Society for Military History 2015 draft program…

… is now available online. Meets next April in Montgomery, Alabama.

Of note for EMEMHians, I counted two medieval panels (I consider them honorary members of EMEMH, but perhaps it should be reversed), a couple of papers on the American Revolution, three panels on the Age of Revolutions with emphasis on the Napoleonic (‘natch), and a couple of panels on publishing military history.

Personally, I’ll be teaching and preparing for a research jaunt in the summer, but any attendees are welcome to share their thoughts post-conference.

Sieges as they were meant to be seen

New article in Social Science Computer Review using GIS to analyze the 1714 siege of Barcelona.

Rubio-Campillo, Xavier, Francesc Xavier Hernàndez Cardona, and Maria Yubero-Gómez. “The Spatiotemporal Model of an 18th-Century City Siege.” Social Science Computer Review, November 17, 2014, 0894439314558559. doi:10.1177/0894439314558559.
The importance of terrain in warfare has often encouraged an intense relation between military conflicts and the use of techniques designed to understand space. This is especially relevant since the modern era, where the engineers who built and assaulted city defenses recorded the events with diverse documentation, including reports, diagrams, and maps. A large number of these sources contain spatial and temporal information, but it is difficult to integrate them into a common research framework due to its heterogeneity. In this context, geographical information science provides the necessary tools to explore an interdisciplinary analysis of these military actions. This article proposes a new approach to the study of sieges using a spatiotemporal formal model capable of integrating cartography, archaeological, and textual primary sources and terrain information. Its main aim is to show how concrete research questions and hypotheses can be explored using a formal model of this type of historical events. The methodology is applied to a particular case study: the French–Spanish siege of Barcelona that occurred in 1714. The protagonists faithfully recorded the development of the action, providing essential information for the model. Besides, different authors depicted the event as the paradigm of a city siege. For this reason, the model is also used to explore why real actions deviated from theoretical guidelines, clearly defined in different manuals. We use this scenario to explore two issues: (a) why the attackers chose to assault a particular city sector and (b) the factors that explain the casualties of the besiegers. We conclude that we need methodological tools capable of integrating heterogeneous information to improve the understanding of siege warfare that affected not only military conflict but also the shape of European urban landscapes.
That article includes some interesting discussion and insightful maps of the attacks, siege casualties, etc. Now if only somebody did it for every siege! I’ve got dibs on Douai 1710, if I ever take the time to play around with GIS.
With other military historians finally catching up with the serious study of Louisquatorzian siegecraft, I may need to dust off a few ideas I had in dissertation version 0.5 (all done in AutoCAD):
Siege batteries, Douai 1710

Siege batteries, Douai 1710


Casualties by approach by day, Douai 1710

Casualties by approach by day, Douai 1710

I also have the number of daily workers, so a casualty rate over the length of the siege could easily be calculated.

Douai 1710 trench work

Douai 1710 trench work

And, finally, a colorful map that emphasizes the importance of musketry for the defense:

Garrison volume of fire (theoretical)

Garrison volume of musketfire (theoretical)

Now I remember why it took me so long to finish my dissertation – because I wrote 1.5 of them instead of just one.

Digital Dawdling

As academics on a semester system know, Thanksgiving break offers the false hope of a brief interlude before the final dash to the end of the semester. Thus I surfaced for air long enough to waste some time playing around with a few new-ish digital toys that might be of interest to others.

First, for those who use Pocket Informant’s calendar/task-management program, their recent update includes a macro-view (all the cool kids are doing Big Data these days) of your schedule, a heat map indicating how busy your days are over months. As you can tell from the screenshot, I follow the stereotypical academic’s schedule of attempting to keep my summers for my research.

PI heat map: I'll let you figure out what my teaching schedule is...

PI heat map: I’ll let you figure out what my teaching schedule is…

More productively, I decided to waste some more time on mind mapping software. Devonthink is great for storing all my documents and notes, but I still find the need for meta-notes (or organizational cues, or trains of thought) that are extremely hierarchical, and which have to come in a very specific order even if I don’t know where exactly they should go in the overall argument – often these are a series of successive questions that I need to follow up on. You could put them in a group in DT, but that tends to lose the specific train of thought. So instead of pulling out my big sketchpad and writing out a mindmap of my battle book, as I did with my diss, I got a copy of Xmind software. This way I can have my mindmaps everywhere I am, and I can move things from one node to another without having to erase and rewrite. The resulting map for a smaller project (my honor in sieges book chapter) looks like this:

Mindmap of honor in sieges chapter

Mindmap of honor in sieges chapter

The map is fully searchable, you can add various ‘markers’ and icons, modify the formatting of each point, add images, create floating points (when you’re not yet sure where exactly they should go), and it automatically makes an outline that you can export (upper right in screenshot). I find it useful to see the big picture on a single page (scrolling and zooming in and out as necessary), and to quickly see the ‘shape’ of the argument and the relative amount of detail in each section, rather than flip between a dozen pages of outline and try to imagine how a subpoint would fit in a different spot.

Finally, my frequent reliance on timelines in my courses led me to take the plunge and explore timeline software. My über-efficient timecharts have their uses, but I don’t want to put that amount of effort into all sorts of chronologies in the dozen different courses I teach. Sorry, but the 20th century isn’t worth that much effort. And for my own research purposes, the more info in a given timeline, the greater the need to have the info quickly searchable.

Enter Aeon Timeline. Items are generally divided between Entities (people, institutions, technologies…) and time-defined Events. You can use different levels of precision for different Events, and you can place Events on various arcs, e.g. an operational timeline might include separate arcs for each theater of operations. Befitting the digital data, all entries and metadata are searchable, and the timelines are zoomable in both directions. You can add notes to each Entity and Event, and there are a few limited formatting options (with possibly more to come in future versions). So in the operational arcs I indicate the Allied sieges with a red font and the Bourbon sieges with a blue font; in the English politics arcs I use buff to indicate the Whigs and blue to indicate the Tories. You can import images, for example peoples’ portraits or even simplified maps of battles and sieges. You can also filter your results to show only a subset of the events and entities, based off of the metadata. You can also import in massive quantities of data in csv or tab-delimited, rather than use the individual event creation dialog box.

Aeon timeline

Aeon timeline: events on arcs

Further, you can define a Relationship between each Entity and each Event – e.g. an Entity might have one Event that was its birth, another its death, while another Event of that Entity (say, a person) might be that individual’s participation in a particular siege. This view is a bit messy in the Event (top) half of the window – you should primarily just look at the bottom half, in the Relationship view, which allows you to see all the events that each entity was involved with – and even how old the given Entity was, if you want. The developer promises to make this view more intuitive in future versions. And, if I were ever to make my own WordPress blog site (i.e. not use, I could export the timelines in simile format and post interactive versions online.

Relationships between entities and events

Relationships between entities and events

So that’s how I spent my Thanksgiving week, when not eating turkey, that is.

Bring out your dead

Recent article:

Gagné, John. “Counting the Dead: Traditions of Enumeration and the Italian Wars.” Renaissance Quarterly 67, no. 3 (September 2014): 791–840.
Abstract: Methods for counting war deaths developed alongside structural changes in the ways that states enumerated mortality (for both fighters and citizens) between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. This paper argues that an alternative way to interpret observers’ comments on the magnitude and novelty of war damages during the Italian Wars (1494-1559) is to trace the history of enumerating mortality from the fourteenth century, using the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death as departure points. Military heralds counted dead soldiers in Northern Europe and civic record keepers registered public mortality in Italy. Numbers carried cultural value. In war, disputants and observers used numbers rhetorically to argue political cases and to emphasize the scale of victories and defeats. By 1500, the proliferation of specific mortality numbers in public discourse–amplified by printed war reporting–forced observers to reckon with their meaning. The article concludes by illustrating how numbers entered memorial culture: monuments from the Italian Wars featured numbers as an index of the perceived magnitude of war in the sixteenth century.
How, you may ask, did I know that an article would be published on mortality rates? Just psychic, I guess.

Sense and Sensibility

New article on the psyche of mid/late-18C soldiers:

Shaw, Philip. “Longing for Home: Robert Hamilton, Nostalgia and the Emotional Life of the Eighteenth-Century Soldier.” Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, December 1, 2014.
Abstract: This article focuses on Robert Hamilton’s The Duties of a Regimental Soldier (1787; rev edn 1794). The article places Hamilton’s case study of a common soldier suffering from nostalgia, a potentially fatal disease of the imagination arising in displaced young recruits and in young women removed from their families, within the broader contexts of the history of medical education, contemporary theories of the passions, ideas of military discipline and the culture of sensibility. Hamilton’s treatment of nostalgia raises questions about the relations between class and sensibility, between literature and science, and between medical professionalism and the gendered nature of military identity.
Fortunately, I think we now have a vaccine for nostalgia, thank god.

The smallest of wars

Recent issue of the journal Small Wars & Insurgencies includes two articles on early modern partisan sniping, as well as several more on the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period.

To wit:

Deruelle, Benjamin. “The Sixteenth-Century Antecedents of Special Operations ‘small War.’” Small Wars & Insurgencies 25, no. 4 (July 4, 2014): 754–66.
Abstract: The first conceptual, theoretical treatises about small war (la petite guerre) as special operations appeared only from the middle of the seventeenth century. The term is not used in the eighteenth-century sense of ‘special operations’ in older sources. The supposed absence of any treatment of the subject is surprising considering the obsession with the ‘art of war’ in the Renaissance, but other authors attribute it to a supposed antinomy between chivalric ideals and irregular warfare. But the absence of explicit manuals on the subject is not evidence of absence of advanced reflection on this kind of operations in the Middle Ages and in Early Modern times. We should thus look elsewhere, in other genres, for writings that contain and pass on military knowledge. Epics, romances, educational and military treatises, and memoirs in fact contain elements of a theory of special operations, even though these genres differ from our conception of rationality inherited from the Enlightenment.
Fonck, Bertrand, and George Satterfield. “The Essence of War: French Armies and Small War in the Low Countries (1672–1697).” Small Wars & Insurgencies 25, no. 4 (July 4, 2014): 767–83.
Abstract: In the late seventeenth century during the Dutch War (1672–1678) and the Nine Years War (1688–1697), French armies relied on small war for the accomplishment of essential tasks and as part of an overall strategy of exhausting their opponents in the Low Countries. The purposes of small war included the imposition of contributions on enemy populations, the destruction of the enemy base of operations, blockades of fortresses, and the general support of campaign armies. The expression ‘small war’ in the French language appeared with growing frequency in the 1690s. Small war can be viewed as both a cause and consequence of the characteristics of these wars. The limited policy goals of Louis XIV the king of France required a strategy that minimised risk and accomplished the goal of reducing if not eliminating the Spanish presence in the Low Countries that bordered the north of France. As French armies increased in size during this period, the demand for specialists at small increased in order to provide security and ensure supply. Small war in the late seventeenth century was thus not ideologically motivated insurgency, but in the minds of French commanders an essential component of strategy and the nature of war.
Personally, I’m waiting for someone to find a way to connect la petite guerre to la petite mort in a title. My feeble attempt:
“Does la petite guerre always result in la petite mort? Casualties in early modern skirmishes”
Feel free to leave a better title in the Comments.

Somebody finally wrote something about Renaissance Italy

A new book has been published on that age-old question of whether Italians were lovers or fighters.

Shaw, Christine. Barons and Castellans: The Military Nobility of Renaissance Italy. Leiden: Brill Academic Pub, 2014.
The military nobility – “signori di castelli”, lords of castles – formed an important component of the society of Renaissance Italy, although they have often been disregarded by historians, or treated as an anomaly. In Barons and Castellans: The Military Nobility of Renaissance Italy, Christine Shaw provides the first comparative study of “lords of castles”, great and small, throughout Italy, examining their military and political significance, and how their roles changed during the Italian Wars. Her main focus is on their military resources and how they deployed them in public and private wars, in pursuit of their own interests and in the service of others, and on how their military weight affected their political standing and influence.

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