Photos from the Pacific War

I neglected to post this in time for Memorial Day but I think it will still be interesting.

The photos are here.

I know nothing about them beyond what’s written in the brief explanation that appears at the top of the gallery. However, most of the images are self-explanatory.

So, How Would You Teach a Course on World War I?

A friend teaches at a State University. He is going to be teaching a one credit course on World War I, which he has never taught before. He described his students as moderately smart but not very knowledgeable about history. He plans to use All Quiet On the Western Front as his main text and a bunch of articles and excerpts, plus lectures. I offered my thoughts about how I would teach such a course. Since our readers seem to like posts which recommend books, I thought this might be of interest.

A course on World War I taught to moderately intelligent undergraduates, using All Quiet on the Western Front, and some short articles or excerpts for the rest of the readings, could be done very nicely. Even a very limited intro to WWI will do any kid a lot of good. You cannot understand the modern world without understanding something about WWI.

A number of thoughts spring to mind, especially Lord Acton’s timeless dictum, “study problems, not periods”. So, World War I should be taught as a tangle of problems within a framework of known facts (names, dates, locations and events, which WILL be on the test). Assuming twelve classes, here is my seat of the pants take on what I would do. Further mulling would of course lead to revisions, but this is what occurs to me.

The comment you made about the war, which I agree with absolutely, would be the theme of the class: This is where it all went wrong.

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A far more important anniversary

April 9 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which required a special trip to Paddington railway station, it being the nearest surviving monument to the man’s genius.

As Richard Savill wrote in the Daily Telegraph a few days before that:

“The vision of Brunel – who by the time of his death in 1859, aged 53, had built 25 railway lines, more than 100 bridges and three ships – helped transform the West Country during the Victorian era.”

It also helped to transform Britain, as Richard Alleyne pointed out on the same day:

“Along with a handful of other industrialists he transformed the country from a traditional, rural, agrarian economy to a modern, urban, industrial one. By the time of his death, it was the industrial superpower of the world.”

A legacy to be proud of and a man, whose loss to Britain cost France dear. His father was an immigrant to Britain and himself a notable engineer. Isambard Kingdom was part educated in France but trained on his father’s projects. He was injured on one of them and spent his convalescence in Bristol, thus starting his very fruitful career in the West Country.

Still I can’t help wondering about a comment made by Andrew Kelly, the director of Brunel 200:

“Although Brunel was born 200 years ago, his influence remains with us in Britain today.

We hope that by showcasing his huge breadth of mind, and how he excelled as an engineer, ship designer, architect, surveyor and artist, we will encourage the Brunels of the future to adopt his ‘can do’ attitude and determination to achieve.”

I appreciate the need to encourage the Brunels of the future but what makes the man think that someone born 200 years ago is of little relevance. I seem to recall that in a recent BBC poll for the greatest Englishman, Brunel came second to Sir Winston Churchill.

Mr Kelly must realize, surely, that apologizing for the past is not the way to build the future. He could start by meditating on Edmund Burke’s sayings.

Cross-posted (mostly) from the Conservative History Journal

A Personal Request

I’ve never been much interested in military history nor in the Civil War. (My relatives fought, I believe, on both sides, but – and this is telling – I’m not even sure about that.)

Still I love mid-nineteenth century lit. So, here I am – trying to pick the quite excellent and well-stocked brains of my co-Chicagoboyz and our knowledgeable commenters.

Clearly I have some really big holes in my knowledge. My impression (and something I always make a point of when teaching Frederick Douglass) is the splits in so many of the major Protestant denominations came from beliefs about slavery. (I’m sure economics & politics entered, as well, but to ignore the polarizing issue of slavery is to ignore the voices in the literature we read.)

I’d thought the church in the south found reasons to defend slavery, while the core of the Abolitionist movement came out of the Northern Protestant churches. I’m curious: am I wrong or have I been miseducating students? What are some good treatments of the role of religion in both the Civil War itself and the movements that led up to it?

My students have taken to politely observing that slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War, that the motives were political. This isn’t what the voices of Thoreau or Douglass would say, of course. I’ll accept there’s some truth to what they say, but my suspicion is that there isn’t as much as they would like to think. For instance, they are quite willing to see the Southern churches as hypocritical, but less willing to believe the Northern church’s role in the Abolitionist movement. Cynicism sounds more truthful when we are 18 or 20 than it does when we’ve seen a bit more of the world.

People’s motives are always a mixed bag, but it is best not to simplify them too much. When they approvingly quote their anthro teacher who argues that all of history is one group having something and another group wanting it and so wrenching it from them, I figure they are ignoring much that has compelled man to act. We are covetous, but we’re also complicated.