Tag Archive | conferences

SMH 2017 Conference

For those attending the Society for Military History conference this year (not me) in Jacksonville, FL on March 30-April 2, you have the following panels to attend:

PANEL 2 B – BOARDROOM 2, 3RD FLOOR

RELIGION, REVOLT AND INDEPENDENCE: UNDERSTANDING WAR IN EARLY MODERN EUROPE

Chair and Commentator:  David J. B. Trim, Andrews University

Forging Alliances:  Reformed Rebels in the Wars of Religion
Dencie Fett, University of North Florida

The Enigma of Hugh O’Neill: Irish Military Strategy and Foreign Intervention in the Nine Years War
Edward Tenace, Lyon College

Intervening from a Position of Weakness: English Intervention Attempts on the Continent During the Personal Rule of Charles I
James A. Tucker, The Ohio State University

At the same time there are two panels on digital military history, if you like that kind of thing.

There’s also a poster in Session 3:

Soldiers and Society after the Seven Years’ War: The Impact of Eighteenth Century Demobilization
Jessica Dirkson, Georgia Southern University.

PANEL 4 A BOARDROOM 1, 3RD FLOOR

18TH AND 19TH CENTURY EUROPEAN WARS ON GLOBAL CONTEXT

Chair:  Gregory J. W. Urwin, Temple University

“Munition Us With Gunpowder, Rope-Matches, and Fuses”: Catholic Clergy and Armed Conflict during the French Wars of Religion
Gregory Bereiter, Naval History and Heritage Command

Flanders to Brazil:  Battlefield Perception in the Portuguese Early Modern Atlantic World
Miguel Cruz, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal

Napoleon’s Empire: A Global View?
John Morgan, Miles College

Commentator: Stanley D. M. Carpenter, U.S. Naval War College

PANEL 5 C – BOARDROOM 3, 3RD FLOOR

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN: HISTORICAL-STATISTICAL STUDIES OF CENTRAL EUROPEAN ARMIES, 1618-1789

Chair and Commentator: Peter H. Wilson, All Souls College, University of Oxford

Most Saxon Soldiers Are Saxon:  The Myth of the Rootless Mercenary and the Origins of Soldiers in Electoral Saxony, 1618-1651
Lucia Staiano-Daniels, University of California, Los Angeles

Social and National Composition of the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1740-1790
Tobias Roeder, Clare College, University of Cambridge

Old-Regime Armies? Modern Armies? The Case of Habsburg Austria, 1740-1792
Ilya Berkovich, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

One pre-revolutionary paper managed to sneak into another panel, but looking at the chair and commentator, it makes sense:

PANEL 7 F – CLEARWATER, 3RD FLOOR

THE SOLDIER AND THE CIVILIAN IN MILITARY HISTORY AND THEORY: 250 YEARS OF GLOBAL INFLUENCES ON MILITARY THINKING, 1740-1990

Chair:  Patrick Speelman, United States Merchant Marine Academy

Influencing Wellington’s Army:  The Impact of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Military Thought on the British Army
Huw J. Davies, King’s College London

A Case of Goats Mingling with Sheep?  The Wartime Relationship Between the Civilian Engineering Profession and the British Army 1914-1919
Aimée Fox-Godden, King’s College London

“Operation Military History Singapore”: Theodore Ropp’s Makers of Modern Strategy Revisted and the Parameters of Military History
Michael P. M. Finch, King’s College London

Commentator:  Mark Danley, United States Military Academy

And of course several early American panels (3C, 5A, 7A).

The full program is available here: http://ww2.fsu.edu/smh-conference/conference-program

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The Fours Walls of early modern European military historians

For those familiar with the early Reformation, you might recall one of Martin Luther’s classic criticisms of the Catholic Church, from his Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Respecting the Reformation of the Christian Estate (1520): “The Romanists have, with great adroitness, drawn three walls round themselves, with which they have hitherto protected themselves, so that no one could reform them, whereby all Christendom has fallen terribly.” I’ll spare you a description of the Catholic fortifications, and of the tactics Luther used to besiege this fortified opponent. But I won’t spare you my maladroit use of this metaphor to introduce my own version of the four walls that separate early modern European military historians from each other. There are, I would argue, four significant obstacles that tend to isolate EMEMHians, and which make it treacherous for us to overgeneralize beyond our particular area of focus. Like a trace italienne fortification, knowledge of EMEMH is protected by four defensive layers. Gaining access to the secrets within requires besieging and breaking past these formidable barriers.

The First Wall: A Focus on a Particular Country
Even today, early modern European military historians still tend to focus on a single country, mostly either France or England. Gaining knowledge of the field of EMEMH requires you first penetrate this veritable covered way. Mutual understanding between EMEMHians is hindered first and foremost by a language barrier, which requires charging up the glacis and breaking through the linguistic palisades. Having successfully prepared an assault on the covered way with an initial bombardment of foreign language classes and paleography lessons, an invader from another country then finds himself confronted with the defenders therein, hundreds of culturally-specific events, individuals, and structures, all armed with their own histories and patterns that require a concerted effort to wrestle into comprehension. Each new allusion and curious reference in your sources is yet another traverse that needs to be passed and secured on your way to understanding a country’s military history.

The Second Wall: A Focus on a Particular War
Capturing the widely-arcing covered way around a fortress only provides you a hazy overview of the fortifications still to penetrate. The chronological boundaries between one war and the next serve as yet another obstacle, a moat or ditch, if you will. Inconveniently for historians like myself, Louis XIV fought five majors wars, about 34 years worth, each with enough information for a scholarly career. Thus we find most specialists of the era from c. 1660-c. 1715 devoting their attention to one of these wars, or perhaps specializing in either the early, middle, or late reign. To cross this yawning chasm requires a facility with an overview of each war as a whole: its diplomatic and political origins, the grand strategic objectives of the belligerents, its overall narrative, and its resolution. Usually the ditch is wet, and filled with flotsam and jetsam from previous wars. Yet more obstacles to drain away and build your fascine bridge-of-understanding on top of.

The Third Wall: A Focus on a Particular Theater of Operations
The multiple theaters in which military operations were conducted are a third type of boundary the generalizing EMEMHian must overcome. At the time most theater boundaries were easily crossed, but for historians these different theaters are individual ravelins within the outworks, each one requiring its own conquest. A country (or its most successful commander) might concentrate their attention in one specific geographical outwork, a massive crownwork to be occupied. The ditches between such theatrical outworks are further policed by the structure of many archives, where Flanders documents are physically separated from those on Italy, and so on. Thus the larger wars, e.g. the 9YW and WSS, witnessed sustained operations in four major European theaters, sub-theaters within each. Each had a unique combinations of nationalities; their operational constraints (divergent topography, climate, demographies, and economic and transportation networks) operated as yet another réduit to overcome. No surprise that the operational arcs of different theaters were often, well, different.

The Fourth Wall: A Focus on a Particular Level of War
Most works on EMEMH are also isolated from a broader readership by their focus on a particular topic. When scholars have managed to overcome the first three barriers to greater early modern understanding (the chronological impediment more easily breached than the national), they are still confronted by numerous studies that focus on one particular aspect of the war. Thus we have works on battles, on infantry tactics and drill, on cavalry, on sieges, on artillery, on small war, on logistics, on financial administration, on army administration, on the political assimilation of frontier provinces, on military-civilian interactions, and so on. Most of the detailed research on these subjects has only appeared over the past decade or two, and rarely are all the topical components integrated into any one of them, and even less likely for more than one country.

Fortification cross-section (Ath)

These four walls resist historical attempts to truly understand a single war, much less the military history of a single country. These specializations – national, chronological, geographical and topical – are necessary, but so is our need to break them down. The shortcomings of most attempts to study war X from the perspective of country Y (which is, most often, actually a study of the single theater Z) can be illustrated by the average Confederate (i.e. Allied) army during the 9YW and WSS. In Flanders, this average army would comprise units from the United Provinces, Britain (England and Scotland), Spain, Germany, and Bavaria. In the WSS we can occasionally add Imperial and Austrian troops, while subtracting the Spanish and Bavarians. Some of these units, and their commanders, would shift from one theater to another, just as defenders might readjust their personnel from one outwork to another during a siege. To get the full picture of who these Allied troops were and what they did requires plowing through archives (and god-awful handwriting) in multiple countries, in English, French, Dutch, Spanish and German tongues. And we’d have to repeat the same siege operations in order to delve into the operations of another theater, and then again for another war.

Acknowledging these walls is not necessarily a criticism of the work many EMEMHians (including myself) have undertaken. It is, however, a warning about how far we should generalize from our particular particulars. Perhaps it’s even a call to action. Integrating together countries and themes and wars remains, I would suggest, the next challenge for early modern European military historians.

So if you wondered what our SMH panel on Anglo-Germanic relations was like (without the strained fortress metaphor), you just got a peek. And yes, I did complete my post-conference checklist.

What rhymes with Ottawa?

Preliminary program for the SMH 2016 conference in Ottawa is up here.

There aren’t that many EMEMH panels, but there’s at least one of note. There are also, as usual, several panels on 17C-18C America, a few on Native Americans and other indigenes, a sprinkling of Ancients, and a few on environment/topography. None on medieval or Napoleonic this year – I’ll assume the SMH often competes with the Woodstock party that is Kalamazoo.

So I’m thinking we should try to organize some informal EMEMH get-together sometime during the conference. Could be drinks, lunch or even dinner. Let us know in the comments if anyone is game, and we can try to figure something out.

SMH2016 Ottawa sneak-peak

While the official program for next April’s Society for Military History conference won’t be out until early next year, I can report that there will be at least one panel on Louis XIV’s last two wars (or is it William III’s last two wars?).

If I can quote from the brilliantly-crafted proposal overview:

Crossing the Channel: Anglo-Germanic Military Relations in the Age of William and Anne

England has always had a complicated relationship with the rest of Europe. Neither the ‘English’ Channel nor the wooden walls of the Royal Navy have prevented invasions from the sea, yet English self-identity has long prided itself on its separation from the Continent. Historians are well aware of the permeability of the Channel and North Sea: Julius Caesar, Norsemen and William the Conqueror, Lancaster and York are only a few of the early successful examples. Nevertheless, England’s peripheral location generally allowed Tudor and Stuart monarchs a freedom of action regarding continental entanglements. After William of Orange’s successful invasion of 1688 forced the island nation into a full-scale continental commitment, the immediate question arose of how England’s forces would contribute to the two ensuing conflicts against Louis XIV’s France (the Nine Years War, 1688-1697, and War of the Spanish Succession, 1701-1714). English troops, commanded first by King William III and then by the Duke of Marlborough, campaigned across Flanders and Iberia, while English diplomatic attentions ranged throughout Europe. Central to William’s vision of a pan-European anti-French alliance were the Germanic states of northern Europe: his own United Provinces of the Netherlands, the German princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and the crown lands of Austria. By 1714, the coalitions constructed by William had humbled the Sun King, and elevated Britain to the status of a great power. How England incorporated its own forces into this larger coalition effort is the focus of this panel.

The three papers provide complementary perspectives on the resulting military relations between England (Britain from 1707) and these continental allies, the compromises and tensions inherent in such coalition endeavors. Thomas M. Nora (University of Hull, Ph.D. candidate) focuses on the administrative and diplomatic groundwork necessary for the English to participate as full members of the Grand Alliances of 1689 and 1701 – their reliance on German auxiliaries. John M. Stapleton (West Point, Associate professor) examines the English reliance on Dutch operational logistics within a Flanders coalition army. Caleb Karges (University of St. Andrews, Ph.D.) explores the question of how the English sought to shape their Austrian ally’s grand strategy.

Together these contributions illustrate how the multi-national forces of two Grand Alliances crossed not just physical and state boundaries on campaign, but necessarily violated borders often considered sovereign and inviolate – crossing the frontiers of individual states’ fiscal, administrative and command structures. These papers explore the extent to which English exceptionalists were forced to become more “continental” when fighting within grand coalitions against a hegemonic France.

Me? I’ll just be along for the ride to chair and to commentate.

Post-conference checklist

I continue with my conceit that anyone will care about my checklists. I create them largely to facilitate my use of GTD (see GTD tag). Specifically, to speed up entry of tasks in my Pocket Informant task manager, as well as to make it easy for me to complete small, atomized tasks of a larger project, without having to stop and reconstruct all the subtasks each time. So without further ado, these are the tasks I should perform after each conference:

  • Save receipts for reimbursement (scan, file)
  • Revise Contacts (PI, Contacts)
    • Update Farley file on old contacts
    • Add new contacts with Farley file info
    • Set Google Alerts for new contacts/authors
      I’m not saying I’m a cyberstalker, but…
    • Email contacts with any follow-ups
  • Tell any non-attendees about interesting bits
  • Schedule any due dates for future publication of paper (PI, make Project)
  • Search for any mentioned publications/authors (Zotero, DTPO)
  • Enter specific Papers and Panels (DTPO)
    • Import conference program
      • Make conference tag
      • OCR program as needed
    • Enter comments/questions on my paper/panel (topic tags)
    • Enter my notes on other papers (topic tags)
  • Enter general thoughts on conference (DTPO, with conference tag)
    • Current trends among other researchers?
    • What kinds of questions/debates came up?
  • Identify potential “competitors” (DTPO, with conference tag)
    • Develop strategies to coordinate with other researchers & minimize potential overlap/scooping
  • Enter any Notes, Photos… from conference, museums, bookstores… (DTPO)
    • Take notes on museums & other sites visited (site tag)
    • Consider how to use in courses
  • Add any forgotten pre-conference prep tasks to checklist template

I think that’s a good start.

Colloque went (well)

The conference on Louis XIV’s last two wars (Le grand tournant) was held at the Service historique de la Défense (Vincennes) without a hitch – the Sun King refuses to be eclipsed by the dark clouds of a few Islamic terrorists. I’m sure Phil McCluskey could find some irony in there somewhere. The first day saw an almost full house, 50+ attendees, while the second day (a Friday, with fewer presentations) saw probably 30 in attendance. Quite a success, given that many Parisian academic conferences/meetings scheduled for that week were cancelled altogether, and given the fact that Paris was still technically in a state of emergency.

Like most European academic conferences that I’ve attended, there was little premeditated commentary. The chairs largely served to introduce each presenter, though occasionally they might make some brief commentary at the end. This means, of course, that the presenters have until the day of their presentation to write their talk – not sure if this is generally a good thing or a bad thing. All this differs from the American academic conference culture, where the papers are due weeks before the conference, so the commentator has time to draft a more considered response to each paper, and combine the papers together thematically.

The program follows, with my briefest of summaries of each paper:

Des pratiques guerrières en mutation, prés. Bertrand Fonck (SHD)

D’une guerre à l’autre, le double retard de l’infanterie française (1688-1715), par Boris Bouget (musée de l’Armée).

Discussed the technological and tactical limitations on French infantry weapons and tactics.

«Le bras droit des armées»: la cavalerie dans les dernières guerres de Louis XIV, par Frédéric Chauviré (CERHIO)

Good summary of the many roles cavalry played in the wars of the period.

Pour une histoire-campagne, prés. Hervé Drévillon (Université Paris 1)

Le duc de Vendôme en Italie (1702-1706), par Fadi El Hage (IHMC/Université Paris 1)

Argued that Vendôme was fortunate to get recalled from Italy before Eugene relieved Turin and exposed Vendôme’s poor planning for the theater.

A l’aube de la campagne: l’impact du quartier d’hiver dans le déroulement de la campagne de Flandre de 1712, par François Royal (SHD)

Interesting paper discussing the diplomatic, logistical and preparatory operations of the French army in Flanders during the winter 1711-1712.

Batailles, sièges et usages de la violence, prés. Olivier Chaline (Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Au cœur de la bataille: l’expérience des combats de la guerre de Succession d’Espagne, par Clément Oury (Centre ISSN International)

Described the psychological responses to battle by officers and soldiers.

Louis XIV aimait-il trop la bataille?, par Jamel Ostwald (Eastern Connecticut State University)

Thought-piece on Louis’ willingness to order relief battles despite his oft-stated “fear” of battle.

Le sort des vaincus pendant les guerres de Louis XIV: les limites de la culture de la reddition honorable, par Paul Vo-Ha (Université Paris 1)

All the ways in which Louis’ armies didn’t play nice: devastations, bombardments, expulsions…

Regards croisés, prés. Guy Rowlands (University of Saint-Andrews)

Louis XIV, ennemi de la Chrétienté. Le roi noirci par ses adversaires pendant la guerre de la Ligue d’Augsbourg, par Isaure Boitel (Université de Picardie – Jules Verne)

Analyzed several Allied (English, Dutch) anti-Louis illustrations.

Repenser la Boyne : regards croisés, France-Irlande, par Nathalie Genet-Rouffiac (Ministère de la Défense)

Présentation de documents d’archives et de la bibliothèque du SHD

Exhibition of variety of documents from the archive’s holdings, including numerous maps and contemporary engravings.

Les contraintes stratégiques et logistiques de la guerre, prés. Michèle Virol (Université de Rouen)

Les enjeux géostratégiques des différents théâtres d’opérations de la France sous Louis XIV, par Jean-Philippe Cénat

Good overview of the fundamental geostrategic considerations in each theater of war (Flanders, Germany, Italy, Spain).

The Failure of Bourbon Empire in Europe: the Logistics of French Defeat and Survival in the War of the Spanish Succession, par Guy Rowlands (University of Saint-Andrews)

Interesting analysis of the economic/logistical collapse of France by late war – elicited some good discussion of how desperate France really was by 1712.

Un temps de reconfigurations géopolitiques, prés. Jean-Philippe Cénat

L’histoire d’un déclin ou les limites de la puissance? La France face aux reconfigurations géopolitiques de l’Europe du Nord, au tournant des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, par Eric Schnakenbourg (Université de Nantes)

Summary of the politics and diplomacy of the Baltic during the period.

Le théâtre atlantique durant la seconde partie du règne louis-quatorzien: bilan naval et colonial, par Philippe Hrodej (Université de Bretagne Sud)

Thorough discussion of the blue water and raiding warfare at sea.

Discours et représentations de la guerre, prés. Charles-Edouard Levillain (Université Paris-Diderot)

La «désolation du Palatinat» (1688-1689): du scandale à l’évènement, par Emilie Dosquet (Paris 1)

Analyzed the contemporary media debate over the French devastation of the Palatinate. Prompted some good discussion on the laws of war and propaganda.

Peindre la guerre, 1688-1715, par Bertrand Fonck (SHD)

Survey of the main painters of Louis’ wars, and the role of patronage. Louis liked landscapes.

 

The conference ended with Hervé Drévillon introducing John Lynn as the scholar most responsible for reinvigorating the military history of Louis XIV’s reign with his Giant of the Grand Siècle (1997). Lynn then provided an égo-histoire (intellectual biography) of his career up to the drafting of his Wars of Louis XIV.

 

All in all, ‘twas an excellent conference. (And I even understood 90%-95% of what each speaker said!) Its main organizers – Hervé Drévillon and Bertrand Fonck – deserve congratulations. It’s made me decide to discuss French historians and historiography on this blog more. There’s a whole crop of new scholars (many under the tutelage of Drévillon) who are providing detailed, archivally-based analyses of Louis’ armies and wars. Their work deserves to be disseminated beyond la Francophonie. So stay tuned.*

 

* There’s a plan to publish the actes (i.e. proceedings from the conference) sometime in the next year or two. There are even rumors that video of the conference will be posted on YouTube. Depending on whether the videographers got my good side or not, I might even post the link.

Colloque is a go

For those who were curious, Le grand tournant colloque will be held as scheduled this Thursday and Friday. That’s good, because I arrived in Paris Monday morning, and I’d have to figure out something else to do if the colloque had been cancelled.

This is in contrast to the dozen or so French academic meetings that have been cancelled (according to H-France). I guess there’s an advantage to holding the colloque on a military base. There’ll be more security than initially planned, no doubt, and the venue generally doesn’t qualify as a soft target even when the French aren’t being vigilant against pirates:

And they thought the security at the Stade de France was tough

And they thought the security at the Stade de France was tough

So now I can add a second item to my terrorism tourism:

  1. Flying to France several weeks after 9/11.
  2. Visiting Paris a few days after 13/11 (I don’t think it’s been long enough for them to settle on a name for the attacks).

It’s all about probabilities.

Finally, an unrelated, half-formed, reaction from watching French coverage of the terrorist attacks. In my Western Civ classes I always play La Marseillaise (musical nationalism), and point out its revolutionary origins reflected in the violent language. Particularly the last part of the chorus: “Let impure blood water our furrows” (Qu’un sang impur, Abreuve nos sillons) – the impure blood belonging to the invading soldiers, of course. I’ve always wondered how modern French people view those lyrics – strikes me as pretty bloody.*

So now, after the attacks, various crowds have spontaneously broken out in singing La Marseillaise: fans exiting the Stade de France the night of the attacks, yesterday’s Congress meeting at Versailles… Which makes me wonder yet again how the lyrics are heard today. Personally I cringe a little – particularly given the nature of the attacks, and imaging how Daesh might riff on the lyrics – but maybe the lyrics are background noise for the French?

* I initially added that “at least the Star-Spangled Banner limits its violence to decontextualized bombs bursting in air.” But now that I’ve bothered to check the lyrics, it turns out there’s more than one verse! (Who knew?) And the third verse includes this line, of which I was equally unaware: “Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.” I believe the Mexican national anthem has a similar line about enemy blood watering their fields, so I guess a little blood is symbolically spilled when most anthems are sung. Maybe there’s some lesson in there about nationalism…