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Thursday, 8 November 2018

How Weimar Germany Prepared the Way for the Fall of France


History is full of ironies. One of the greatest is the effect that the Treaty of Versailles had on causing and shaping the next World War.

The usual narrative tells you that the harsh economic conditions imposed on Germany by this treaty played a vital role in propelling Hitler to power and thus causing the war. This is partly true, but more interesting than this is how the Treaty's military conditions, designed to secure the safety of France and other countries, instead had an enormous impact on the subsequent war and more or less directly led to the military humiliation of France in 1940.

Friday, 2 November 2018

"The French Army in 1936" by General René Tournès


Brigadier General René Tournès (1876-1959) was a WWI general and military writer. In 1936 he published the following account of the French army, which includes lots of data and info on the army that was to be unexpectedly defeated by the Germans only four years later.
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LIKE all armies, the French army exists as the instrument of a definite policy. To appraise its effectiveness in the restless and uncertain Europe of today one must first establish the broad lines of French military policy. The aim of this policy is simple, even though the execution of it raises complex problems. Having recovered her lost provinces in 1918, and already possessing a sufficient colonial domain, France has no further territorial ambitions either in Europe or abroad. The French army therefore does not exist either for revenge or for conquest; it has one sole purpose, to assure the security of France and her colonies.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Italy's Pocket War and Its Dwarf Imperialsm

Italians fighting Turks at Tripoli
Italy was the site of one of the greatest empires -- the Roman -- but, to its shame, it was also the site of one of the more laughable empires, namely the Neo-Italian Empire that emerged following the unification of the country in the 19th century. 

Just as Italian unification owed more to the power machinations of the great states of Europe than the efforts of the Italians themselves, so too did the rise of the Neo-Italian Empire. This is demonstrated by what was the main chapter in this story, the Turkish Italian War of 1911-12, which started today 107 years ago.

Friday, 24 August 2018

When the Chinese Almost Disappeared

The Mongols valued open spaces more than people.
The Mongols had a technique they used whenever they wanted to invade a country. The year before they would send small, mobile units to raid the targeted territory over a wide area to "terraform" it for their particular type of warfare. This terraforming would include killing any farmers they could find in order to drive all farmers off the land, and burning and destroying any farm buildings and equipment.

The effect of this was to convert farm land back to pasture, so that the next year, when the full Mongol battle army appeared on horseback, there would be enough pasturage in enough places so that the Mongol horde could move rapidly where it wanted, and draw the opposing army into a battle on its own devastating terms.

Friday, 13 July 2018

The Scottish Heart of Indian Independence

Alexander Duff
As Ezra Pound famously said, "A slave is one who waits for someone to come and free him." If seen in these terms, then the vast country of India, with over a billion people, is not entirely free even today.

This is because not only was India magnanimously "granted" independence by a British Empire worn out by struggles elsewhere, but also the very heart of their independence movement was created for them by a man from thousands of miles away, a Scotsman by the name of Alexander Duff (1806-1878).

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Swedish Independence as an Expression of German Greed and Danish Avant-Gardism

Idealised image of Gustavus Vasa raising the rebellion. 

Do countries and states have DNA -- elements present at their creation that then resonate throughout their history and help to shape them? If so, what are we to make of Sweden and the odd collection of forces that brought that state into existence? The key date in this piece of historical alchemy was the 6th of June, 1523, exactly 495 years ago today.

Up until that date, Swedish history had seemed to be a tributary subsumed into the wider current of Danish history. As a backward and ill-defined area, it had been united to Denmark in 1388, as part of the Union of Kalmar, and its fate as a somewhat reluctant provincial region of that powerful Baltic monarchy seemed set until the early 16th century.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Flooding China to Stem the Japanese Tide


When did WWII begin? Most would say it was when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, but a good case can be made for July 7th, 1937, when the Japanese kicked off their invasion of China, a campaign that lasted eight years and became a major part of WWII. One of the biggest and most dramatic events in that war was the deliberate flooding of a large area of China in 1938 by the Nationalist Chinese government in an attempt to halt the rapid Japanese advance. This occurred 80 years ago today.