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New Books in Military History

Updated 22 days ago

Society & Culture
History
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Interviews with Scholars of Military History about their New Books

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Interviews with Scholars of Military History about their New Books

iTunes Ratings

62 Ratings
Average Ratings
34
10
11
3
4

Interesting and well done reviews

By Laird NYC - Jun 29 2019
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Terrific authors and great topics. Thanks a lot for bringing them to us.

Very intelligent conversation

By Danny_Trappedinsidethebeltway - Jan 14 2013
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Thanks, will be listening.

iTunes Ratings

62 Ratings
Average Ratings
34
10
11
3
4

Interesting and well done reviews

By Laird NYC - Jun 29 2019
Read more
Terrific authors and great topics. Thanks a lot for bringing them to us.

Very intelligent conversation

By Danny_Trappedinsidethebeltway - Jan 14 2013
Read more
Thanks, will be listening.
Cover image of New Books in Military History

New Books in Military History

Latest release on Nov 18, 2020

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Interviews with Scholars of Military History about their New Books

Rank #1: David Stahel, “Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East” (Cambridge UP, 2009)

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This week’s podcast is an interview with David Stahel. I will be talking to him about his 2009 work, Operation Barbarossa and Germany’s Defeat in the East (Cambridge University Press, 2009). One of our previous guests, Matthias Strohn, recommended the book, and I am glad he did. Stahel’s book is an important contribution to our understanding of German planning for and execution of Operation Barbarossa. Stahel highlights the many flaws and paradoxes intrinsic to German thinking about war in the East, not least of which was the deception perpetrated by Halder, who masked the centrality of the drive on Moscow to his own plans in order to avoid confrontation with Hitler. By late August 1941, Stahel argues, the German failure decisively to defeat the Soviet regime (even while winning significant victories at places like Minsk and Smolensk) spelled doom for the Wehrmacht.


Nor is Stahel resting on his laurels. By the time I conducted the interview, his second work had just hit the shelves. In Kiev 1941: Hitler’s Battle for Supremacy in the East (Cambridge University Press, 2011), Stahel analyzes in detail the critical battle on the southern front. After talking with Stahel late last year, that one is on my reading list as well. And Typhoon is on its way after that.

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Feb 13 2012

1hr 3mins

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Rank #2: Nicholas Stargardt, “The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945” (Basic Books, 2015)

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In all of the thousands upon thousands of books written about Nazi Germany, it’s easy to lose track of some basic questions. What did Germans think they were fighting for? Why did they support the war? How did they (whether the they were soldiers fighting in France or Russia, women working to support the war effort, or mothers or fathers worrying about their children) experience the war?

Nicholas Stargardt‘s new book The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945 (Basic Books, 2015) sets out to answer these questions. The book is a delight. Stargardt approaches his subject with a depth of feeling and of insight that all historians aspire to. His analysis is careful, measured and nuanced, shedding new light on a variety of important questions. But the book’s strength lies in the way it immerses itself into the lives of ordinary Germans. Stargardt’s retelling of their stories is compassionate and empathetic. It is the nature of the lives of his subjects that many of his stories end suddenly rather than happily. Wisely, he allows us to mourn with his subjects, yet reminds us to remember the crimes many committed. It’s a terribly difficult balance to strike, and it’s to his credit that he does so consistently.

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Nov 18 2015

1hr 10mins

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Rank #3: Stanley D. M. Carpenter, "Southern Gambit: Cornwallis and the British March to Yorktown" (U Oklahoma Press, 2019)

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Charles Lord Cornwallis’s campaign through the southern American colonies came to an ignominious close on October 19, 1781, on an open field outside Yorktown, Virginia. At approximately noon, Cornwallis’s beleaguered soldiers, exhausted and low on provisions, emerged from behind their fortifications, laid down their arms, and delivered the earl’s sword to Continental General Benjamin Lincoln, a man whom Cornwallis had helped vanquish a little over a year before at the siege of Charleston. This dramatic reversal of fortune closed the door on a once aggressive British stratagem designed to end the American rebellion by dismembering its southern limbs one by one. Initial victories at Augusta, Savannah, Charleston, and Camden appeared to augur well for Cornwallis’s campaign.

But what began with great promise in 1779 and 1780 soon ended in resounding defeat. After fighting Continental General Nathaniel Greene, Patriot partisans, and the Carolina backcountry throughout 1781, Cornwallis’s army was a spent force. Besieged at Yorktown, with no hope for relief, the earl was left with little choice but to surrender. Ever since, generals, historians, and popular culture have pilloried Cornwallis for his ostensibly inept handling of the southern campaign, and have laid responsibly for “losing” America firmly at his feet. But was the early truly to blame? Was Britain’s decision to move the seat of war to the southern colonies a sound strategy poorly executed, or simply a bad strategy? These questions form the analytical framework for Stanley D. M. Carpenter’s masterful strategic study, Southern Gambit: Cornwallis and the British March to Yorktown (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019).

Numerous scholars, including Jeremy Black, Don Higginbotham, and most recently Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy, have examined Cornwallis’s southern campaign from the British perspective. These scholars have pushed back against the traditional historiographic charge of gross incompetence on the part of senior British commanders, and have highlighted the myriad logistical, political, spatial, and temporal impediments the British faced in their pursuit of victory. "Southern Gambit" follows and expands upon this tradition, providing the first monograph-length work to analyze the campaign exclusively through a strategic lens. Carpenter, a former Command Historian and Professor of Naval Strategy and Policy at the US Naval War College, offers a new perspective on Cornwallis’s march through the South, as well as fresh insight into why the earl, despite his formidable tactical acumen, proved unable to defeat the master strategist Nathaniel Greene. Moreover, in "Southern Gambit," Carpenter has produced a work possessing undeniable relevance to current US strategic planners. It is a requisite read for both scholars of the American Revolution and today's military professionals.

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May 22 2020

58mins

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Rank #4: Mark Mazower, “Hitler’s Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe” (Penguin, 2008)

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It’s curious how historical images become stereotyped over time. One hears the word “Nazi,” and immediately the Holocaust springs to mind. This reflexive association is probably a good thing, as it reminds us of the dangers of ethnic hatred in an era that knows it too well.  But in another way the Nazi = Holocaust equation obscures part of the story of Hitler’s insanity and that of all genocidal madness. For as Mark Mazower points out in his excellent new book Hitler’s Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe (Penguin, 2008), Hitler’s homicidal aims went well beyond the Holocaust. Of course the Jews would have to go. But that was hardly to be the end of it. The Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, and other residents of the East would have to go too. They were all to be eliminated and replaced by “Aryan” settlers. That was the goal, anyway. That it went unrealized was not due to any lack of effort or nerve. As Mazower shows, the Nazi occupiers uprooted, enslaved, and murdered millions, often with the slightest moral qualms. They failed because they lost the war. We should have no doubt that had they won it–or even defeated the Soviets and brought the West to a stalemate–the Germans would have tried to obliterate the Slavic populations of Eastern Europe. (Whether they might have succeeded in this effort is a hypothetical better not contemplated.) The Jewish Holocaust, then, was but the first in a planned series of mass slaughters aimed at creating a pan-European Nazi Empire. Thank God–and the Allied armies–that it proved to be the last.


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Oct 02 2008

46mins

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Rank #5: Robert Citino, “Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942” (UP of Kansas, 2007)

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Robert Citino is one of a handful of scholars working in German military history whose books I would describe as reliably rewarding. Even when one quibbles with some of the details of his argument, one is sure to profit from reading his work. When a Citino book appears in print, it automatically goes in my “to read” pile. Death of the Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942 (UP of Kansas, 2007), which recently appeared in a paperback edition for the first time, was one of the first books I wanted to review for New Books in Military History. The book is operational history at its best. It is written with both clarity and drama, as good operational history should be; it adds to our understanding of the German war in the East through its careful synthesis of the best research in German and English on the subject in the last ten or fifteen years; it mines Wehrmacht military journals for insights into “the German Way of War” (a topic discussed in an early Citino book of that title – see the interview for more). Even avid readers on the subject will learn much that they did not know about Manstein in Crimea, Rommel in North Africa, Hoth approaching Stalingrad, and many of the other campaigns of 1942.

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Apr 22 2011

1hr 4mins

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Rank #6: Norman Ohler, “Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017)

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Norman Ohler’s Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017) explores the drug culture of Nazi Germany. Far from being a nation of physical and mental purity portrayed by Goebbels’s propaganda machine, Ohler shows Germany was a hub of drug production and abuse during the 1920s. Manufacturers like Merck and Bayer openly marketed their wares to the public, building the basis of so-called big pharma on intoxicants. Produced by Temmler, the Nazi elite embraced methamphetamine as a wonder drug, free of the connotations of disease and degeneracy associated with the drug culture of the Weimar years. Stimulants became a valuable tool in Germany’s wartime arsenal. The German military acknowledged the value of amphetamines and distributed Pervitin en masse. Ohler argues amphetamines powered the Wehrmacht’s armored Blitzkrieg of 1939-1941, defeating the Allies in France and elsewhere. These gains were short-lived, however. Nazi Germany’s Faustian bargain with drugs evaporated during the Battle of Stalingrad and in the distant steppes of the Soviet Union. Ever more powerful drug combinations were desperately sought by the Nazi state to save the Reich from annihilation, exposing horrors of the regime from experiments on concentration camp prisoners and drugged child soldiers.


Blitzed details how Hitler’s personal physician, Dr. Theo Morell, administered vitamin concoctions and hormone injections common to athletic doping to pump up Hitler’s ailing body during the war years. Though Hitler had promised to cleanse the nation of drug abuse, he himself became utterly dependent on drugs to survive. Military defeat and destruction took their toll on Nazism embodied, Morell increasingly looked towards methamphetamine and oxycodone (Eukodal) to keep Hitler wake and alert during the last apocalyptic years of the Reich. In so doing, Morell himself built an impressive medical empire based on quack medicines and bought political access. Ohler shows how in the final months of the conflict, Morell’s supplies of drugs ran out, exposing Hitler’s frail body to his inner circle with health crises, symptoms of chemical withdraw, and fits of madness.


James Esposito is a historian and researcher interested in digital history, empire, and the history of technology. James can be reached via email at espositojamesj@gmail.com and on Twitter @james_esposito_

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Mar 08 2017

52mins

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Rank #7: Robert Gerwarth, “Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich” (Yale UP, 2012)

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Few history books sell better than biographies of Nazi leaders. They attract anyone even tangentially interested in World War Two or Nazi Germany.  It’s not surprising, then, that there are dozens of biographies of Himmler, Goering, and Hitler himself.


Oddly, though, Reinhard Heydrich is relatively understudied.  Robert Gerwarth’s wonderful new biography of Heydrich, titled Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich (Yale UP, 2012), fills this gap admirably.  Gerwarth’s book is part of a new wave of serious biographies that have appeared in the last years.  All are characterized by a thoughtful engagement with recent research on the Holocaust.  All devote considerable attention to their subjects’ lives in the period before the Nazi takeover.  All emphasize the choices made by their subjects and the way these choices were not predetermined.  Hitler’s Hangman is an outstanding example of this new scholarship.


Gerwarth’s work, in particular, is distinguished by its particularly effective writing.  He synthesizes a great deal of information gracefully, a demanding task in a biography this concise.  At the same time, he preserves space for anecdotes and details that illuminate his topic and add color to his narrative.


Hitler’s Hangman has been widely praised by reviewers across the spectrum.  It is praise that is richly deserved.

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Jul 24 2013

1hr 4mins

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Rank #8: Mark Mazzetti, “The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth” (Penguin, 2013)

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There are many movies about evil CIA agents assassinating supposed enemies of the US. Those who saw the latest Captain America movie will have witnessed the plan by Hydra (a fascist faction within a secret agency presumably within the CIA) build floating gunships that can identify and eliminate those who pose a threat to national security. We are not there yet, but Mark Mazzetti‘s book The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth (Penguin, 2013)  should give us some anxiety about the current technology used for “extra-judicial killings”. Mazzetti gives us the history of the drone wars – a term hated by the Air Force who note that the drones are piloted aircraft  albeit from a remote location – and their ability to be used for the elimination of… well, enemies of the US and its allies. Having said that, this is not a diatribe of opposition but a balanced and careful examination of history and political process. At the core of the book is a discussion of how the CIA and the US military are running parallel drone operations with different criteria and standards of care and success. Mazzetti’s book presents us with, what I found to be, a frightening insight into operations that are so common that they rarely rate a mention in the media. I highly recommend the book and suggest that anyone running a course on military ethics include it in their reading list. There is more than enough ethical controversy raised in the book to fill a semester of discussion.

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Aug 08 2014

34mins

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Rank #9: Heather Cox Richardson, “Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre” (Basic Books, 2010)

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Of all the events in American history, two are far and away the most troubling: slavery and the near-genocidal war against native Americans. In truth, we’ve dealt much better with the former than the latter. The slaves were emancipated. After a long and painful struggle, their descendants won their full civil rights. Though that struggle is not yet finished, near equality has been reached in many areas of American life. And almost all Americans understand that slavery was wrong. None of this can be said about the campaign against native Americans. Instead of emancipation, the Indians–or rather those left after the slaughter–were “removed” to reservations where their way of life was destroyed. After a long and painful struggle, many of their descendants are still in those reservations and living in poverty. They struggle still, but are not equal to other Americans by most measures. And many Americans refuse to believe that the U.S. was wrong in killing, sequestering, and impoverishing the native Americans.


They are wrong to do so, for we know what happened and why thanks to historians such as Heather Cox Richardson. In her eye-opening new book Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre (Basic Books, 2010) she shows just how calculated, self-serving, and even spiteful the White assault on the Plains Indians was. Despite what they said (mostly to the Indians themselves), the Whites never had any real intention of allowing the Sioux and others to keep their land, maintain their way of life, or even to continue to exist. It was clear to them that the Indians would either become White (meaning would take up farming) or would go. The Whites weren’t exactly cynics; rather they were self-deceiving fatalists. They came to believe that destiny itself compelled them to assimilate or annihilate the Indians.


But destiny didn’t destroy the Plains Indians. The government of the United States of America did.


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Jun 03 2010

1hr 12mins

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Rank #10: John Prados, “Storm Over Leyte: The Philippine Invasion and the Destruction of the Japanese Navy” (NAL, 2016)

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Narratives of the Pacific War frequently examine the 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf from the operational perspective, focusing on the desperate actions of the US Seventh Fleets escort carriers, Task Unit 77.4.3 (“Taffy 3”) against the much larger Japanese Center Force, commanded by Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita. The ensuing drama, including the famous call for help and rebuke of US Third Fleet commander, Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., has become legend. In his latest book, Storm Over Leyte: The Philippine Invasion and the Destruction of the Japanese Navy (NAL, 2016), seasoned historian John Prados places Leyte Gulf as the denouement of a larger campaign for control of the Central Pacific Ocean, one which was the swan song of Japanese naval power. Incorporating the naval intelligence of both sides, he restores agency to the Imperial Japanese Navy as the unwitting architect of its own destruction. Drawing upon a wide range of sources, including many hitherto unseen Japanese primary documents, memoirs, and interviews, Prados unveils one of the most comprehensive comparative treatments of this controversial campaign.

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Oct 13 2016

54mins

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Rank #11: Christopher DeRosa, “Political Indoctrination in the U.S. Army from World War II to the Vietnam War” (University of Nebraska Press, 2006)

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One of the greatest challenges American military leaders have faced since the American Revolution has been to motivate citizens to forego their own sense of private identity in favor of the collective identity needed to wage war effectively. This problem became more acute in the twentieth century, when mass conscript armies were raised from a disparate American landscape of ethnic enclaves and highly localized regional communities. These challenges, and the US Army’s response from the start of the Second World War through the Cold War until the end of the Vietnam War, are the subject of Christopher DeRosa‘s book Political Indoctrination in the U.S. Army from World War II to the Vietnam War (University of Nebraska Press, 2006). DeRosa investigates the cultures and mechanisms of creating political cohesion in the draftee army during the heyday of American conscription. Insofar as it focuses on the intellectual and cultural legacy of a military institution, DeRosa’s work is clearly identifiable as a contribution to the so-called “New Military History.” But the book also represents just the sort of synthesis of military and social history that is at the core of the “War and Society” approach, in that it places military institutions squarely within the context of the societies they serve.

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Jun 20 2011

1hr 8mins

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Rank #12: Giles MacDonogh, “After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation” (Basic Books, 2007)

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Many years ago I had the opportunity to spend a summer in Germany, more specifically in a tiny town on the Rhine near Koblenz. The family I stayed with looked for all the world like typical Rhinelanders. They even had their own small Weingut where they made a nice Riesling. But they were not originally from the Rhinegau at all. They were from East Prussia, a place where there are no longer any Germans and a place that no longer really exists. They commemorated their erstwhile Heimat by keeping a large, old map of East Prussia on their living room wall. If you’re curious as to how my host family made the trek from Baltic to the Rhine, you’ll want to read Giles MacDonogh’s hair-raising book After the Reich. The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation (Basic Books, 2007). The atrocities committed by the Nazis are of course very well known to nearly everyone. But the outrages committed by the Allies in retribution for said crimes are less familiar. Giles sets the record straight by chronicling what can only be seen as an Allied campaign of vengeance. They pillaged and raised much of Germany and they raped, massacred, starved, and deported millions of Germans. The Russians were the greatest offenders, but the Americans, British, and French were hardly guiltless. It’s hard to know what to think about what they did. The Nazis were monsters, and many ordinary Germans were complicit in their crimes. They deserved punishment. But was justice served?


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Jun 20 2009

1hr 7mins

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Rank #13: Christian Goeschel, "Mussolini and Hitler: The Forging of the Fascist Alliance" (Yale UP, 2018)

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In his new book, Mussolini and Hitler: The Forging of the Fascist Alliance (Yale University Press, 2018), Christian Goeschel, Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Manchester, examines the relationship between Hitler and Mussolini and how their relationship developed and affected both countries. In this highly readable book, Goeschel, revisits all of Mussolini and Hitler’s key meetings and asks how these meetings constructed a powerful image of a strong Fascist-Nazi relationship that still resonates with the general public. The first comprehensive study of the Mussolini-Hitler relationship, this book is a must-read for scholars and anyone interested in the history of European fascism, World War II, or political leadership.

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Apr 02 2019

1hr 5mins

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Rank #14: Rodric Braithwaite, “Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-89” (Oxford UP, 2011)

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I was still in high school the year the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, 1979. I remember reading about it in Time magazine and watching President Carter denounce it on TV. The Soviets, everyone said, were bent on ruling the world. Detente had been a ploy to lull us to sleep. In Afghanistan, the Communists had renewed their campaign. We had to do something. So we didn’t go to “their” Olympics. Oddly, that brave gesture failed to bring them around to our way of thinking.


There are two really wonderful things about Sir Rodric Braithwaite‘s new book Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-89 (Oxford UP, 2011). First, Sir Rodric shows in excruciating detail just how wrong we got it. The tiny cabal of Soviet leaders who sent the Red Army into Afghanistan weren’t imperialists pursuing some grand strategy to conquer the globe. They were scared, sometimes confused old men in a situation that was made impossible by conflicting, contradictory aims. They wanted to protect the USSR’s southern boarder; they wanted to keep the US out of the region; they wanted to stop the local Communist Party from turning Afghanistan into another Cambodia; they wanted to protect their personal friends and allies, people they knew, trusted, and liked; and, almost more than anything else, they wanted to give the Afghanis peace, stability, and prosperity so they just wouldn’t have to think about Afghanistan ever again. That’s right, the men in the Kremlin were not evil; they wanted to do good, if only for their own sake.


The trouble was–and this brings us to the second wonderful aspect of Sir Rodric’s book–they couldn’t accomplish all these things. They knew this: the horrible example of America’s effort to “help” Vietnam was right before their eyes. But they were frightened, prone to catastrophic thinking, and didn’t want to appear weak. So they had to do something. They couldn’t very well refuse to go to their own Olympics. So, by steps, they invested Afghanistan. First there were advisors. Then there were troops to protect the advisors. Then there was political unrest, calls for help, and the dispatch of larger army units to “restore order.” Order was not restored, so the generals (though not all of them) reasonably asked for more troops. And so it went until the Soviets conquered Afghanistan but did not hold it; ruled it but did not govern it; won every battle in it but lost the war against it.


If this sounds familiar to Americans, it should.

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Aug 26 2011

1hr 6mins

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Rank #15: Daniel Stahl, "Hunt for Nazis: South America's Dictatorships and the Prosecution of Nazi Crimes" (Amsterdam UP, 2018)

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How did the search for Nazi fugitives become a vehicle to oppose South American dictatorships? Daniel Stahl’s award-winning new book traces the story of three continents over the course of half a century in Hunt for Nazis: South America's Dictatorships and the Prosecution of Nazi Crimes (Amsterdam University Press, 2018). Through a rich transnational history, Daniel traces the ebb and flow of political will alongside the cooperation between far flung governments and civil society groups. The result is unique insight into how post-war justice became a battleground for the legitimacy of authoritarian regimes.

Daniel Stahl is a research associate at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. Hunt for Nazis was distinguished with the Opus Primum award from the Volkswagen Foundation. Stahl has also worked on the Independent Historian’s Commission on the History of the German Foreign Office and is currently researching a history of arms trade regulation in the 20th century.

Ryan Stackhouse is a historian of Europe specializing in modern Germany and political policing under dictatorship. His research exploring Gestapo enforcement practices toward different social groups is nearing completion under the working title A Discriminating Terror. He also cohosts the Third Reich History Podcast and can be reached at john.ryan.stackhouse@gmail.com or @Staxomatix.

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Dec 26 2018

54mins

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Rank #16: Ben Shepherd, “Terror in the Balkans: German Armies and Partisan Warfare” (Harvard UP, 2012)

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With Terror in the Balkans: German Armies and Partisan Warfare (Harvard University Press, 2012), Ben Shepherd, a Reader at Glasgow Caledonian University, offers us insight into the complex and harrowing history of the German Army’s occupation of the former Yugoslavia from 1941-1943. By analyzing the command structures at the divisional and regimental level, Shepherd helps to explain how and why the violence ebbed and flowed in the various occupied regions. But he also looks further down, to see how the behavior of specific units was shaped by the vagaries of terrain, supply, the character of the opposition, and even certain commanders’ backgrounds and experiences. Always cautious not to make claims beyond the limits of his evidence, Shepherd nevertheless draws important conclusions about how history, personality, and National Socialist ideology shaped the behavior of the German Army in the Second World War. For that and for illuminating in clear and concise prose the foggy and chaotic political and military environment in the Balkans during those years, Shepherd should be congratulated.

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Sep 26 2012

47mins

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Rank #17: Alex J. Kay, "The Making of an SS Killer: the Life of Colonel Alfred Filbert, 1905-1990" (Cambridge UP, 2016)

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Alex Kay’s The Making of an SS Killer: the Life of Colonel Alfred Filbert, 1905-1990 (Cambridge University Press, 2016) is a must read for those interested in the Third Reich, the Holocaust, and World War II.  Focusing on the actions and consequences of a “front-line Holocaust perpetrator”, Kay’s biographies diverges drastically with the traditional bios of other more well-known Nazis.  Kay argues that Filbert chose to become an exceptional Nazi Party member and his career as well as his life hinged upon what seems to be an unquestionable dedication to the cause.  This book is not only well-researched, but intellectually tantalizing and addictive.  Kay’s narrative hooks you from his introduction and by the time the reader has finished, it is hard to believe that this is based on the facts of Filbert’s life and career.  Instead, it seems almost Hollywood-like in its tensions and its twist of an ending.

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Sep 16 2019

47mins

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Rank #18: Bernard Kelly, “Returning Home: Irish Ex-Servicemen and the Second World War” (Merrion, 2012)

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The Republic of Ireland (aka The Irish Free State, Eire) declared neutrality during the Second World War. That wasn’t particularly unusual: Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland did too. Yet around 60,000 “neutral” Irish volunteered to fight on one side (with the Allies, in this case). That was unusual. After the war, most of the Irish volunteers remained in the UK. But 12,000 of them came back to Ireland. In Returning Home: Irish Ex-Servicemen and the Second World War (Merrion, 2012), Bernard Kelly tells their story. Like most things in Irish history, it’s complicated. On the one hand, the volunteers had served in the armed forces of Ireland’s archenemy (at least according to Republicans). On the other hand, they had fought the Nazis and thereby protected the Free World. Bernard explains how the Irish veterans were received and, interestingly, how they are still being discussed in Ireland today.

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Feb 21 2013

57mins

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Rank #19: Joe Maiolo, “Cry Havoc: How the Arms Race Drove the World to War, 1931-1941” (Basic Books, 2010)

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In Cry Havoc: How the Arms Race Drove the World to War, 1931-1941 (Basic Books, 2010), Joe Maiolo proposes (I want to write “demonstrates,” but please read the book and judge for yourself) two remarkably insightful theses.


The military industrial complex was born three decades before Eisenhower put a name on it.


The first is that the primary result of the disaster that was World War I was not the even great catastrophe that was World War II, but rather a new kind of state and one that is still with us. Maiolo’s argument goes something like this. World War I caught the Great Powers flatfooted. They did not believe they were going to fight a protracted war; they thought things would be done quickly and with the men and materiel on hand. Instead, things bogged down and a massive war of attrition–something they had no experience with–ensued. In order to fight this war successfully (meaning to stay in it for the long term), the Great Powers had to fundamentally restructure their economies, something no state had ever had to do, at least in modern time. In a word, the government took over production and distribution in order to optimize the flow of arms and supplies. Many statesmen found this move objectionable, but all believed it necessary. Once the war was over, they remained convinced that the only way to deter their enemies and, in the case they couldn’t, fend them off, was to retain control of large segments of the economy and plan to take control of even larger segments. The ability to make war on a World-War-I scale and for a World-War-I duration had to be built into the “plan.” Thus the leaders of all the Great Powers effectively militarized their economies in anticipation of the next great conflict. The military industrial complex was born three decades before Eisenhower put a name on it.


Maiolo’s second insight has to do with the origins of World War II itself. Most historians agree that it was “Hitler’s War.” He planned it, he armed Germany for it, and he started it. Maiolo doesn’t necessarily disagree with this position, but he offers an interesting counter-factual that puts it in a different light. What if there had been no Hitler? Would the statesmen of Europe have avoided a second great conflict? Maiolo suggests not, and for an interesting reason. Several of the Great Powers–the Soviets and Germans in particular–were very dissatisfied with the settlement at Versailles. They would not stand pat in any case. Given what we know about Soviet and German plans for and movements toward rearmament before 1933 (thanks, it should be said, to Maiolo’s own research), it is not clear that leaders other Stalin or Hitler might not have done exactly what Stalin and Hitler did in 1939, that is, take what they felt was rightfully “theirs” by force of arms. And as Maiolo shows, they would have had plenty of arms at their disposal in any case. The Europeans were going to go at again; it was simply a question of when.


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Nov 12 2010

1hr 1min

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Rank #20: Craig Symonds, “World War II at Sea: A Global History” (Oxford UP, 2018)

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Though there are numerous books about the naval history of the Second World War, very few of them attempt to cover the span of the conflict within the confines of a single volume. Craig Symonds undertakes this challenge in his book World War II at Sea: A Global History (Oxford University Press, 2018), which provides him with a perspective that produces a new understanding into how the conflict was waged. Symonds demonstrates that the naval campaigns were pivotal in determining the winners of the war, given the vast mobilization of resources undertaken by many of the combatants. For the Germans, disrupting this was key, and the fall of France dramatically changed the balance of the naval war in Europe. Yet the British and the Americans were hard pressed to focus on the German threat to British trade once Japan attacked their Asian colonies in an effort to expand their own empire. The result was a juggling act, as the western Allies were forced to constantly readjust finite naval resources to wage two maritime struggles on opposite ends of the Earth.

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Jul 06 2018

55mins

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Benjamin F. Armstrong, "Small Boats and Daring Men: Maritime Raiding, Irregular Warfare, and the Early American Navy" (U Oklahoma Press, 2019)

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Two centuries before the daring exploits of Navy SEALs and Marine Raiders captured the public imagination, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps were already engaged in similarly perilous missions: raiding pirate camps, attacking enemy ships in the dark of night, and striking enemy facilities and resources on shore. Even John Paul Jones, father of the American navy, saw such irregular operations as critical to naval warfare. With Jones’s own experience as a starting point, in his book Small Boats and Daring Men: Maritime Raiding, Irregular Warfare, and the Early American Navy (University of Oklahoma Press, 2019), Benjamin Armstrong sets out to take irregular naval warfare out of the shadow of the blue-water battles that dominate naval history. This book, the first historical study of its kind, makes a compelling case for raiding and irregular naval warfare as key elements in the story of American sea power.

Benjamin Armstrong is a Commander in the United States Navy, and is Assistant Professor of War Studies and Naval History at the United States Naval Academy. He is the editor of 21st Century Mahan and 21st Century Sims (Both of which have been the subject of an interview on the New Books Network) and the author of numerous articles on naval history, national security, and strategy.

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Nov 18 2020

59mins

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David Vine, "The United States of War: A Global History of America's Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State" (U California Press, 2020)

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Since its founding, the United States has been at peace for only eleven years. Across nearly two-and-a-half centuries, that’s a lot of war. In his new book, The United States of War: A Global History of America’s Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State (University of California Press, 2020), 

David Vine tries to figure out why this has been the case. His book is a powerful, broad-sweeping, and, at times, shattering account of the forever wars that the United States continues to fight to this day.

Vine, an anthropologist at American University in Washington, DC, argues that war infrastructure can be a dangerous thing, even if its designers cite defensive purposes. The United States’ 800 military bases abroad today, and its hundreds of military forts that dotted the western frontier in the nineteenth century, have made war more likely by making it easier to think about. But if we build bases, Vine writes, “wars will come.” As ending endless wars have become part of mainstream political discourse, Vine’s book should help jolt these conversations into action.

Dexter Fergie is a doctoral student in US and global history at Northwestern University. His research examines the history of ideas, infrastructure, and international organizations. He can be reached by email at dexter.fergie@u.northwestern.edu or on Twitter @DexterFergie.

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Nov 13 2020

1hr 6mins

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Niklas Frykman, "The Bloody Flag: Mutiny in the Age of Atlantic Revolution" (U California Press, 2020)

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The 1790s were a decade of turmoil and strife across the West. With the French Revolution, a new era of wars began that invoked the language of equal rights. In The Bloody Flag: Mutiny in the Age of Atlantic Revolution (University of California Press, 2020), Niklas Frykman recounts how these two factors combined to shape the mutinies that took place throughout the era. As he explains, recruiting crews for the navies of the era was typically a coercive process, one that took sailors away from more remunerative work in the merchant marine. Crowded aboard wooden warships, these men were often discontent and receptive to the idea of a more democratic process for governing ship life. This radical vision was reflected in the demands made by sailors when they mutinied and by the alternate forms of management they adopted. Such mutinies jeopardized operations in navies throughout Europe, until the growing influence of nationalism helped to counteract the influence of the transnational “maritime republic.”

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Nov 09 2020

50mins

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David S. Nasca, "The Emergence of American Amphibious Warfare, 1898 to 1945" (Naval Institute Press, 2020)

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Amphibious warfare, as outlined by American Rear Admiral James E. Jouett in 1885, was a relatively straightforward affair: to project power from the sea, all one had to do was offload soldiers, animals, equipment, and supplies from their transport vessels and deposit them on the nearest beach. Once on the sand, these ground forces would then form up and fight their way to victory—nothing could be as simple. Jouette, of course, can be forgiven his naïveté; when he articulated these principles of amphibious operations, the United States’s gaze was still firmly directed inward. Policing and pacifying the interior of the American continent was more important than developing the competencies, tactics, and technologies necessary to successfully generate combat power from the ocean to the shore. By 1900, however, these priorities were reversed. The frontier was “closed,” rapid industrialization was inexorably transforming American life, and the United States emerged as a major player in a tense geopolitical landscape.

Given these new realities, argues David S. Nasca in The Emergence of American Amphibious Warfare, 1898 to 1945 (Naval Institute Press, 2020), evolving a formidable amphibious capability became an existential imperative. Failed amphibious operations, Nasca observes, could have a devastating impact on a nation's geopolitical fate. Only those states that succeeded in mastering the complexities of amphibious warfare were able to defend their interests; those that came up short quickly found themselves subject to a foreign will.

Tracing the evolution of the United States’s amphibious capability, from the first disorganized attempts in the Spanish-American War to the successful landings in the Pacific and at Normandy in World War Two, The Emergence of American Amphibious Warfare offers a novel examination of the relationship between amphibious warfare, American strategic interests, and the United States’s rise to prominence in the first half of the twentieth century. The concatenation of American industrial might, great power competition, and a more proactive American involvement in global affairs in the early 1900s, Nasca argues, prodded American statesman, naval officers, and amphibious theorists like Lieutenant Colonel Pete Ellis to view amphibious warfare as a fundamental tool of American foreign policy. The efficacy of this tool, Nasca asserts, was demonstrated time and again on shores as distant and varied as Haiti and Saipan. Today, Nasca observes, this tool has lost none of its punch: amphibious warfare remains an essential skillset for any modern, industrialized military operating in a volatile geopolitical environment.

David S. Nasca is a second-generation Marine Corps officer who holds graduate degrees in international relations, diplomacy, history, military studies, and national security, and recently earned his PhD from Salve Regina University.

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Nov 04 2020

1hr 5mins

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K. A. Lieber and D. G. Press, "The Myth of the Nuclear Revolution: Power Politics in the Atomic Age" (Cornell UP, 2020)

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In The Myth of the Nuclear Revolution: Power Politics in the Atomic Age (Cornell University Press, 2020), Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press tackle the central puzzle of the nuclear age: the persistence of intense geopolitical competition in the shadow of nuclear weapons. The book explains why the race to establish a nuclear deterrent can be destabilizing; how the condition of "mutual assured destruction" can unravel; and why some states threaten to wield the world’s most destructive weapon against conventional threats.

On the episode, I talked with Dr. Lieber and Dr. Press about the theoretical and policy implications of their work, the role of fear in international relations, and Thomas Schelling and his theory of a nuclear “taboo.” Dedicated listeners will also be treated to an important question. Which is better: "Dr. Strangelove" or "Failsafe?"

John Sakellariadis is a 2020-2021 Fulbright US Student Research Grantee. He holds a Master’s degree in public policy from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia and a Bachelor’s degree in History & Literature from Harvard University.

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Nov 03 2020

1hr 8mins

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Chima J. Korieh, "Nigeria and World War II: Colonialism, Empire, and Global Conflict" (Cambridge UP, 2020)

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Reading the petitions that resident of colonial Nigeria submitted to the government during World War II, Marquette University historian, Prof. Chima J. Korieh found a unique source for African political voices as they renegotiated their status as something more than colonial subjects. What emerged was a wider social history of Nigeria during World War II. The colonial state intensified its attention to economic extraction, and many Nigerians responded positively because they believed in the British cause against Nazi Germany. But this societal contribution to the war, Nigerians then began to make broader claims for citizenship, self-determination, and independence.

Prof. Korieh’s new book extends Frederick Cooper’s portrait of decolonization as a process centered on the restructuring of labor relations in African colonial societies. He argues that the colonial intensification of extractive policies pushed Nigerian society towards a new evaluation of its own status. The post-war period brought almost immediate demands for political reform from newspapers like Nnamdi Azikiwe’s West African Pilot that had been highly support of Britain during the war.

Nigeria and World War II: Colonialism, Empire, and Global Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2020) offers a multi-faceted portrait of a society in flux, and adds to our understanding of World War II as a global experience.

Chima J. Korieh is a professor of history and director of Africana Studies at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Paul Bjerk is an associate professor of African history at Texas Tech University and the author of Building Peaceful Nation: Julius Nyerere and the Establishment of Sovereignty in Tanzania, 1960-1964 (Rochester University Press, 2015)

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Nov 02 2020

1hr 17mins

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David Davis, "Wheels of Courage: How Paralyzed Veterans from World War II Invented Wheelchair Sports" (Center Street, 2020)

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Out of the carnage of World War II comes an unforgettable tale about defying the odds and finding hope in the most harrowing of circumstances.

Wheels of Courage: How Paralyzed Veterans from World War II Invented Wheelchair Sports, Fought for Disability Rights, and Inspired a Nation (Center Street, 2020) tells the stirring story of the soldiers, sailors, and marines who were paralyzed on the battlefield during World War II-at the Battle of the Bulge, on the island of Okinawa, inside Japanese POW camps-only to return to a world unused to dealing with their traumatic injuries. Doctors considered paraplegics to be "dead-enders" and "no-hopers," with the life expectancy of about a year. Societal stigma was so ingrained that playing sports was considered out-of-bounds for so-called "crippled bodies."

But servicemen like Johnny Winterholler, a standout athlete from Wyoming before he was captured on Corregidor, and Stan Den Adel, shot in the back just days before the peace treaty ending the war was signed, refused to waste away in their hospital beds. Thanks to medical advances and the dedication of innovative physicians and rehabilitation coaches, they asserted their right to a life without limitations. The paralyzed veterans formed the first wheelchair basketball teams, and soon the Rolling Devils, the Flying Wheels, and the Gizz Kids were barnstorming the nation and filling arenas with cheering, incredulous fans. The wounded-warriors-turned-playmakers were joined by their British counterparts, led by the indomitable Dr. Ludwig Guttmann. Together, they triggered the birth of the Paralympic Games and opened the gymnasium doors to those with other disabilities, including survivors of the polio epidemic in the 1950s.

Much as Jackie Robinson's breakthrough into the major leagues served as an opening salvo in the civil rights movement, these athletes helped jump-start a global movement about human adaptability. Their unlikely heroics on the court showed the world that it is ability, not disability, that matters most. Off the court, their push for equal rights led to dramatic changes in how civilized societies treat individuals with disabilities: from kneeling buses and curb cutouts to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Their saga is yet another lasting legacy of the Greatest Generation, one that has been long overlooked.

Drawing on the veterans' own words, stories, and memories about this pioneering era, David Davis has crafted a narrative of survival, resilience, and triumph for sports fans and athletes, history buffs and military veterans, and people with and without disabilities.

Paul Knepper was born and raised in New York and currently resides in Austin. His first book, The Knicks of the Nineties: Ewing, Oakley, Starks and the Brawlers Who Almost Won It All is available on Amazon and other sites. You can reach Paul at paulknepper@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @paulieknep.

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Oct 28 2020

47mins

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Dónal Hassett, "Mobilizing Memory: The Great War and the Language of Politics in Colonial Algeria, 1918-1939" (Oxford UP, 2019)

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Dónal Hassett’s Mobilizing Memory: The Great War and the Language of Politics in Colonial Algeria, 1918-1939 (Oxford UP, 2019) is at once a history of colonialism and of the “Great War”. Considering the ways that the conflict from 1914-1918 shaped the colonial politics of the “interwar” years in the Algerian context, the book looks at how segments of Algerian society with differing interests, including European settlers and indigenous Algerians, responded to the war, trading in its effects and meanings while seeking forms of political change. According to Hassett, a “wartime moral economy of sacrifice” became an essential referent for differing political groups in the years after 1918. While European veterans and others insisted on the distinctiveness of their own contributions and rights with respect to the majority of Algerians, indigenous Algerians also made claims against the colonial state on the basis of their service to the nation and empire.

The book explores the experiences and political aims of key constituencies throughout Algerian society, including: socialists and trade unionists; European and Algerian veterans; and even the Algerian widows and orphans who petitioned for pensions and forms of recognition based on their families’ sacrifices during the war. Hassett also attends to the complexities of a political spectrum that included movements on the extreme Right, Algerian political groups seeking reform such as the rights of French citizenship with a colonial framework, and Algerian nationalists who, understanding the participation of Algerians in the Great War as a betrayal, rejected colonial domination outright. Contributing to broader scholarly conversations about the nature of colonial Algerian society and the impact of the First World War, Mobilizing Memory makes it clear that we cannot understand properly the histories of either of these historical phenomena without considering their imbrication with one another.

Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and its empire. She is the author of Future Tense: The Culture of Anticipation in France Between the Wars (2009). Her current research focuses on the history of French nuclear weapons and testing since 1945. Her most recent article, ‘“No Hiroshima in Africa”: The Algerian War and the Question of French Nuclear Tests in the Sahara’ appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of History of the Present. She lives and reads in Vancouver, Canada and hopes all listeners are keeping healthy and safe at this difficult time in our world. If you have a recent title to suggest for the podcast, please send her an email (panchasi@sfu.ca).

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Oct 27 2020

1hr 2mins

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Frank Jacob, "Japanese War Crimes during World War II: Atrocity and the Psychology of Collective Violence" (Praeger, 2018)

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When you mention Japanese War crimes in World War Two, you’ll often get different responses from different generations. The oldest among us will talk about the Bataan Death March. Younger people, coming of age in the 1990s, will mention the Rape of Nanking or the comfort women forced into service by the Japanese army. Occasionally, someone will mention biological warfare.

Frank Jacob has offered a valuable service by surveying Japanese mistreatment of civilians and soldiers comprehensively. His book, Japanese War Crimes during World War II: Atrocity and the Psychology of Collective Violence (Praeger, 2018), is short and doesn’t treat any event or issue in depth. But he offers a lucid and thorough evaluation of the literature and nuggets of additional insight. And he frames it with a thoughtful attempt to explain the conduct about which he is writing.

If you’re looking for a deep dive into a particular topic, you’re not the audience Jacob had in mind. But this is a good place to come to grips with the broad picture of Japanese misconduct during the war.

Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University. He’s the author of four modules in the Reacting to the Past series, including The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994, published by W. W. Norton Press.

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Oct 22 2020

1hr 5mins

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Rhodri Jeffreys Jones, "The Nazi Spy Ring in America: Hitler’s Agents, the FBI and the Case that Stirred the Nation" (Georgetown UP, 2020)

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In his new book, The Nazi Spy Ring in America: Hitler’s Agents, the FBI & the Case that Stirred the Nation (Georgetown University Press, 2020), Rhodri Jeffreys Jones tells the dramatic story of the Nazi spy ring in America. In the mid-1930s just as the United States was embarking on a policy of neutrality, Nazi Germany launched a program of espionage against the unwary nation. The Nazi Spy Ring in America tells the story of Hitler's attempts to interfere in American affairs by spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, stealing military technology, and mapping US defenses.

This fast-paced history provides essential insight into the role of espionage in shaping American perceptions of Germany in the years leading up to US entry into World War II. Fascinating and thoroughly researched, The Nazi Spy Ring in America sheds light on a now forgotten but significant episode in the history of international relations and the development of the FBI.

Using recently declassified documents, prize-winning historian Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones narrates this little-known chapter in US history. He shows how Germany's foreign intelligence service, the Abwehr, was able to steal top secret US technology such as a prototype codebreaking machine and data about the latest fighter planes.

At the center of the story is Leon Turrou, the FBI agent who helped bring down the Nazi spy ring in a case that quickly transformed into a national sensation. The arrest and prosecution of four members of the ring was a high-profile case with all the trappings of fiction: fast cars, louche liaisons, a murder plot, a Manhattan socialite, and a ringleader codenamed Agent Sex. Part of the story of breaking the Nazi spy ring is also the rise and fall of Turrou, whose talent was matched only by his penchant for publicity, which eventually caused him to run afoul of J. Edgar Hoover's strict codes of conduct.

Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones is Emeritus Professor of History in History at the University of Edinburgh.

Craig Sorvillo is a PhD candidate in modern European history at the University of Florida. He specializes in Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust. He can be reached at craig.sorvillo@gmail.com or on twitter @craig_sorvillo.

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Oct 13 2020

56mins

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Chris Lombardi, "I Ain’t Marching Anymore: Dissenters, Deserters and Objectors to America’s Wars" (The New Press, 2020)

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Before the U.S. Constitution had even been signed, soldiers and new veterans protested. Dissent, the hallowed expression of disagreement and refusal to comply with the government's wishes, has a long history in the United States. Soldier dissenters, outraged by the country's wars or egregious violations in conduct, speak out and change U.S. politics, social welfare systems, and histories.

I Ain’t Marching Anymore: Dissenters, Deserters & Objectors to America’s Wars (The New Press, 2020). carefully traces soldier dissent from the early days of the republic through the wars that followed, including the genocidal "Indian Wars," the Civil War, long battles against slavery and racism that continue today, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, and contemporary military imbroglios.

Acclaimed journalist Chris Lombardi presents a soaring history valorizing the brave men and women who spoke up, spoke out, and talked back to national power. Inviting readers to understand the texture of dissent and its evolving and ongoing meaning, I Ain't Marching Anymore profiles conscientious objectors including Frederick Douglass's son Lewis, Evan Thomas, Howard Zinn, William Kunstler, and Chelsea Manning, adding human dimensions to debates about war and peace.

Meticulously researched, rich in characters, and vivid in storytelling, I Ain't Marching Anymore celebrates the sweeping spirit of dissent in the American tradition and invigorates its meaning for new risk-taking dissenters.

Chris Lombardi is a journalist and author who is interested in how ordinary people interact with the decisions of those in power. She has an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and an MFA in Literature and Creative Writing from City College of New York. Her work has appeared in The Nation, Guernica, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the ABA Journal, and at WHYY.org.

Colin Mustful is the author of four historical novels about Minnesota’s settlement and Native history. He has an MA in history and an MFA in creative writing. He is the founder and editor of a small independent press called History Through Fiction. You can learn more about Colin and his work at colinmustful.com.

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Oct 09 2020

30mins

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Jon Lindsay, "Information Technology and Military Power" (Cornell UP, 2020)

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Many assume that information technology will one day clear away the “fog of war.” But as Jon Lindsay shows in Information Technology and Military Power (Cornell UP, 2020), the digitization of warfare can also increase confusion and misunderstanding. To understand why, it is important to understand the micro-foundations of military power in the information age, where computers mediate almost every effort to gather, store, display, analyze, and communicate information.

On this episode, I talked with Dr. Lindsay about why he wrote the book, what the digital revolution means for modern warfare, and what we can learn from history about good and bad information practice.

John Sakellariadis is a 2020-2021 Fulbright US Student Research Grantee. He holds a Master’s degree in public policy from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia and a Bachelor’s degree in History & Literature from Harvard University.

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Oct 07 2020

1hr 5mins

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Brandon M. Schechter, "The Stuff of Soldiers: A History of the Red Army in World War II Through Objects" (Cornell UP, 2019)

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The Stuff of Soldiers: A History of the Red Army in World War II Through Objects (Cornell University Press) uses everyday objects to tell the story of the Great Patriotic War as never before. Brandon Schechter attends to a diverse array of things―from spoons to tanks―to show how a wide array of citizens became soldiers, and how the provisioning of material goods separated soldiers from civilians.

Through a fascinating examination of leaflets, proclamations, newspapers, manuals, letters to and from the front, diaries, and interviews, The Stuff of Soldiers reveals how the use of everyday items made it possible to wage war. The dazzling range of documents showcases ethnic diversity, women's particular problems at the front, and vivid descriptions of violence and looting.

Each chapter features a series of related objects: weapons, uniforms, rations, and even the knick-knacks in a soldier's rucksack. These objects narrate the experience of people at war, illuminating the changes taking place in Soviet society over the course of the most destructive conflict in recorded history. Schechter argues that spoons, shovels, belts, and watches held as much meaning to the waging of war as guns and tanks. In The Stuff of Soldiers, he describes the transformative potential of material things to create a modern culture, citizen, and soldier during World War II.

Brandon Schechter is currently a faculty fellow at NYU-Shanghai. Before that he served as the Elihu Rose Scholar in Modern Military History at NYU, and a post doctoral fellow at the Davis Center for the Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard.

Steven Seegel is Professor of History, University of Northern Coloradod

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Oct 06 2020

58mins

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Christopher Capozzola, "Bound By War: How the United States and the Philippines Built America’s First Pacific Century" (Basic Books, 2020)

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Ever since American troops occupied the Philippines in 1898, generations of Filipinos have served in and alongside the U.S. armed forces. In Bound By War: How the United States and the Philippines Built America’s First Pacific Century (Basic Books, 2020), historian Christopher Capozzola reveals this forgotten history, showing how war and military service forged an enduring, yet fraught, alliance between Americans and Filipinos. As the U.S. military expanded in Asia, American forces confronted their Pacific rivals from Philippine bases. And from the colonial-era Philippine Scouts to post-9/11 contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, Filipinos were crucial partners in the exercise of US power. Their service reshaped Philippine society and politics and brought thousands of Filipinos to America. Telling the epic story of a century of conflict and migration, Bound by War is a fresh, definitive portrait of this uneven partnership and the two nations it transformed.

Christopher Capozzola is Professor of History at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA

Holger Droessler is an Assistant Professor of History at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. His research focuses on the intersection of empire and labor in the Pacific. wpi.edu/people/faculty/hdroessler @HolgerDroessler

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Oct 06 2020

1hr 9mins

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Stephen C. Kepher, "COSSAC: Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick Morgan and the Genesis of Operation OVERLORD" (Naval Institute Press, 2020)

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D-Day, June 6, 1944, looms large in both popular and historical imaginations as the sin qua non, or single defining moment, of the Second World War. Though there were other d-days launched across multiple theaters throughout Europe, Africa, and the Pacific, only one endures as a potent symbol for the war in its entirety: the D-day that saw 156,000 American, British, Canadian, and allied soldiers storm the Normandy beaches and punch an irreparable hole in Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. Over the subsequent seventy-five years, novelists, memoirists, filmmakers, journalists, and historians have followed the allied combat units from the landing craft, across the obstacle-strewn sand, through the hail of bullets and shells, up the high cliffs, and on to the bocage, Pegasus Bridge, Saint-Mère-Église, and the liberation of Paris. In all these narrations, the cross-Channel assault appears as an inevitability, the success of operation OVERLORD a fait acomplis. Yet as Stephen C. Kepher reveals in COSSAC: Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick Morgan and the Genesis of Operation OVERLORD (Naval Institute Press, 2020), the Normandy landings were anything but a foregone conclusion.

Infantry, Kepher observes, did not simply materialize on Omaha, Gold, Sword, and Juno beaches on the morning of June 6, 1944. Rather, their ambitious amphibious assault was the result of a lengthy and often fraught planning process that began in earnest in early 1943, when British Lt. General Sir Frederick Morgan inherited the daunting task of preparing for an allied return to the Continent. Using Morgan and COSSAC—the innovative planning and operational organization Morgan built—to redirect our gaze away from the face of battle on Omaha beach and onto the highly complex and contingent contexts within which operation OVERLORD took shape, Kepher forcefully countervails the traditional historiographic narrative. OVERLORD, Kepher convincingly argues, was a near-run affair in more ways than one: the operation was under-resourced, caused friction between Britain and the United States, and, until the very end, was devoid of a commander vested with the authority to approve its execution. By shedding light on these concerns, COSSAC offers a significant contribution to our understanding of that most venerated of d-days; it is a requisite read for any and all seeking to comprehend the genesis of operation OVERLORD and the genius of its primary planner, Lt. General Sir Frederick Morgan.

 Stephen C. Kepher received his MLitt (with distinction) in War Studies from the University of Glasgow and holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California. A former US Marine Corps officer and current independent scholar, Kepher has presented papers on COSSAC at the Society for Military History's annual conference and at Normandy 75, hosted by the University of Portsmouth, UK.

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Oct 05 2020

1hr 2mins

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Geoffrey Plank, "Atlantic Wars: From the Fifteenth Century to the Age of Revolution" (Oxford UP, 2020)

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For the people of the Dawnland, they were floating islands. The sails resembled clouds, and the men gathered on deck looked like bears. When Europeans came ashore, whether Danes in what would become Newfoundland, English settlers in the land they named ‘Virginia’, their mastery of the oceans did not translate into supremacy on land. Small conflicts in colonial enslaves evolved into trans-Atlantic wars that transformed the political and social worlds of millions.

Europeans were people of the oceans, fanning out across the globe in vessels that pursued and extracted natural resources while doubling as weapons of war. For some time now, historians have approached the Atlantic as an integrated and connected world, defined by the movement of people, goods, and ideas. In Atlantic Wars: From the Fifteenth Century to the Age of Revolution (Oxford UP, 2020), Geoffrey Plank uses war as a lens to examine the interactions of peoples who forged shared experiences amid endemic conflict. The result is a sweeping synthesis of the intermingling of European, Indigenous and African histories, which connects the Atlantic with Continental, Pacific, and Oceanic perspectives.

Geoffrey Plank is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of East Anglia (UK).

Charles Prior is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull (UK), who has written on the politics of religion in early modern Britain, and whose work has recently expanded to the intersection of colonial, indigenous, and imperial politics in early America.

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Sep 29 2020

29mins

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Lorenz M. Lüthi, "Cold Wars: Asia, the Middle East, Europe" (Cambridge UP, 2020)

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What was the Cold War that shook world politics for the second half of the twentieth century? Standard narratives focus on Soviet-American rivalry as if the superpowers were the exclusive driving forces of the international system. Lorenz M. Lüthi, Associate Professor of History at McGill University in his new book Cold Wars: Asia, the Middle East, Europe (Cambridge UP, 2020), offers a radically different account, restoring agency to regional powers in Asia, the Middle East and Europe and revealing how regional and national developments shaped the course of the global Cold War. Despite their elevated position in 1945, the United States, Soviet Union and United Kingdom quickly realized that their political, economic, and military power had surprisingly tight limits given the challenges of decolonization, Asian-African internationalism, pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism, Arab–Israeli antagonism, and European economic developments. A series of Cold Wars ebbed and flowed as the three world regions underwent structural changes that weakened or even severed their links to the global ideological clash, leaving the superpower Cold War as the only major conflict that remained by the 1980s. While not everyone will necessarily agree with all aspects of this at times hyper-revisionist account of the conflict that we call the Cold War, scholars and lay person alike will be ultra-impressed by the wide range of this narrative history, as well as the breath of research displayed by Professor Luthi. In short this is a book that is required reading for anyone interested in, or specializing in the Cold War.

Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for Chatham House’s International Affairs.

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Sep 25 2020

1hr 28mins

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Gregory A. Daddis, "Pulp Vietnam: War and Gender in Cold War Men’s Adventure Magazines" (Cambridge UP, 2020)

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In his compelling evaluation of Cold War popular culture, Pulp Vietnam: War and Gender in Cold War Men’s Adventure Magazines (Cambridge UP, 2020), Gregory Daddis explores how men's adventure magazines helped shape the attitudes of young, working-class Americans, the same men who fought and served in the long and bitter war in Vietnam. The 'macho pulps' - boasting titles like Man's Conquest, Battle Cry, and Adventure Life - portrayed men courageously defeating their enemies in battle, while women were reduced to sexual objects, either trivialized as erotic trophies or depicted as sexualized villains using their bodies to prey on unsuspecting, innocent men. The result was the crafting and dissemination of a particular version of martial masculinity that helped establish GIs' expectations and perceptions of war in Vietnam. By examining the role that popular culture can play in normalizing wartime sexual violence and challenging readers to consider how American society should move beyond pulp conceptions of 'normal' male behavior, Daddis convincingly argues that how we construct popular tales of masculinity matters in both peace and war.

Rebekah Buchanan is an Assistant Professor of English at Western Illinois University. Her work examines the role of narrative–both analog and digital–in people’s lives. She is interested in how personal narratives produced in alternative spaces create sites that challenge traditionally accepted public narratives. She researches zines, zine writers and the influence of music subcultures and fandom on writers and narratives. You can find more about her on her website, follow her on Twitter @rj_buchanan or email her at rj-buchanan@wiu.edu.

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Sep 25 2020

57mins

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Justin Q. Olmstead, "The United States' Entry into the First World War: The Role of British and German Diplomacy" (Boydell Press, 2019)

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The complicated situation which led to the American entry into the First World War in 1917 is often explained from the perspective of public opinion, US domestic politics, or financial and economic opportunity. In this new book, The United States' Entry into the First World War: The Role of British and German Diplomacy (Boydell Press, 2019), by Associate Professor of History at the University of Central Oklahoma, Justin Quinn Olmstead, however, reasserts the importance of diplomats and diplomacy. Based on original research, the book provides a look at British, German, and American diplomacy in the period 1914-17. It argues that British and German diplomacy in this period followed the same patterns as had been established in the preceding decades. It goes on to consider key issues which concerned diplomats, including the international legality of Britain's economic blockade of Germany, Germany's use of unrestricted submarine warfare, peace initiatives, and Germany's attempt to manipulate in its favour the long history of distrust in Mexican-American relations. Overall, the book demonstrates that diplomats and diplomacy played a key role, thereby providing a fresh and original approach to this crucially important subject. To top it off, the author finishes the text with a truly splendid bibliographic essay on the historical literature dealing with this ultra-important subject.

Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for Chatham House’s International Affairs.

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Sep 22 2020

41mins

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Despina Stratigakos, "Hitler’s Northern Utopia: Building the New Order in Occupied Norway" (Princeton UP, 2020)

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In her new book Hitler’s Northern Utopia: Building the New Order in Occupied Norway (Princeton University Press, 2020), Despina Stratigakos investigates the Nazi occupation of Norway. Between 1940 and 1945, German occupiers transformed Norway into a vast construction zone. This remarkable building campaign, largely unknown today, was designed to extend the Greater German Reich beyond the Arctic Circle and turn the Scandinavian country into a racial utopia. From ideal new cities to a scenic superhighway stretching from Berlin to northern Norway, plans to remake the country into a model “Aryan” society fired the imaginations of Hitler, his architect Albert Speer, and other Nazi leaders. In Hitler’s Northern Utopia, Despina Stratigakos provides the first major history of Nazi efforts to build a Nordic empire—one that they believed would improve their genetic stock and confirm their destiny as a new order of Vikings.

Drawing on extraordinary unpublished diaries, photographs, and maps, as well as newspapers from the period, Hitler’s Northern Utopia tells the story of a broad range of completed and unrealized architectural and infrastructure projects far beyond the well-known German military defenses built on Norway’s Atlantic coast. These ventures included maternity centers, cultural and recreational facilities for German soldiers, and a plan to create quintessential National Socialist communities out of twenty-three towns damaged in the German invasion, an overhaul Norwegian architects were expected to lead. The most ambitious scheme—a German cultural capital and naval base—remained a closely guarded secret for fear of provoking Norwegian resistance.

A gripping account of the rise of a Nazi landscape in occupied Norway, Hitler’s Northern Utopia reveals a haunting vision of what might have been—a world colonized under the swastika.

Despina Stratigakos is vice provost and professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.

Craig Sorvillo is a PhD candidate in modern European history at the University of Florida. He specializes in Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust. He can be reached at craig.sorvillo@gmail.com or on twitter @craig_sorvillo.

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Sep 17 2020

57mins

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iTunes Ratings

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Interesting and well done reviews

By Laird NYC - Jun 29 2019
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Terrific authors and great topics. Thanks a lot for bringing them to us.

Very intelligent conversation

By Danny_Trappedinsidethebeltway - Jan 14 2013
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Thanks, will be listening.