War narrative

An edited collection from a few years back that I missed until now:

Mondini, Marco, and Massimo Rospocher, eds. Narrating War. Early Modern and Contemporary Perspectives. Bologna-Berlin: Il Mulino-Duncker & Humblot, 2013.

Abstract:

One of the most significant aspects of recent historiography on war has been the attention paid to the cultural images of conflict: the visual representation and its memory, language and rhetoric. This approach has brought new attention to ways of representing war and the languages used to recount it. This collection of the essays contributes to this historiographical debate focusing on two paradigmatic periods. The First World War is usually seen as marking a new era; the unusual nature of the violence of this conflict and the mechanization of death, signalling the end of war as a place for generating men’s honour. But so too other moments in the history of Western culture have seen the paradigm of war changing in the accounts and narratives of contemporaries. Among these, the crucial period of the Italian Wars of the sixteenth century, when the image of war transformed from a theatre of conflict between noble-chivalric heroes to the encounters of anonymous armies. Leading North American and European scholars turn here their attention on discourses and narratives without neglecting the reality of war and its dramatic effects on civilian population in order to understand when and in what form the Western narrative of war as generative of individual and collective valour declined.

We historians sure do like to generalize. Something big and amorphous always seems to be rising or declining…

Early modern chapters include:

  • Martines, Lauro. “Notes on War and Social History.” In Narrating War. Early Modern and Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Marco Mondini and Massimo Rospocher, 31–44. Bologna-Berlin: Il Mulino-Duncker & Humblot, 2013.
    As much a criticism of the meager fruits of war & society studies as a dismissal of traditional military history. A bit outdated already (especially since his “early modern” period ends in the late 17C), but worth perusing.
  • Fournel, Jean-Louis. “Narrating the Italian Wars (1494-1540). Contamination, Models, and Knowledge.” In Narrating War. Early Modern and Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Marco Mondini and Massimo Rospocher, 45–62. Bologna-Berlin: Il Mulino-Duncker & Humblot, 2013.
  • Shaw, Christine. “Wartime Propaganda during Charles VIII’s Expedition to Italy, 1494/95.” In Narrating War. Early Modern and Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Marco Mondini and Massimo Rospocher, 63–79. Bologna-Berlin: Il Mulino-Duncker & Humblot, 2013.
  • Rospocher, Massimo. “Songs of War. Historical and Literary Narratives of the «Horrendous Italian Wars» (1494-1559).” In Narrating War. Early Modern and Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Marco Mondini and Massimo Rospocher, 79–98. Bologna-Berlin: Il Mulino-Duncker & Humblot, 2013.
  • Lavenia, Vincenzo. “In God’s Fields. Military Chaplains and Soldiers in Flanders during the Eighty Years’ War.” In Narrating War. Early Modern and Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Marco Mondini and Massimo Rospocher, 99–112. Bologna-Berlin: Il Mulino-Duncker & Humblot, 2013.
  • Stermole, Krystina. “Chivalric Combat in a Modern Landscape. Depicting Battle in Venetian Prints during the War of the League of Cambrai (1509-1516).” In Narrating War. Early Modern and Contemporary Perspectives, edited by Marco Mondini and Massimo Rospocher, 113–32. Bologna-Berlin: Il Mulino-Duncker & Humblot, 2013.

Personally I find it a bit odd, though, to couch the book in terms of a fundamental change in the Western narrative of war, yet the book only focuses on the 16th and 20th centuries. I truly appreciate the case studies, but we historians appear preternaturally averse to the idea of representative sampling whenever we start talking about big ideas. Not only our tendency to present a single country as the paradigm for an age, but chronologically as well, when we draw a straight line between points A and F, forgetting about B, C, D, and E in between. Or as a mathematician might say, linear trends are the only option if you only plot two points.

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