Military History

Remembering (and Forgetting) Collective History

David Rieff— Lawrence Binyon’s poem “For the Fallen” was first published in the London Times on September 21, 1914, six weeks after the Great War had begun. It is sometimes suggested that Binyon, who was a distinguished art historian as well as a poet (he was the British Museum’s Keeper

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The CIA’s Drone Policy Under Trump

Christopher J. Fuller— President Trump’s agenda has borrowed heavily from Reagan. Tax cuts, a military buildup, and even the slogan “Make America Great Again” were all signatures of the 1980 presidential campaign, noisily repackaged for a new age. Within a day of assuming office, Trump revealed a further resonance with

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Looking Back at the First World War

Today marks the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I. To commemorate the day, we sat down with Bruno Cabanes, author of August 1914: France, the Great War, and a Month that Changed the World Forever, to discuss what he discovered about the war through his research and

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Allies in Africa: Strategy and Victory in World War II

Andrew Stewart— When the first shots were fired in the summer of 1940 along Sudanese and Kenyan borders, there was a great deal of interest across the British Empire in the war’s expansion into a hitherto largely ignored region. With France close to collapse, the “Italian Jackal” Benito Mussolini had

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The Spanish Monarchy in the Mediterranean Theater

Christopher Storrs— Between the peace of Utrecht that marked the end of the War of Spanish Succession in 1713 and the close of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748, King Philip V (1700-46), the first Spanish Bourbon, represented a greater threat to peace in Europe than any other state or

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The Invention of the Modern Soldier

Libby Murphy— During the Great War, French soldiers struggled to make sense of their experience, both for themselves and for their compatriots. Soldier-writers used fiction to recalibrate civilians’ expectations about the war and to teach them to see through the “skull-stuffing” of the mainstream media—exaggeration, euphemisms, and outright lies. Many of

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Frederick Barbarossa’s Bittersweet Ending

John Freed— On 22 June 1941, Germany launched Operation Barbarossa. Hitler’s personal decision to name the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union after Frederick Barbarossa (b. 1122, r. 1152-90) was the culmination of the nineteenth-century appropriation of the medieval emperor as the symbol of German national unity. Frederick’s uncle and

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Happy Birthday, Louis Barthas!

Louis Barthas; Translated by Edward M. Strauss— Poilu author Louis Barthas was born on Bastille Day, July 14, 1879. In honor of his 137th birthday, here are two letters that Barthas wrote in 1916 to Pierre Brizon, a Socialist member of the French legislature. One asks for the deputy’s help

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The Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Modern Middle East

Neil Faulkner— A hundred years on from Sykes-Picot, the Middle East is in turmoil. These two things are intimately related. Mark Sykes was a British diplomat, François Georges-Picot his French opposite number. They gave their names to a secret agreement to carve up the decaying Ottoman Empire between Britain, France,

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A Volcano in Constant Eruption: Surviving the Hell of Verdun

One hundred years ago, in May 1916, the costliest, bloodiest battle of World War I’s Western Front – Verdun – had raged for three months without slackening. French and German troops marched resignedly into what they cursed as “The Furnace.”  300,000 lives would be lost in the 300-day ordeal. One

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