- War and Peace in the Western Political Imagination: From Classical Antiquity to the Age of Reason by Roger B. Manning, and: German Colonial Wars and the Context of Military Violence by Susanne Kuss, and: Passchendaele: The Lost Victory of World War I by Nick Lloyd, and: Hitler's Compromises: Coercion and Consensus in Nazi Germany by Nathan Stoltzfus, and: Paris at War: 1939–1944 by David Drake, and: Snow and Steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944–45 by Peter Caddick-Adams, and: Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance by Robert Gildea, and: The French Resistance by Olivier Wieviorka
Wars in Contexts
War is an activity fundamental to the course of world history, but one that tends to be underplayed or treated in a reductionist fashion. Each is a problem. They can also be related as a simplistic account of war which can minimize its significance and in turn lead to reductionist approaches. The value of considering a number of books is that it can lead to an understanding that we need to consider wars in contexts, and not war in contexts. In doing so, it is also appropriate to avoid any sense of hierarchy in significance and causation. This is particularly so of such varied levels of discussion and analysis as the strategic, operational, tactical, organisational, cultural, social and political. The relationships between phenomena and trends in these varied levels should be seen as contingent, not fixed, and fluid not systemic. Moreover, it is necessary to build chronological, geographical, cultural and environmental factors and variations into any analysis of conditions and causes.
So, the methods at play also vary, and as part of differences in conceptual, methodological and historiographical understanding. The most apparent arise from the contrast between the account that focuses on conflict textured through archival sources and that in which these sources are less to the fore while conflict is considered at a further remove, not least because of the lesser role for individual recollection, in short the face of battle. As an instance of the latter, Caddick-Adams cites Hans Baumann, noting "We had already found out about the American army during the invasion. We were impressed by the high numbers of people and amount of matériel. We couldn't keep up with that. You could be as brave as you wanted, but no soldier can endure that. We were simply overwhelmed by the vast amount of matériel. Even at that point our fight was basically already useless" (pp. 249–250).
The detail offered by Caddick-Adams is impressive. It covers the full range, from logistics to the treatment of prisoners, and is supported by photographs and maps. Caddick-Adams shows an impressive understanding of the technology and the ground, emphasising the necessity of good leadership in responding to these circumstances. At the same time, he provides shape with a coherent narrative. The quotations are instructive in many respects, as when one American officer reflected: "Shades of General Custer. Our last stand. Hell...