa. Michael Barthrop investigates British failure in the First Boer War and elaborates on the Britain’s ability to learn and overcome in the Second Boer War. The book investigated that failure in the First Boer War was the failure to pacify the civilian population who were aiding the Afrikaners military.

Barthorp’s book analyzes a wide range of tactical change within the British military before the start and during the Second Boer War. The book also mentioned to the development of concentration camps solely for the Afrikaners women and children. It was to break the will of the Boer Commandos and keep the populace from offering aid to the enemy. The effectiveness of the camps played a role in contributing to the surrender of the Boers but it caused the deaths of thousands of civilian. The advancement in tactics that the British brought was a horse riflemen from Australia to counter Boer raids and the installment of fortified gun boxes to entrap enemy forces. The Anglo-Boer Wars contains numerous resources materials that painted a deeper picture on the British methodical strategy in winning the Second Boer War.

There was international involvement in the Second Boer War. The British Empire poured troops from all over the Commonwealth to fight against the Boers but also the Zulus. The Boer War: Direction, Experience, and Image edited by John Gooch written by multiple authors that investigates the war from different perspectives. The essays in the book analyze the war from the political, war journalists, foreign nationals, and even photographers perspectives. The book’s theme was to examine the implication of the Second Boer from a Commonwealth perspective but excluding the English and Boers viewpoints. The book investigates the Irish support for the Boers and the implication of the Irish action. It also mentioned about the Zulus which was very helpful in painting the third player in the Boer War. The social and political implication of the Second Boer had on Commonwealth nations were explored extensively.

The book also analyzes the implication of Australian and Scottish troops involving in the Second Boer War. Those two nation’s military had a different way of engaging the Boers which were very successful. The Boer War: Direction, Experience, and Image was a great book because it expands the Second Boer War as an international conflict that involved many nations within the Commonwealth. It could be considered as a joined Commonwealth military operation in suppressing the Boers resistance.

Basically, Gooch’s book contains a lot of primary and secondary sources from various authors which will be useful in further researching the different nations involve in the conflict. This book also explained the Boers defeat briefly. Why the Boers Lost the War written by Leopold Scholtz explained the defeat in detail that the Boers were outnumbered in manpower and resources. The main theme of this was to investigate comprehensively on the reasons behind the defeat of the Boers in the Second Boer War. Scholtz book was heavy influence by Richard Overy’s Why the Allies Won.
The book analyzes the Boers failure to conceptualize the problems in taking on an Empire. Scholtz basically claimed that the Boers were doom from the start of the Second Boer War. The author begins the book by stating the strategic importance of the Boers Republic to the British Empire. British tactics in the first part of the war was horrible and gave the Boers victory after victory. The book analyzes British resolve by employing new tactics by using flanking maneuvers and pacifying enemy population centers.

Scholtz emphasizes on the logistical ability of the British to used trains and built railway tracks to speed up its forces mobility. The British also dominated the ocean around Africa’s Southern peninsula. The author also elaborates on the tactical changed from conventional to asymmetrical by the Boers during the war which were effective briefly. The reason was the British adopted the box system and through thousands of Boers family into concentration camps. Scholtz’s argues that the British had abundant supply of fresh troops pouring from the Commonwealth and the Boers lost their support base.

Why the Boers Lost the War is an excellent book on the reasons behind the Boers surrender and the importance of using an overwhelming force in quelling a rebellious populace. The research will not base solely on the military aspect of the Second Boer War but a combination of events occurring in South Africa during the war. It is important to note that the numerous authors discuss in this essay had their own unique and insightful notion about the Boer War. As a whole the focus of this research will be using those great ideas to draw a hypothesis on the reasons behind the Second Boer War.

The Second Boer War: Afrikaners Strive for Freedom is an intriguing topic because there are not many books out in the market that concisely analyzes the issue from its infancy till its aftermath. This research will cover the historical background that motivated the British to invade South Africa twice and to examine the impact of war on society. In order to completely a successful research one must look at the political, social, economical, intellectual, and diplomacy prior, during, and after the Second Boer War. The importance of military development from a conventional to unconventional force during this war would change the norm of future military engagement.

Finally, it takes one to press hard questions to get the right answers. South Africa national identity was significantly influenced by the Boer Wars with a firm emphasis on the Second Boer War. The sun may never set on the British Empire but South Africa Republic will never stop bleeding.


Primary Published Sources

Baschet, E. 1900 l’Afrique découvre l’Europe. Paris: E. Baschet, 1978

Comaroff, John, ed. Sol Plaatje’s Mafeking Diary: a Black Man’s View of a White Man’s War. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1990.

Curtis, Lionel. With Milner in South Africa. Oxford: Blackwell, 1951.

Headlam, Cecil, ed. Alfred Milner: The Milner Papers, South Africa 1899-1905. Vol. I. London: Cassell, 1933.

Headlam, Cecil, ed. Alfred Milner: The Milner Papers, South Africa 1899-1905. Vol. II. London: Cassell, 1933.

Marquard, Leo, ed. Letters from a Boer Parsonage: Letters of Margret Marquard during the Boer War. Johannesburg: Purnell, 1967.

May, Henry John. Music of the Guns. Johannesburg: Hutchinson of South Africa, 1970.

Kruger, Paul. The Memoirs of Paul Kruger. New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969.

Reitz, Deneys. Commando: a Boer Journal of the Boer war. London: Faber & Faber, 1931.

Stallman, R. W, and Hagemann, E. R, ed. The War Dispatched of Stephen Crane. New York: New York University Press, 1964.

St. Leger, S.E. War Sketches in Color. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1903.

Secondary Sources


Attridge, Steve. Nationalism, Imperialism and Identity in late Victorian Culture: Civil and Military worlds. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

Barthrop, Michael. The Anglo-Boer wars: The British and the Afrikaners from 1815-1902, London: Blandford, 1987.

Caldwell, Theodore C, ed. The Anglo-Boer War: Why was it fought? Who was responsible? Boston: D. C. Heath, 1965.

Crawford, John, and McGibbon, Ian, ed. One flag, One queen, One tongue: New Zealand, the British Empire, and the South African War, 1899-1902. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2003.

Cloete, Stuart. African Portraits; A Biography of Paul Kruger, Cecil Rhodes, and Lobengula, last King of the Matabele. London: Collins, 1946.

Cuthbertson, Greg, Grundlingh, Albert, and Suttie, Mary-Lynn. ed. Writing a Wider War: Rethinking Gender, Race, and Identity in the South African War, 1899-1902. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2002.

Dunstall, Graeme. Crime and Empire, 1840-1940: Criminal Justice in Local and Global Context. Devon: Willan Publishing, 2005.

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Great Boer War. London: Smith & Elder, 1900.

Farwell, Byron. The Great Anglo-Boer War. New York: Harper & Row 1976.

Field, L. M. The Forgotten War: Australian Involvement in the South African Conflict of 1899-1902. Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 1979.

Ferguson, John Henry. American Diplomacy and the Boer War. London: Oxford University Press, 1939.

Gary, Stephen. Douglas Blackburn. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1984.

Gooch, John, ed. The Boer War: Direction, Experience, and Image. London: Frank Cass, 2000.

Gordon, C. T. The Growth of Boer Opposition to Kruger, 1890-1895. Cape Town: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Gordon, April A, and Gordon, Donald L, ed. Understanding Contemporary Africa. 3rd edition. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner, 2001.

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Case Study: South Africa

17 Oct

Written By Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

References & Review
Book: Politics in the Developing World by Peter Burnell & Vicky Randall.
Part V: Case Studies: Chapter 16b: Fragmentation or nation-building? South Africa by Robert A. Schrire.
Reference: The Other World: Issues and Politics of the Developing World 6th Edition, by Joseph Weatherby. Part II: Other World Region: Chapter 6: Sub-Saharan Africa: Case Study: South Africa.

The Politics in the Developing World book edited, by Peter Burnell and Vicky Randall examine the problems of political development around the globe. This book was divided into multiple sections that comprises on multiple theories, issues, ideologies, and case studies that influence the politics in the developing world. The book also offers coverage of both empirical and theoretical issues. There are numerous articles and case studies contributed by a broad panel leading experts of their respective academic fields.

Part V: Case Studies: Chapter 16b: Fragmentation or nation-building? South Africa by Robert A. Schrire requires a closer observation in this study in order to focus in on the issues in the developing world and to place South Africa in context. One of the main theses of this book is to deal with central political themes and issues in the developing world, such as globalization, inequality, economy, culture, identity, religion, the military, democracy, the environment, and policy development. South Africa is a prefect case study that incorporates the issues that the thesis of this book talks about in order to provide a concise and analytical framework.

To most individuals South Africa is a nation with abundance natural beauty and resources seem fated to fail due to its turbulence past and geographic location. South Africa is a nation that seems to be on the brick of fragmenting when the walls of apartheid were brought to an end in 1994. Most analysts predicted civil unrest and territorial disintegration within a decade. The interesting fact about South Africa it still is a nation. Even as analysts predicted the collapse of the South Africa Union it did not materialize but there are avenues within the nations political, social, judicial, economical, and governmental infrastructures that requires an enormous amount of improvement.

In understanding the current predicament of South Africa is to first understand its violent past. Firstly, the focus South Africa’s past is to comprehend the relationship of South African society and state which has an influence on the wider context of South Africa economic and political processes. Secondly, to solve South African problems one has to explore themes and raised issues in order to answer the ongoing debate in the manner in which development would bring to this nation and other developing countries around the globe.

Robert A. Schrire article in Chapter 16b titled as Fragmentation or nation-building? South Africa in Part V: Case Studies of the Politics in the Developing World book explore the historical contribution in its nation’s political future. The author started out with a brief look at South Africa formation as a nation-state and political development through its history. South Africa’s political development was in the hands of the white minority and the legacy of apartheid that became a rift in the development of its national identity. The white oppression in turn created a powerful black response which promoted the possibility of relatively peaceful deracialization.
The historical legacy of apartheid in South Africa began with the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910 after the Second Boer War in which the British defeated the Afrikaans. English and Afrikaans speaking whites contested fiercely for power and control over South Africa’s political future. This political rivalry led up to a decisive victory of Afrikaner nationalism in 1948. The English, as a demographic minority, tended to maintain the politics of whites while many Afrikaner supported the politics of exclusive Afrikaner nationalism.

After 1948, the National Party (NP) representing Afrikaner nationalism was able to merge its political supremacy, as white unity took primacy in response to mounting pressures, from both the outside world and black South Africans, accelerating after the establishment of a republic in 1961. The problem that arose but never determined was an acceptable political structure that did not jeopardize the Afrikaner’s grip on authority. This led to the meeting of political aspirations of the black African majority as a difficult problem.

The Afrikaner led government response to the ever-growing demands of the majority for the share of power was the introduction of the policy of grand apartheid. Apartheid was introduced prior to the Land Act of 1913 which allocated fertile and resource rich lands into the hands of Afrikaners. Over the decades new policies begun to take shape in order to separate the blacks population from whites’ lands. The result of the grand apartheid policy was the creation of ten black African nations, each entitled to sovereign independence. Every black African, irrespective of culture, origin, residence, or individual preferences, was unspecified to be an unchallengeable member of one of these tribal communities.

This policy of grand apartheid and its predecessors were fought fiercely by the African National Congress (ANC) which was formed in 1911. African National Congress failed in preventing the Land Act of 1913 but the struggle continues for equality against the National Party for the future of South Africa. Other leaders who envision a democratic and united South Africa came to the lime light in the 1960s. Those individuals were KwaZulu’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi who rejects the division of South Africa and Nelson Mandela who led the ANC non-violent struggle and later an armed resistance against the white government of South Africa.

There are other ethnic groups like the Indians, colored, and whites within South Africa’s society who oppose the racism of the National Party led government. These ethnic groups formed political parties like the South African Communist Party (SACP) who formed an alliance with the ANC and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) who split from the ANC began to oppose the National Party fiercely. The white government of South Africa viewed these political groups as a threat to its political power and decided to ban all opposition parties. The move caused an underground armed movement that endorses violence against the apartheid government of South Africa. Mandela and other leaders were imprisoned or exiled when their insurrection were smashed by the government.

Peace returned to South Africa for a decade but the illusion was shattered in 1976 by another massacre, at Soweto, sparked in part by educational grievances. The government had to react by declaring a state of emergency but it was not effective. So the National Party switched to state-sponsored violence in order to quell dissidents and protestors. In 1983 new constitutional proposal by the government unexpectedly brought intense politicization and anger, which led the National Party to embark on modest reform initiatives for urban Africans, colored, and Indians. This move was resented by the wider black population which in turn opened up political space for public debate and greater participation.

The formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983 was to oppose the new constitutional proposals by the National Party government. It was a significant development because it brought together a wider range of civil society groups into the political arena, supported by the ANC in exile. The UDF membership was represented by all segments of the population: whites, blacks, colored, Indians, rural and urban, middle class and poor. UDF was an important success in non-racial political cooperation. The new constitutional proposal of 1983 failed to gain legitimacy despite obtaining the support of whites-only referendum.

Furthermore, the National Party government was facing major economic decline, white divisions, sanctions, and other global pressures which has crippled development and prosperity, increasing both unemployment and tax burden particularly on the white population. There were three pivotal factors that prompted negotiations that would eventually transfer power from the rule of minority to the hands of the majority. The first factor was the government failure to restore normalcy in South African society after unrest in the early 1980s. The second was the leaderships of both black and white parties who not moderate their stance if the status quo continues at its present state. This uncertainty within party leadership forced the ANC and the National Party to begin the negotiation process. Lastly and perhaps paradoxically, the negotiations once initiated did not take the form of whites versus blacks.

The Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) begun a formal discussion in 1991 and was accelerated with De Klerk victory from a white-only election in 1992. Problems arose with the alienation of conservative Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and its leader Buthelezi, who threatened violence and boycott of elections, was not easily defused. In 1994 a wide agreement was reached around an interim constitution to prevent any advantages were given to any groups in the first openly contested election in South African history. The final constitution was in placed in 1996. In 1999 election was thus the first election held in terms of constitution and the results followed closely those of 1994 with no changes to the constitution of 1996.

The new order from apartheid to the rainbow nation took shape with the emergence of a non-racial and democratic South Africa without any major incident or violence. South Africa’s miracle was not the success of negotiation but the transformation and transition of the political discourse away from race and ethnicity. The call from Zulus and whites for special rights was pushed aside for normal democracy. In order to create national unity among the different groups with South Africa an institutional framework was created to reflect the principle of inclusiveness. The creation of a quasi-federal system, proportional representation, formal and informal power-sharing, all designed to ensure significant space and legitimacy for cultural and political minorities within South Africa.

However in order for the new framework to be successful an entity free of government or political organization was needed to heal the wounds of apartheid. The African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela along with its unity government established of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1995 headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu was surprising successful in building a bridge of reconciliation within South African society. The work done by the TRC and UDC contributed to the decline of black versus white conflict during the transition to non-racial democracy. Political transformation and nation-building took precedence after the TRC run their investigation on previous racial crimes from all sectors of South African society. Cooperation between whites and blacks were needed in order to rebuild the South African economy due to the fact that whites control the wealth and blacks dominate the human capital of the nation.

Race and inequality is part of the history of South Africa state, the political arithmetic of race and ethnicity, and the structure of South Africa’s political economy, all help explain why there is neither a public demand for separate nationalities nor a set of elite driven political strategies based upon ethnic/race mobilizations. Historically, race and classes have coincided in South Africa, dividing it into two nations. The emergence today of rapidly expanding black middle class undermines this conception and is disconnecting race and inequality.

After all strategies to address historical inequalities have the potential to frustrate both blacks and whites and could ultimately threaten nation-building and political stability. A powerful ANC is a force for reconciliation and nationhood yet this very power constitutes a potential threat to a genuine democratic order should its power be threatened. This is where individual leadership has played a significant role in shaping the conception of non-racial, a national identity, and a democratic South Africa for the future. Nelson Mandela was a key example in leading South Africa as its president after the 1994 election but step down in 1999 to hand the presidency to Mbeki.

The process of nation-building is ongoing due to the problems faced by South Africa. The AIDS crisis which plagues millions in South Africa alone will have a significant impact on its political and economic infrastructures in years to come. The alienation of Zulus which class with ANC supporters has caused some political instability but was diffuse by Nelson Mandela intervention. The problem of poverty if not address along with the promise of land reforms for poor black farmers with be a momentous task for President Mbeki to keep his election promises.

The question of crime in its nation is ever rising due to the fact of its historical actions by the ANC and NP to ignore the law in taking matters into their own hands. Each opposing side during the apartheid era promoted disobedience to the law and reacted on their own form of justice which led to thousands of people killed or missing over the decades. Lastly, the question and debate would be to define the meaning of being a citizen of South African regardless of color. Whatever the future may hold for South Africa the problems of today needed to address in order to prevent a disaster in the years to come.

Furthermore, this article written by Robert A. Schrire elaborates the implications of two opposing cultures who were also historical enemies was able to come together in order build South Africa’s democracy. The importance of distinction between class and nationality conflicts with regards to nation-building in South Africa was the deciding factor that propelled reconciliations among its population. One has to understand that the Afrikaners who originally settled in the Cape in 1652 by their leader Jan Van Rieback were cultivators, pioneers, and colonists who came from Holland and were looking a place to call home.

The arrival and occupation of the Cape by British forces in 1795 created Afrikaner’s nationalism. In 1836 the Great Trek by Afrikaners into the interior begins and so did the expulsions of black Africans along the way. As the Boer Wars and Zulu Wars were fought the sense of nationhood drove the Afrikaners to establish themselves a dominant force in South Africa. As the decades role by Afrikaners realization of their political and economical future was in jeopardy and had to reform in order to survive. If one looks at the Afrikaners historical and cultural pattern of interaction clearly demonstrate that each of their action were similar to those of a survivalist.

The end came in sight for the National Party from the external and the domestic front. External pressures from the United States of America begin to shift gears as the Cold War came to a close and South Africa’s neighbors was stabilizing its political infrastructure after years of civil unrest. The Commonwealth and United Nations threaten further harsher sanction if the government of South Africa does not reform. Domestic unrest also contributed to the change of heart within the ranks of the National Party. In relative terms the survival of South Africa as a nation-state rested solely on the National Party to end its apartheid policy and begin to politically reform.

South Africa’s unity government led by Nelson Mandela to established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in order to reconcile with its apartheid past. The only disappointment that the commission could not accomplish was to pass judgment on those who committed the crime during the apartheid era. Even if the crime was not able to be prosecuted it does offer some closure to the families of victims who lost love ones during the apartheid era. The people of South Africa offer the rest of the world a lesson in humility and forgiveness of ones enemy by treating every human being equal and just. It also demonstrate the determination, courage, and optimism of South Africans to work together in order to build a better future.

However the argument in this case study portrayed an accurate analysis on South Africa. The only way for South Africa to moved forward is to put their past behind and move on. The evidence of South Africa success is in its reconciliation between whites and blacks due to the smart thinking of Nelson Mandela who knew the only South Africa to survive as a country is to put its past behind. The other ongoing process by the current South African government is to rebuild the public trust in the juridical system in order to decrease crime. Also to implement a strong police force that is corruption free and will serve as a bridge in building trust between the government and the public. It would in turn promote foreign economic investments and create opportunity for all South Africans to develop its nation’s economy into a regional power.

I agree with Robert A. Schrire analysis on South Africa that the HIV question will be a problem to South Africans in the future. If this problem is not address it will spawn into a crisis unparallel to any in history. There is an effort by developed nations to aid South Africans especially the poor by licensing of generic drugs at an affordable price. In order for South Africa to survive in the global market it has to create a strong and healthy work force. Even if it improves its education system the HIV disease left uncheck would decimate the next generation of workers which in turn would destroy its economic and social infrastructures.

This case study on South Africa paints a pristine image on countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Suriname, Guyana, and many others. The reason I mention those nations was due to their similarities as being multi racial and religious nations plus the fact was they have been colonized by a European power. The lesson South Africa offer to those nations is the idea of unity by reconciliation with the past by building a national identity for the future.

Overall, South Africa is a multi racial and religious nation that is surviving against all odds in rebuilding its divided society and economic infrastructure from the bottom up. The development and stability of South Africa would propel it to become a regional power and a platform for democracy on the African continent. Its success would be a beacon of democracy and optimism on a continent of turmoil but its failure would be viewed as another victim of Western ideology on a hopeless continent.

Review Corner: “The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece”

13 Oct

The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece. Victor Davis Hanson. University of California Press. Berkeley. 2nd Edition. 2000. ISBN: 0520219112. Abbreviations. Supplementary Bibliography. Bibliography. Index. Index Locorum. Pp. xxxii. 275.

Reviewed By Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

            Victor Davis Hanson’s book The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greeceis a comprehensive and specific breakdown of ancient Greek warfare. Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, the author has published numerous books on Classical Greek history is a graduate of Stanford University, in California is currently the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at its Hoover Institution.

            Hanson’s thesis is to investigate the effectiveness of Greek infantrymen as a triumphant professional fighting force. This book analyzes and emphasizes on the core ideals such as honor, courage, and freedom that personify individual Greek warriors during battle. It also explains the Greek commitment to bravery and liberty for victory which differs from the modern world emphasis on human wealth and ingenuity in war.

            The book begins with the criticism on scholars showing lack of importance in the actual state of affairs in Greek battles. Hanson emphasizes that there is more to tactics and strategy that need to be studied in order to unravel the notion of Greek influence in today’s Western military doctrine. The author uses quotes from Herodotus, Homer, Xenophon, and others to show superb insights into the whole course of hoplite and phalanx engagements. Hanson’s depiction on the physical and psychological challenges to the Greek warrior prior to the actual combat was intuitive to the reader.

            This book also explores the importance of leadership in boosting morale among troops, the close family and kinship within a combat unit, and the utilization and exploitation of alcohol prior to a battle. It also analyzes the genuine technicalities of ancient Greek battle from the vantage point of the infantryman to the brutal spear-thrusting to the difficulty of fighting in heavy bronze armor which made it hard to see, hear and move, and the fear that sent chills down the spine. Hanson also discusses the aftermath of a battle by pointing out the physical deterioration, severity of wounds, and the image of sheer carnage on the small area of the battlefield.

            Hanson draws from an extraordinary range of primary and secondary sources such as Greek poetry, drama, and vase painting, 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 abbreviation and index section along with an index Locorum section for works by Classical Greek authors. The only grumble is that there were no pictures or images to go along with the text, but the descriptions are so in-depth that the author’s words paint a vivid picture worthy of a novel.

            The strength of this book it is an easy read and Hanson’s ability in accurately portraying the Greek idea on Western warfare by scholarly examining its decisive infantry battles that shape Western civilization. Hanson’s thesis successfully argued the effectiveness and influences of Greek infantrymen battle tactics in today’s Western militaries. I firmly recommend Hanson’s The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece to classicists, historians, students of history, and enthusiasts in general.

Art History: ” Paintings by Gros, e.g. ‘Battle of Eylau’, etc”

6 Oct

Paintings by Gros, e.g. ‘Battle of Eylau’, etc

By Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

The Battle of Eylau painting by Antoine-Jean Gros was a depiction of Napoleon so-called success in defeating the Prussians in 1807. Battle paintings of the 19th century have taken into new horizons where art could have a subtle propaganda message within the image. Even if the painting of Gros was of a propaganda value it was an evolution of Uccello, Meulen, and Lebrun experimentation and research in revolutionizing art from just another image on the wall into a political heyday.

Antoine-Jean Gros was born March 16, 1771 in Paris. In 1785 Gros entered the studio of Jacques-Louis David, which he frequented assiduously, continuing at the same time to pursue classes at College Mazarin. On the recommendation of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, he was hired on the execution of portraits of the members of the National Convention, and when disturbed by the development of the Revolution, Gros in 1793 left France for Italy. He visited Florence, but returning to Genoa made the acquaintance of Josephine de Beauharnais, and follows her to Milan, where he was well received by her husband, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Gros career blossom by association with Napoleon. Gros was present at Arcola on November 15, 1796 when Napoleon planted the French tricolor on the bridge. He seized on this moment and demonstrated his treatment of it that he had found his vocation as a soldier’s artist. Napoleon gave Gros the title of Baron and ‘ inspecteur aux revues ‘ in order for him to follow the French army on campaigns. The military element was important to remained intertwine with French nationalism, Gros received from it a new and lively stimulation which drove him to the very heart of the events which he portrayed; but as the army, and its general separated from the people, Gros, called on to exemplify chapters representative only of the fulfillment of individual aspiration, ceased to find the sustenance essential to his brilliance, and the deficiency of his artistic position became apparent. Trained in the sect of the Classicists, he was bind by their regulations, even whereby his naturalistic treatment of types, and appeal to picturesque consequence in shade and tenor he seemed to run contradict to them.

The Battle of Eylau painting of 1808 was Gros art work in immortalize Napoleon as a leader of the French nation. To understand the value of Gros art work as a propaganda tool or a depiction of reality one has to exam the historical context and the outcome to the Battle of Eylau of 1807. The Battle of Eylau was fought between France against Russian and Prussian forces. This was the first time that serious check the battle conditions of the French Grande Armee. The Battle of Eylau lasted for two days from February 7-8, 1807. Prelude to the battle the Russians were on the retreat and the Prussians cities were occupied by the French. Once the French entered Poland the Russians and the remains of the Prussian decided to turn and attack the French Army. The battle was a stalemate in historical terms as both sides received casualties in the thousands.

Eylau was not the decisive victory characteristic of Napoleon’s earlier campaigns, prolonging the war with Russia until the Battle of Friedland forced Czar Alexander I to the peace table. The Battle of Eylau resulted in an inconclusive Russian retreat and French advance into Russia was halted but the Prussians were subjected to French occupation. It is interesting to note that the results Napoleon was similar to Ramesses II at the Battle of Kadesh that resulted in a tactical victory but strategically draw. So the painting of the Battle of Eylau was produced a year later unlike the paintings that depicted Napoleon campaign in Egypt or Austria which was commission on the spot. Gros may have been a soldier’s artist but he never fought in any battles or was on the frontlines during the military engagements.

The other evidential point that made the Battle of Eylau painting a propaganda piece was the commission was up for competition among artists with the Napoleon picking the best painting that suited to his desire. One would ask if this painting was a pure propaganda piece to please Napoleon and the answer it was not to please him because he was the one who choose the painting that best described the outcome of French resolute. It would distort the truth by portraying him in the painting by trampling over his enemies in fields of Eylau and his fellow countrymen riding in victoriously beside him. It also showed the Russians feeling from the battle field which was true but definitely not on all four which Gros depicted in his painting. The begging for mercy by the surviving Prussians and Polish troops signify the willingness to be subjugated under French rule.

It was to paint an image back in France that the outcome of the battle was in the favor of the French army. In actuality it distort the truth on what had happen at the Battle of Eylau which was also considered on of the largest cavalry engagements in the entire Napoleonic war that resulted in a tie. One has to understand that Gros was an acquaintance of Napoleon before his rise to fame and the depiction of Napoleon in a propaganda piece would be easier compared to other artists in France. The innovation of the Napoleonic painting of depicting battles in panoramic style was the facial and emotional display of individual within the painting. The extent of Gros’ paintings serve to create was to centralize Napoleon mythical image among his contemporaries and adversaries. The mystifying Napoleon in Gros paintings wasn’t deliberate on the artist part but well crafted political piece with Napoleon’s supervision.

Personally, I believe that Gros paintings revolutionize the direction of paintings and images in general into a more direct role that is in line with the leadership of a nation-state. The paintings of 19th century France is a revolution in portraying the sense of nationalism within a state infrastructure. The paintings by Gros were to legitimize Napoleon as a great leader of France that would set him in par with Louis XIV. Finally, Gros wanted to the popularize Napoleon as a leader that faced the pestilence of war unmoved, challenging the marvelous instant of victory, and heart-sick with the bitter cost of a hard-won battlefield to be immortalized in the annals of French history.


Prendergast, Christopher. Napoleon and History Painting: Antoine-Jean Gros’s La Bataille d’Eylau (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1997), 1-19, 78-116, 145-185

Siegfried, Susan, ‘Naked History: The Rhetoric of Military Painting in Postrevolutionary France’, Art Bulletin Vol. LXXV, No. 2 (June 1993), 235-258

Marrinan, Michael, ‘Literal/Literary/’Lexie’: history, text and authority in Napoleonic painting’, Word & Image Vol. 7, No. 3 (July-Sept. 1991), 177-200 and particularly 184-194

Schlenoff, Norman, ‘Baron Gros and Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign’, in Essays in Honor of Walter Friedlander (New York, NYU Institute of Fine Arts, 1965), 152-164

McCoubrey, John, ‘Gros’ Battle of Eylau and Roman Imperial Art’, The Art Bulletin Vol. XLVIII, No. 2 (June 1961), 135-139

Encyclopedia Britannica Eleventh Edition

Paret, chapter 5

Art History: “Paintings of A.F.Van De Meulen and/or Charles Lebrun”

4 Oct

Paintings of A.F.Van De Meulen and/or Charles Lebrun

By Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

The 17th century was an interesting time of battle art expressionism that portrayed the sense of national pride. France led the way in hero-worship within its battle paintings born out victories during the time of Louis XIV (The Sun King). It was also to solidify France as a nation-state under the thumb of Louis XIV and his paintings was a sense in setting the stage of his rule over other nobles and adversaries. The message that the painters like Antony Francis van De Meulen and Charles Lebrun was sending to the viewer was a sense of French military transformation under Louis XIV.

Antony Francis van der Meulen (1634 – 1690), Flemish painter, born in Brussels.
He was called to Paris c. 1666 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, at the instance of Charles Lebrun, to fill the post of battle painter to Louis XIV of France. Colbert reorganized the Academy of Painting and Sculpture which Mazarin had established and he presided over the first exhibition of the works of living painters; and he enriched the Louvre with hundreds of pictures and statues. Meulen paintings during the campaigns of Flanders in 1667 so delighted Louis that from that date van der Meulen was ordered to accompany him in all his expeditions. In 1673 he was received into the ‘Académie française’, attained the grade of councilor in 1681, and died full of honors in Paris in 1690. He is best represented by the series of twenty-three paintings, mostly executed for Louis XIV, now in the Louvre. They show that he always retained his Flemish predilections in point of color, although his style was modified by that of the French school.

Charles Lebrun (Le Brun) was the other artist that was commission by Louis XIV to paint his campaign in the Low Countries. Lebrun (February 24, 1619 – February 22, 1690) was a French painter and art theorist, one of the dominant artists in 17th century France. Le Brun, the premier peintre du Roi, was the director of the Gobelins tapestry works unlike Meulen who was the peintre des conquetes du Roi (he accompanied the king on his campaigns in the Low Countries). Lebrun as a Parisian, he drew the attention of Chancellor Séguier, who positioned him at the age of eleven in the workshop of Simon Vouet. He was also an apprentice of François Perrier. At fifteen he obtained commissions from Cardinal Richelieu, in the implementation of which he exhibited an aptitude which obtained the generous acclamation of Nicolas Poussin, in whose company Le Brun started for Rome in 1642.

Later Lebrun and Mazarin founded the Academy of Painting and Sculpture (Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, 1648), and the Academy of France at Rome (1666), and gave a new development to the industrial arts. Lebrun established the Gobelins, which at first was a great school for the manufacture, not of tapestries only, but of every class of furniture required in the royal palaces. Commanding the industrial arts through the Gobelins of which he was director and the whole artist world through the Academy (in which he successively held every post). Le Brun imprinted his own personality on all that was fashioned in France during his lifetime; he was the originator of Louis XIV Style and gave a direction to the national tendencies which endured centuries after his death.

Lebrun like Meulen was also a fine portraitist and an excellent draughtsman. But Lebrun was not fond of portrait or landscape painting, which he felt to be a mere exercise in increasing technical prowess. What mattered was scholarly symphony, whose ultimate aspiration was to cultivate the spirit. The fundamental basis on which the director of the Academy based his art was unquestionably to make his paintings speak, through a series of symbols, costumes and gestures that allowed him subtly add to his composition the narrative elements that gave his works a particular depth. For Le Brun, a painting represented a story one could read. Nearly all his compositions have been reproduced by celebrated engravers. In his posthumously published treatise, Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions (1668) he promoted the expression of the emotions in painting. It had much influence on art theory for the next two centuries.

The tradition the paintings celebrating Louis XIV victories came out of the expeditions to the Low Countries and Spain. Meulen and Lebrun drew their inspiration from historical figure such as Alexander the Great conquest over Darius of the Persians. Louis XIV gave both artists as much freedom as they needed as long the depiction him were similar to the Alexander. The two artists employed a blend of Classic realism with Gothic painting with the central focus on Louis XIV. Meulen was able to accompany Louis XIV on his campaigns and he drew his motifs from the expedition himself but Lebrun drew inspiration from the history to create an everlasting legacy of the great Sun King.

One can not overlook Jean-Antoine Watteau art works which differ from Lebrun and Meulen. Watteau’s paintings seem to epitomize the aristocratic elegance of the Régence (though he actually lived most of his short life under the oppressive climate of Louis XIV’s later reign), he never had aristocratic patrons. His buyers were bourgeois such as bankers and dealers. Watteau mature paintings seem to be so many depictions of frivolous fêtes galantes; they in fact display a sober melancholy, a sense of the ultimate futility of life that makes him, among 18th century painters, one of the closest to modern sensibilities. His many imitators, such as Nicolas Lancret and Jean-Baptiste Pater, borrowed his themes but could not capture his spirit.
Watteau depicts the conflict of art and the external world. Watteau’s influence on the arts (not only painting, but the decorative arts, costume, film, poetry, music) was more extensive than that of almost any other artist down to the present. He mostly imitated earlier artists such as Philip Wovermans and Watteau works were more about peace than war. In way it deferred him from Lebrun and Meulen paintings which emphasize more on war and the pride of the France as a nation-state under the leadership of Louis XVI.

Personally, I believe that Lebrun and Meulen revolutionize battle paintings by centering on a hero figure that spreading to the individual soldier serving beside the hero. Watteau did not touch base on war theme painting but he added to the sensibility of expressive emotions by individual within a painting which also left a legacy to generations of war artists to come. The years of Louis XIV was the beginning of war art as a tool of national pride and a stand of immortalizing a leader in the annals of a state’s history.



A La Gloire du Roi. Van der Meulen, Peintre des Conquetes de Louis XIV (Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, 1998)

Starcky, Laure C-. Paris, Mobilier national Dessins de Van der Meulen et de son atelier (Paris, Ministère de la Culture, 1988)

Mauicheau-Beaupré, Charles, ‘Un peintre de Louis XIV aux Armées Van der Meulen’, Jardin des Arts, 113 (Nov. 1957), 1-10

Richefort, Isabelle, ‘Nouvelles précisions sur la vie d’Adam Francois Van der Meulen, peintre historiographe de Louis XIV’, Bulletin de la société de l’histoire de l’art français (1986), 57-80

Jallot, Marguerite, ‘Les peintres de Batailles des XVIIe et XVIIIe siecle’, Archives de l’art français, Vol. 22 (n.s. 1950-1957), 115-128

Encyclopedia Britannica Eleventh Edition.

Plax, Julie-Anne, ‘The Meaning of War in Watteau’s Recrüe Allant Joindre Le Regiment’, Source: Notes in the History of Art, Vol. XVI, No. 3 (Spring 1997), 17-23

Opperman, Hal, ‘The theme of peace in Watteau’, in François Moureau ad Margaret Morgan Grisselli (eds.) Antoine Watteau (1684-1721): Le peintre son temps et sa legende (Paris, Champion-Slatkine, 1987), 23-28

Art History:”Uccello:Battle of San Romano”

2 Oct

Uccello: ‘Battle of San Romano’

By Simon S. Sundaraj

Renaissance Art was a product of artist commission by patrons to portray an event that propelled the image of a noble family above other elites within a class structure. The Battle of San Romano painting was commission by the Bartolini Salimbeni family but so coveted by Lorenzo de’ Medici that he had them forcibly removed to the Medici palace at Florence. Paolo Uccello of Florence was the artist commission to paint the Battle of San Romano.

To understand the significant of Renaissance Art is first comprehend to importance of the Battle of Romano from a historical perspective. The Battle of Romano was fought in 1432 between the forces of Florence and Siena. The battle was solely fought by mercenaries hired by both opposing factions. The Florentine defeated Siena forces and ascended to the role of head city-state in the Tuscany region. In order to commemorate Florence victory a painting was commission by the ruling house of Florence by immortalizing the Battle of Romano in the eyes of its people and adversaries.

The Battle of San Romano is a triptych by the painter Paolo Uccello depicting events that took place at the Battle of San Romano in 1432 (for a long time these were wrongly entitled the “Battle of Sant’ Egidio of 1416”). It consists of the three paintings which would immortalize Uccello in the annals of military art history. The first consist of Niccolò Mauruzi da Tolentino at the Battle of San Romano (probably about 1438-1440), egg tempera with walnut oil and linseed oil on poplar and housed at the National Gallery in London. Second was the depiction of Niccolò Mauruzi da Tolentino unseats Bernardino Della Ciarda at the Battle of San Romano (dating uncertain, about 1435 to 1455), tempera on wood, and housed at the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. Lastly, the Counterattack of Michelotto da Cotignola at the Battle of San Romano (about 1455), wood panel, and housed at Musée du Louvre in Paris.

Paolo Uccello (Pablo di Dono) was born in 1347 to the city of Florence. Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artist mentioned about Paolo Uccello obsession in perspective and would stay up all night in his study trying to grasp the exact vanishing point. Uccello was noted for his exponent of visual perspective in art. He used perspective in order to create a mood of intensity in his art and not, as his contemporaries, to describe diverse or subsequent stories. Paolo worked in the Late Gothic tradition, and emphasized color, tone, and pageantry rather than the Classical realism that other artists were pioneering. His style is best described as idiosyncratic, and he left no school of followers. He had some influence on twentieth century art and literary criticism.

Uccello began his artistic career by being under the apprenticeship of Lorenzo Ghiberti who was a renowned sculpture. It was at Ghiberti’s workshop where Uccello began a lifelong friendship with Donatello. Ghiberti would have a great influence on him by his late-Gothic, narrative style and sculptural composition. In 1415 Uccello was admitted to the painters’ guild Compagnia di San Lucca. By 1424 he was earning his own living as a painter. In that year he painted Creation and expulsion in the church Santa Maria Novella in Florence, proving his artistic maturity. Around this time he was taught geometry by Manetti. He would continue to paint for patrons across the Italian peninsula till his death in 1475.

The everlasting legacy that Uccello left the Renaissance world was his precise, analytical mind he tried to apply a scientific method to depict objects in three-dimensional space. In particular, some of his studies of the perspective foreshortening of the torus are preserved, and he realized the thus acquired insights in his paintings in form of the mazzocchio. The perspective in his paintings has influenced famous painters such as Piero Della Francesca, Albrecht Dürer and Leonardo da Vinci, to name a few. His daughter Antonia Uccello (1446-1491) was a Carmelite nun, whom Giorgio Vasari called “a daughter who knew how to draw”. She was even noted as a “pittoressa”, a paintress, on her death certificate. Her style and her skill remain as mystery as none of her work is in existence.

The three panels depicting the Battle of San Romano could be considered fro private ‘consumption’ when it was housed by the Salimbeni family because it was to demonstrate the class status among nobles. Later it became a semi public art due to the fact that the Medici tends to have open door events for the public from time to time. It was to develop a political image of popularity among fellow Florentine. If the paintings were viewed privately then it was to create a sense of superiority and envy among fellow nobles. The paintings became public from time to time it demonstrated the commoner that the Medici was a strong noble house that carried the light Florence with honor.

Uccello audience was not for the people but for the patrons that commission him to paint for them. It was the patrons who decided whether he or she wanted the paintings to be viewed private or publicly. As stated earlier Uccello painting was ground breaking due to the perspective he place in his paintings by emphasizing on depth and the story it was portraying. He was revolutionary due to the fact he was taking a Gothic approach while other of his peers were concentrating on the Classic realism approach to art. The convention he was employing was to depict the image as real as possible by emphasizing on the perception of an individual which would place a person on the scene of the battle. It also centered on a key figure or hero which he audience could be familiar or related to in order to touch the emotional aspect of that particular event.

The Medicis was looking to legitimate their hold on Florence by portraying they cultural and military prowess through Uccello paintings. Indirectly, the Medicis immortalize their legacy by obtaining the numerous images, sculptures, and architectures around Florence which continued to survive till this present day in age. The direct message that the Medicis send to their rivals and the people of Florence was that they were in charge of the political, cultural, and military aspect of the city-state.

Personally, I do not believe that Uccello wanted to touch the emotional aspect of the viewer but he was experimenting with a new approach in painting. He pioneered a scientific method that would create the expression of depth which aided to the emotional package when viewed by the audience. Uccello was a pioneer that created a new way in portraying battle art and inspired generations of artist to follow in his footsteps. The unfortunate part of Uccello tale was that he did not have a school to call is own and it took numerous years to rediscover his techniques in developing a viable painting of a battle.


Man and his Art. Vol. 1: War and Peace, chapters 11-12

Vasari, Giorgio. Lives of the Artist

Paret, chapter 2, pp. 20-26

Hale, chapter 6, pp. 154-155

Starn, Randolph and Loren Partridge, ‘Representing war in the Renaissance: The shield of Paolo Uccello’, Representations, No. 5 (Winter 1984), 33-65

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