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u/wee_little_puppetman · 18 pointsr/AskHistorians

Since I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the questions right now, I'm going to copy and paste two answers I've given to similar question in earlier threads. (One of which is a copy-and-paste job itself.)

1. General books:

I'm going to copy and paste an answer I once gave to someone who asked me for book recommendations via private message.

>Hi there!

>No Problem! Always glad to help. If you need a quick overview over the topic or are rather unfamiliar with it The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings gives a good first impression. Else Roesdahl's The Vikings is a bit more in depth but with less pictures. There's also Peter Sawyer's Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings. All three of those are slightly outdated but they give a great first impression of the Age. If money's thight, start with Sawyer, then Roesdahl, then the atlas.

>If you want to go more in depth there's The Viking World by Stefan Brink and Neil Price. Do not confuse it with the book of the same name by Graham-Campbell and Wilson, which is rather outdated. This "Viking World" is a collection of essays by the world's leading experts on the period an the de facto standard of the discipline at the moment. It's well worth the price.

>If you are (or at least read) German (which is possible from your username) try to get the current catalogue of the Haithabu museum. It gives a good overview over that important trading settlement. Or even better: visit there! (Or any of the large Scandinavian National Museums (Moesgård, Statens Historiska museet, or the Viking ship museums in Roskilde and Oslo, respectively).

>If you are interested in the world of the sagas you can't go wrong with Jesse Byock's Viking Age Iceland.

>If you are looking for a quick ressource or if you have a specific question there's the site of The Viking Answer Lady. She appears to be a reenactor not a scholar but her answers are very well sourced and I have yet to find a major error on her site. Or you can always ask me/post to AskHistorians...

>cheers, wee_little_puppetman

Also, you might want to check out this huge annotated Viking movie list.

There's also a rather good three part BBC series on the Vikings on Youtube.

And for some quick Viking fun there's the animated short The Saga of Biorn.

Oh, one more thing: You might also enjoy Viking Empires by Angelo Forte, Richard Oram and Frederik Pedersen. It goes beyond the traditional end of the Viking Age into the Middle Ages and should therefore tie in nicely to your main interest in the crusades.

2. Sagas

Egils saga and Njáls saga are usually the ones that are recomennded for first time readers. They feel very modern in their narrative structures. Grettis saga is also quite good for a start. And then maybe Laxdæla saga. If you aren't specifically interested in Iceland and want to start with something that conforms more to the public picture of "Vikings" try Eiriks saga rauða, Jómsvíkinga saga or Sverris saga. But afterwards you have to read at least one Icelander saga (i.e. one of the ones I mentioned first)!

Icelandic sagas are fascinating but you have to commit to them. Don't be disappointed if a chapter begins with two pages of the family tree of a minor character! And always keep in mind that this is medieval literature: although it might look like it it is not history. These things were written in the 12th to 14th centuries, even if the take place much earlier!

u/wedgeomatic · 6 pointsr/AskHistorians

If you only read one book on the subject it should be Robert Grant's Augustus to Constantine. It's a tremendous piece of scholarship, in-depth without being overwhelming or boring, and Grant does an excellent job of situating the rise of Christianity against the background of the larger Roman Empire.

Other suggestions:
Henry Chadwick's The Early Church is a classic survey, but it's a bit dated now. Still a very accessible introduction, cheaper and shorter than the Grant.

Peter Brown is, in my opinion, one of the greatest historians who's ever lived and he has written extensively on Late Antique Christianity. For this specific topic, I'd suggest The World of Late Antiquity or The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity. The advantage of Brown is that he's also a fantastic writer.

Another interesting source is Robert Louis Wilken's *Christians as the Romans Saw Them. While it won't give you a full survey of Christianity's rise, it provides the perspective of pagan thinkers reacting to the strange, barbarous, troubling religion that is Christianity. This one is more of a supplement to the other listed works, but I think it helps really understand Christianity against the religio-cultural background of the Roman Empire.

Finally, the great primary source on the subject is Eusebius's *History of the Church. Obviously Eusebius, the 4th century bishop, doesn't match up to modern standards of historical accuracy, but you still get a comprehensive picture of the rise of Christianity that's pretty darn fun to read. Read with a critical eye, it's a terrific source. Also, it's available for free online. (also Eusebius basically invented documentary history, so that's kinda neat)

If you want more recommendations, or want more specific suggestions, I'd be glad to help out. My strongest recommendation are the Grant and the Brown.

u/dokh · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

Few things focus on just that period, so far as I can tell. Fewer if you want it written for popular audiences; lives of Charlemagne are thick on the ground, but before him, there's not much. Bachrach's Early Carolingian Warfare is good for the military side of things, mostly focused on Martel's army. It's dense, and written primarily for academics, but if you're interested in how a Roman-style military worked in post-Roman Europe (and in particular the military that brought about a lot of the consolidation of what would become the Holy Roman Empire), I know of nothing better.

More layman-oriented, The Carolingians: A Family who Forged Europe by Riche is a broad history of the entire Carolingian dynasty, focused mostly later but has some relevant bits. And I hear good things about The Age of Charles Martel, but haven't read it myself.

Also, The Inheritance of Rome is excellent; it's broad in geographic scope, so not limited to the Frankish-ruled realms, but it starts with a Western Roman Empire in decline and continues until two centuries after Charlemagne was given his Imperial title. It's pretty much the best introduction to early medieval European history I know of.

I wish I knew a good biography of Charles Martel to recommend. (For that matter, if anyone else knows one, I'd love to read it!) The Franks had already expanded a bit before he became Mayor of the Palace, and continued to do so after his death, but it was during his tenure that the largest, fastest period of expansion and consolidation of Frankish power occurred; he's also of course known for the battle of Tours, which helped make the Pyrenees the northern border of an otherwise-expansionist al-Andalus. (I am not a fan of great man history for the most part, but Charles Martel was at the center of a lot of big events.)

u/antonbe · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

I've immersed myself in science and history my whole life and quite possibly the best book I've ever come across that condenses everything in a sequential order is "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson.

> In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trail—well, most of it. In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to offer. Now, in his biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand—and, if possible, answer—the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world’s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, traveling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.

The book is simply amazing. I learn something new from it everytime I read it and I highly recommend it to everyone from an uneducated teenager to a PhD carrying senior!

While you're at it, I would also recommend the rest of his books. Bryson is an amazing nonfiction writer (I daresay one of the best in the world) and his penmanship will captivate you. Just search for him on Amazon and pick another one of his books up in a category that interests you as he writer about a very broad range of topics.

Edit: Also, I highly recommend "Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared M. Diamond. and Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt

u/Mddcat04 · 5 pointsr/AskHistorians

Where this discussion generally breaks down is in the definition of 'Christian Nation.' Generally those who oppose the term will state that America is not officially Christian, and will point to the Treaty of Tripoli or to the Establishment Clause, to which opponents will retort that America was founded on so-called 'Christian Values,' and that makes it a Christian nation. This much at least is hard to deny, many of the earliest settlers were very devout Christians (the puritans especially) and at least some of their beliefs are still important today (the so-called 'Protestant Work Ethic' being the most famous). Additionally, every US President has been (at least nominally) Christian, along with the vast majority of legislators in Congress, going all the way back to 1789. This is generally reflective of population, as a significant majority of Americans have identified as Christian for the entire life of the Republic.

Overall, its hard to deny the influence of Christianity and Christian thought over colonial and revolutionary America, but its also important to point out that the founders took steps to demonstrate that Christianity was not the only faith that could be practiced in the new country.

  • The Constitution states clearly that the authority of the government rests with the people, rather than an appeal to any higher power. While it is often claimed that the Constitution claims no reference to God, this is not entirely accurate, the date in article 7 is referred to this way:

    > done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven

    However, this is not any more of an endorsement than using A.D. would be today.

  • Natural Rights: At the debate over the Bill of Rights, Theodore Sedgwick sarcastically wondered why not include 'a man should have a right to wear his hat if he pleased; that he might get up when he pleased, and go to bed when he thought proper?' While he was being facetious, his observation gets at an underlying principal of the Bill of Rights, that it is not supposed to grant rights, merely reflect a few of the rights that every free person should possess automatically. This is made clear by the 9th Amendment which stipulates 'The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.' i.e. just because we didn't write it down, doesn't mean that you don't have it as a right. Going by this logical framework, the First Amendment is not establishing merely that Congress isn't allowed to limit free expression of religion, but that 'free exercise' of Religion is a basic and fundamental natural right of all free peoples.


  • Federalist 84 Hamilton argues against those claiming that the Bill of Rights is not necessary. Although he does note that the rights have their basis in English Common Law.

  • Letter from Jefferson to Madison 1789 Jefferson expresses his view of why abill of rights is important, though stating that it would be 'A positive declaration of some essential rights.' Rather than the source of said rights.

  • Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes - Influential on the Founders, makes the distinction between Civil and Natural laws. Civil laws being those created by organizations, while Natural Laws are general rules discovered by reason.

  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

  • Madison, a life Reconsidered by Lynn Cheney

  • Ben Franklin, an American Life Not the most relevant, but Franklin was an advocate for Natural Rights and Natural Law.
u/MiffedMouse · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

Not books, but I recommend CGPGrey's videos on topics such as the formation of the commonwealth for some anecdotal discussion of how modern states are structured. Crash Course World History is another good series that gives extremely quick (~10-15 minutes) overviews of a variety of topics historians like to discuss.

As for books - many of the more interesting books are on specific topics. Guns, Germs, and Steel is an interesting discussion on why some societies do better than others. Stuff matters is a neat discussion of how modern materials came to be. Honestly, I think it is more fun to pick a topic that interests you and dig into that topic specifically. You will probably learn about other things as necessary along the way. One of Dan Carlin's Common Sense podcasts, Controlling the Past, discusses this very idea.

Some of my favorite "history" books aren't even sold as "history" books. The Emperor of all Maladies is a fascinating look at the history of cancer. As a kid I loved David Macaulay's Building Big, which discusses large structures in America. And an embarrassing amount of my knowledge on other countries comes from folktale anthologies.

If you are interested in international politics specifically, I would suggest looking for books on the UN and NATO (two of the biggest international organizations right now).

u/caffarelli · 26 pointsr/AskHistorians

How to Judge a Book Without Even Reading It

Do you think librarians read all those books they buy?? Heck no. Yes, collection development librarians rely heavily on library review journals, but you can pretty successfully judge a book before you even read the intro. And how!

1. Try a Little Intellectual Snobbery

Basically with this you need to try to smell out the people who are saying “I’m not a historian but…” when they start their books. Who wrote this thing and why? Is this a historian going for tenure, is this maybe a historian trying to write more popular history, is this a historian at the end of their life putting out a magnum opus, is this a journalist? Who published it, academic press or regular press? Does this person have Something to Prove with this history book?

Now, I’m a little leery of recommending this method first, because I’ve seen some pretty shitty books published by big academic houses from heavily degreed people, and I’ve seen some very nice historical work put out by tiny publishers you’ve never heard of or self-published, and written by people who just decided to write a book because they cared deeply about the history of something that few others cared about. Good work absolutely stands on its own merits, and independent scholars are important animals in the academic ecosystem. But there is a correlation here, and not necessarily a causation, between academics working with academic publishing houses and the production of rigorous history, and you can lean on it a little.

2. Give it the Vulcan Citations Pinch

Flip to the back of the book. Where does the actual book stop and the endmatter start? Basically the more endmatter the better. You want maybe a good solid half centimeter of paper between your fingers, preferably more. If you start seeing appendices in addition to citations and index that’s very good.

3. Scope-to-Cred Ratio

This one’s hard to quantify but basically, the more modest the book’s scope the more modest of arguments and credentials the author needs to pull it off. So a book about say the importance of paperback books for soldiers in WWII, this is a pretty modest scope, and it’s not making any very bold claims, there’s no real reason to be suspicious about the arguments made in this book, although it’s absolutely a popular history work. A book trying to explain the history of everything, get suspicious.

4. Read the Intro

Okay after the first three bits you’ve decided this book has merited your attention enough to open the thing. The intro to a book should give you the outline of the major argument and you can decide whether the argument passes a basic smell test of not being total bullshit. If you find the argument compelling and you want to see how they are going to argue it in the knitty gritty, it’s time to commit to checking out/buying the book and seeing what’s up. (Intros are usually available for new books on Google Books or Amazon previews.)

4b. Read the Acknowledgments

You can tell a lot about a person from their acknowledgments section. I’ve seen books where the author specifically thanked the ILL staff of their local library. They should ideally be thanking an archives or two if it’s a modern history book, because that means they’ve done Real Research.

5. Have a Good Idea of How One Does History

This one takes a little time investment, but having a basic idea of what makes a good historical argument and what makes a bad one will serve you well for judging any history book, from any topic. Maybe just spend some time on the logical fallacies section of Wikipedia. Just knowing to run away when you hear someone start yammering about glorious progress or indulging in extended hero-worship will serve you remarkably well in the history section at Barnes and Noble.

6. Nothing Wrong with Reading a Bad Book

Okay, so you did all this pre-judgement and you still managed to read a real turd. Ah well. You always can learn a lot from something done poorly. They’re a certain grim joy in hating a bad book, especially if you get to feel smarter than an author, so just treat yourself to a really firm critical dismissal of the work. Maybe leave a real stinker of a review here on a Saturday or /r/badhistory.

u/andrewwm · 6 pointsr/AskHistorians

Coffee appeared in Europe around the late 16th century and early 17th century. Of course, like many liquids, there were all kinds of opinions about its purported health benefits.

However, the main benefit was the fact that it lead to a decline in the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol had previously been the best way to consume uncontaminated water, so it was common for much of the population of Europe to be mildly intoxicated for much of the day. Coffee offered a better way to consume uncontaminated water without getting drunk, and the mild amount of caffeine was purported to encourage clear thinking.

Coffee was hailed as part of the age of rationalism. Coffee shops became centers of intellectual engagement as part of an increase in interest in philosophy and sciences more generally in Western Europe. While coffee was later surpassed by tea in popularity in the UK, it continued to be popular in continental Europe.

One of the better written sources on the subject is

u/Mediaevumed · 26 pointsr/AskHistorians

Bear with me here, I swear I will get to the food stuff, but first a bit of background.

The sources we have for these voyages (a collection of sagas and two other works known as "The Book of the Icelanders" and "The Book of Settlement") are all at least 2-4 centuries later than the supposed dates of exploration. This is a fairly typical problem in Scandinavian history. These are oral tales handed down for several generations and then written. The info in them is thus problematic. All that being said, archaeological evidence and our understanding that just because something is "fantastic" doesn't make it "fantastical" all point to a Scandinavian presence at the very northernmost areas of Canada.

North Atlantic travel and exploration consists of four major locations: Iceland, Greenland, Helluland (likely the island of Baffin in far northern Canada) and Vinland (modern Newfoundland).

Travelers to North America would have been coming from Iceland (the major North Atlantic settlement area) and Greenland (much less well settled and abandoned by the 14th century).

And now on to the food. Fish, fish, and fish would have been a primary food source. Some fresh, much of it salted and preserved. Blubber and whale meat are a possibility as well (though they probably would not have actively whaled during their voyages). Meat (seal and caribou especially if coming from Greenland), salted or even fresh. Also sea-birds. For a particularly amusing glimpse of what things might have looked like, check out this (admittedly very blurry) video of a reenactment of a voyage from Ireland to America, in which a fellow is picked up solely for his ability to catch birds and fish.

They would also have had livestock, pigs, sheep, and perhaps even cattle, that could be fresh slaughtered but would ideally have been kept for secondary production (cheese, milk, wool etc.). We know from archaeological remains and from patterns of settlement westward that these voyages would have included both men and women and thus probably were supplied with the necessary goods (including farm animals) to at least begin settlement. This means that they might also have had cereal for planting and cultivation.

It is best to think of the voyagers to America and the North Atlantic as rather distinct from the "Vikings" most famous for raiding England, Ireland and Francia in the 9th century. These are not bands of warriors looking to make money and head back home to Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. They are explorers and above all settlers, looking for new lands and new opportunities.

Sources: The first and best place to go is The absurdly large edited volume, The Viking World which has several articles on North Atlantic settlement and travel, all of which have bibliographies.

Happy reading!

u/restricteddata · 83 pointsr/AskHistorians

In the last decade or so there has been a serious revision of the importance of the atomic bombs in ending World War II, due primarily to the work of Tsuyoshi Hasegawa. His book Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan argues pretty effectively that in the minds of the Japanese Imperial government, the Soviet invasion of Manchuria is what really caused them to surrender when they did, not the atomic bombs. He has done quite a good job of going over the Japanese sources to really fill out their side of the story in a way that had been conspicuously lacking in previous historical work.

Not everyone is convinced (I'm a bit on the fence myself), but his book has certainly changed the terms of debate, and, at least with respect to every historian of the bomb I know (which is quite a lot of them!), pretty much everyone is willing to at least go half-way with Hasegawa, in that they are de-coupling the old cause-and-effect implications about the bomb and the end of the war.

That is, the typical story has always gone, "the US wanted to end the war quickly, they dropped two bombs, and Japan surrendered." Which is true! It's just that the correlation of those last two clauses may not actually equate with causation. The old debate about the "decision to use the bomb" always took for granted that the bomb actually mattered, in the end, but Hasegawa has really opened that up again as a live historical issue, and one which is actually in many ways entirely separate from the question of the motivation to use the bomb.

u/Gaimar · 6 pointsr/AskHistorians

Peasants were the largest demographic group in Latin Christendom, comprising somewhere around ninety percent of the population or more. Most of these people were tenant farmers who leased a portion of a larger slice of land in return for a rent of service, kind, or money (although the latter is more rare and often only found in the later Middle Ages). These people could theoretically support themselves and their family off their own land. Some of these peasants were not free—serfs—meaning, depending on when and where they lived, they may be bound to the land that they worked and could not seek legal redress outside of their primary lord (the kings justice, for example, would have been beyond the reach of these people). All of this is to say that medieval peasants, even if serfs, were not slaves—a misconception that comes from the continued use in some medieval sources of the Roman word for slave, servus, and should not be taken as a indicator of shared meaning. I've seen documents that use servus, rusticus, and—in the vernacular Old French—vilain. Outside of what they needed to pay as part of their obligation, they were free to sell, trade, or work elsewhere in the hamlet or town for wage or kind.

The details for the sort of trade you are asking about is difficult to trace since the economic lives of most peasants only appear in the records of lords and local courts when they have some sort of legal problem or reach a certain level of wealth. The community in which most medieval peasants would have interacted and traded was the Parish, which—besides the family—is the basic unit for understanding peasant society. The Parish community would have operated as a sort of social nexus for the rural peasantry, through which small transactions would have been negotiated. Work/Trade for wage and work for kind probably occurred simultaneously based on need, although certain economic historians believe quite strongly that the latter wouldn't have occurred at certain points of economic crisis.

Most farming hamlets were largely self sufficient in respect to their daily needs, so the average peasant had no need to access the sort of long distance trade I think you might be imagining. This is easier to understand when you consider what we know about their eating habits. For most, diet was simple and with the exception of certain feast days fish or meat was largely a luxury most peasants could not afford. The bulk of peasant diet probably came from cereals, supplemented by whatever local herbs and vegetables that they grew in their personal garden, of which every farm was sure to have at least one. On the plus side, beer was plentiful, although it was usually not brewed at a high ABV. A quirky and active market in late medieval England was in beer, which often was brewed by women and sold ad-hoc as a means to supplement income.

I should add that the definition of peasantry is something of a thorny topic for medieval economic historians, particularly in England where they have a wealth of sources that give them a wide range of local practice to squabble about. For your purposes, I would recommend avoiding most of these debates and read Judith Bennett's A Medieval Life: Cecilia Penifader of Brigstock, c. 1295-1344, a slender volume that will give you a good general overview of medieval peasant life rich with economic detail. For a contemporary, non-economic view of French peasant life I would recommend Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error, that chronicles life in a small southern French town through inquisitional records and provides small details about how peasants moved through the world, made friendships, and even weird things like their perception of time. A wonderful view of life peasant life a few centuries later is presented in the first few chapters of Eamon Duffy's The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village (2003), a book that, although about religious change, gives insight into the everyday.

edit: spelling words.

u/smileyman · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

For the Revolutionary War

  • This Glorious Cause. One volume book, so it's not going to cover everything but for a general overview of the Revolutionary War it's great.

  • Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy I'm partial to this one because of the focus on the Navy.

  • Paul Revere's Ride Fischer does a great job in explaining the build up to the Revolution using Revere as a central figure.

  • The First Salute. Barbara Truchman writes here about the vital role the Dutch played in keeping the Revolution alive via trade, and the consequences of that trade for the Dutch. It can sometime lose focus as Truchman goes into great detail about things that probably would be better left to footnotes, but it's still a great read. (Her Guns of August won a Pulitzer, and in my opinion it's a must-read for anyone at all interested in WWI.)

    For the Civil War

  • The Civil War: A Narrative, by Shelby Foote. I'm a big fan of this, but it is three volumes so that means it's rather long.

  • Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson is also another classic in the field.

  • Grant's Memoirs and Sherman's Memoirs are both must-reads.

    I have to recommend Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane and Killer Angels by Michael Sharra, both fantastic military fiction.

u/Guckfuchs · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

The Constitutio Antoniniana which granted Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the empire was issued in 212 AD and there is quite a lot of Roman history after that. Soon follows the so called “crisis of the 3rd century” between 235 and 284 AD throughout which the empire was shaken by internal as well as external problems. Next comes Late Antiquity, a period which has attracted a lot of scholarly attention in recent decades. It saw some huge changes like Christianity’s rise to dominance or the final partition of the empire into a western and eastern half that you mentioned. And while the western part already disappeared throughout the 5th century the Eastern Roman Empire would survive for a long time further. The rise of the first Islamic caliphate in the 7th century AD cost it much of its territory and caused further transformations. This surviving remnant of the Roman Empire, now centred around Constantinople, is usually called the Byzantine Empire. Its eventful history would continue through the entire Middle Ages until 1453 AD when it was finally conquered by the Ottomans. So all in all there is more than a millennium of further Roman history to cover.

u/anonymousssss · 78 pointsr/AskHistorians

The last time a major political party died was the Whigs in the lead up to the Civil War. The Whig Party broke apart on the question of slavery. Northern factions became more anti-slavery, while Southern factions refused to abandon slavery. The Party could not contain these contradictory ideas, so it lost support and quickly found its members deserting the Whig Party for alternatives.

As the former Whigs began to abandon their party, new political parties appeared to take them in. Those parties included: the Free Soil Party, the American Party (sometimes known as the 'know-nothing' party) and the Republican Party. By the election of 1856, the Whigs were gone.

Interestingly enough, the Democratic Party also split on the issue of slavery in 1860, with Northern and Southern factions emerging to nominate their own candidates. However, the Democrats were able to recover after the Civil War and continue to be a major party to this day (of course).

The other major parties that died (The Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, National Republicans kinda) weren't really political parties in the sense that we understand them. They were more alliances of elites competing against each other, as opposed to mass mobilizing voters. The Federalists died largely as a result of the total victory of the Democratic-Republicans and the Democratic-Republicans also died largely as a result of their victory, leading to the somewhat party-less period known as the 'Era of Good Feelings.'

All the other parties you mention were minor parties that were either formed as result of a brief split from the major parties (Southern Democrats) or as a the result of a single influential man creating the party as a platform to run on (the Progressive Party).

In a sense the only true major political party that has died was the Whig Party.

So now comes the real question, why has there not been another party collapse in the 150 or so years after the Civil War? Why have we stuck to the Democrat/Republican divide, even as those parties have changed radically both in supporters and in issues?

The answer is that absent an issue so divisive as that it literally led to civil war, parties are pretty damn durable. Every time a major challenger to the two parties has emerged (such as the Progressive Party in 1912), one or both of the two parties have adjusted themselves and their issues to try to be welcoming to those voters and issues. Thus the Democratic Party moves from being a small government party in the 19th century, to being a progressive party in the early 20th to being the party of the New Deal in the mid-20th century.

In America's two party system, which is reinforced by our first-past-the-post system of elections, parties should be viewed less as solid ideological actors and more as alliances of disparate interests that come together in order to seek political advantage. Thus you have labor and environmentalists largely in the same party, not because those two views are immediately reconcilable, but because it is an advantageous political alliance. When those alliances break down, groups may switch from one party to another (something called 'realignment'). Thus the two parties survive, even as supporters and issues may change.

This is quickly veering into the realm of a political science discussion, so I'll just end here with a few quick answers to your questions.

  1. The final years of the Whig Party were the chaotic years leading up to the Civil War.
  2. The Whigs kept nominating war heroes in an attempt to find consensus
  3. Lots of new minor parties and the Civil War

u/textandtrowel · 7 pointsr/AskHistorians

There's lots! Of course, that means it's sometimes hard to pick out highly specialized articles from more general updates on the state of the field, which I suspect is what you're going for. Don't get daunted if this seems too dense; sometimes it's just good to know a bit about what's out there.

As a starting point, I'd recommend taking a look at Brink and Price, eds., The Viking World (2008) [Amazon link so you can preview the table of contents]. I'd start with the introduction (it's short), then technology and trade, and then urbanism or any other sections that seem necessary for you.

An older book, but one that's still very influential is Hodges and Whitehouse's Muhammad, Charlemagne, and the Origins of Europe (1983). It will give you a good idea of what scholars think was happening, but there's been a lot of research and updates to it over the last 30 years. Before you cite Hodges and Whitehouse, I'd cross reference it with a more recent work, using the table of contents or index to focus your reading. In particular, I'd look at Skre's Means of Exchange (2007) (see especially Skre's intro and conclusion as well as Kilger's "Kaupang from Afar") and McCormick's Origins of the European Economy (2001). They're both great works, but based on how you described your project, I wouldn't risk getting stuck in a quagmire trying to read them both all the way through.

Finally, there's a few terrific articles that should be read if you can:

u/markevens · 24 pointsr/AskHistorians

> I don't really know much about how general people around Europe would have reacted towards Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however I can help a little with how the scientists of the German Atom Bomb project reacted.

> The scientists who had though to have been working on the German Nuclear Program had been detained during Operation Epsilon and then interned in a bugged house in England. During that time, the reaction these scientists had towards the Bombing of Hiroshima was recorded.

> Obviously, they all have differing opinions on the subject, some for example, such as Otto Hahn, who had discovered Nuclear Fission and won the Noble Prize in 1944, but otherwise had no part in the program, was glad that the Germans never achieved making the bomb (he even considered suicide, believing himself responsible.) Others however, where dismayed they had failed.

> They all seem to wonder why Germany didn't manage to build the bomb, comparing that project to the thousands of people working on the V1 and V2 rockets, as well as talking about the relationship between Germany, and the Scientists, compared with how America treated there project, because they say the Germans didn't trust the Scientists working on the project, and the project would have been difficult to push through because of this, especially as they say the German Government wanted immediate results, not having to wait a long time until the project was complete.

> They also had conversations about what went wrong with the theory behind the German Project (and Heisenberg soon worked out how to build the bomb, after hearing of the dropping of the American Bomb).

> If you want to read more about it, main source is Operation Epsilon: The Farm Hall Transcripts, which has an extract here which says which books you can read the whole transcript in.

After having read "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" (a historical work on The Bomb that won the author the Pulitzer) and seeing how many resources the USA was putting into The Bomb, I don't believe Germany could have ever done it during war time. They were making good progress on an energy producing reactor, but a deliverable bomb was far beyond their war-time means.

u/xRathke · 7 pointsr/AskHistorians

A very good, easy to read book about this whole story of the late republic is Tom Holland's Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic

Now, I've read quite a bit on the period, and this might not be THE most complete or precise book, but it's very entretaining, and does a good job on telling the whole story (that, as you can see, is quite complex!).

The already mentioned Dan Carlin's podcast, Hardcore History, has a great series on this, "Death Throes of the Republic" is what got me hooked on the subject, and I wholeheartedly recommend it (also, it's free!), the 6 episodes combined are almost 13hs long, and worth every minute.

u/missginj · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

Yes! For my money this is the most interesting historians' debate going (it's got just about everything - drama, intrigue, childish insults...); I wrote my final paper on it for a class on German memory. It's a particularly good paper topic because it's relatively straightforward in terms of your source material: Browning's book is a direct response to Goldhagen's - in fact, Browning sort of takes down the "fourth wall"/takes away his narrative voice in his afterword to address the debate with Goldhagen directly. (Of course,the issues involved and history of those issues is quite a bit more complex!)

The Browning/Goldhagen exchange (and it included other historians as well) embodies the gloriously dramatic Historikerstreit ("Historians' Quarrel") that had been going on in Germany since the late 1980s. (You could choose to include some of these other historians' written pieces reflecting on/responding to the Goldhagen book if you like as well. These appeared both as academic pieces of writing as well as non-academic pieces in publications like Der Spiegel.)

u/ClovisSangrail · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

A History of the World in 6 Glasses talks about coffee houses being the places for information sharing. Mostly for traders and thinkers and to accommodate people with international interests, they started carrying wide selections of periodicals. I like imagining them like a really proto-reddit. :)

Honestly, I think we call them thinkers mostly because maybe two dozen of them were great thinkers. I imagine it would be safe to assume a lot of dilettantes.

u/Whoosier · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

I’m recommending books meant for general readers here. If you want something more in-depth, I’ll be happy to supply it.

For military matters, a very approachable overview by a historian of medieval military matters is Michael Prestwich’s [Knight: The Medieval Warrior’s (Unofficial) Manual] ( (2010).

For urban life, there is a heavily illustrated survey by Chiara Frigoni, [A Day in a Medieval City] ( (2005).

For the life of common people, a brief but very informative look is Judith Bennett’s [A Medieval Life: Cecilia Penifader of Brigstock, c. 1295-1344] ( (1998), which explains what life in an English village would be like. Much older (1937), outdated in many respects, but still very readable is H. S. Bennett’s (no relation) [Life on an English Manor] ( here in a free e-book link but also available second hand.

u/kalimashookdeday · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

There are lots of different theories out there, some stronger than others. One that you may find interesting and that I enjoyed reading and getting more insight on is that of Jared Diamond. He has a book called, Guns, Germs, and Steel I would recommend as a good read for a theory about this. There are some criticisms of Diamond, but most theories have a few.

Diamond's book discusses plenty of reasonings and ideas for why societies in Europe/Asia developed. He starts by explaining ideas of a hunter gathering society's limitations on technological advancement as well as the society/cultural connotations versus those of agrarian societies (who invented farming). A huge difference being farming societies had more time to develop other areas and skills (technology, art, etc.).

Another one of his compelling ideas is that horizontally oriented societies benefited more from similiar plants, animals, and trade versus societies who were oriented vertically. Due to climate and simliarities in culture (in horizontally oriented societies) the spread of technology, domestication, and availability of different animals and resources aided man's ability to develop faster than Native cultures on North America for instance.

u/BluShine · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

Food is a universal motivator. What if you had students research historical cooking? And after a week or two, you have each student bring in a recipe they've prepared from historical period/culture of their choice? And also give a presentation or write a short paper about how the food came about, or how it influence history and culture.

I've recently been trying recipes from this blog about recreating ancient Roman cuisine. Not exactly an academic source, but does cite the passages from Roman writings that inspire his exploits.

The book Salt: A World History would also be a great source, and is very easy-to-read and IMHO quite interesting. Many parts of it would make good excerpts for reading in class and introducing ideas. The same author has similar books on Cod and Oysters.

I'm no expert, I'm just stealing this idea because it's an assignment that I was given in High School, and was one of the most memorable and fun.

u/hjrdmh · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

I just got finished reading Rubicon, by Tom Holland, which was great. It goes into quite a bit of detail on the Roman constitution, and how political life worked before the breakdown of the Republic. A few minutes ago I just needed to double check which assemblies voted for which offices, so I popped over to wikipedia. The articles on the Century Assembly and the Tribal Assembly are fantastic. I'm half way through reading about the Century Assembly now, and there's a tonne of stuff in there I didn't know.

I'm always on the lookout for a book about just about the Roman Republic's constitution, or basically the legal mechanics behind its political system. I have yet to find one, so if anybody out there has any recommendations I'd love to hear them. Most books on the period supply a chapter or two on the subject, which I always gobble up with enthusiasm.

u/100002152 · 6 pointsr/AskHistorians

One of the best books I've read on the history of the late (Western) Roman Empire was Peter Heather's The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians. He provides a great deal of the latest research on the origins and movements of the different "barbarian" tribes and their relationships with the Roman Empire, including the Visigoths. The book is excellently written and accessible to someone (like myself when I first read it) who is new to the topic.

For more information on the Visigoths after the official end of the Western Roman Empire in 476 CE, Chris Wickham's The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000 provides a very detailed chapter on the Iberian peninsula under the Visigothic kingdom.

If you do decide to check these books out, I'd recommend reading Heather first for both the obvious reason of chronology and because Wickham is a much more daunting read.

u/arjun101 · 31 pointsr/AskHistorians

TL;DR Saudi Arabia and its allies among Islamist monarchies came out on top after the Arab Cold War, and subsequently were able to export Islamist ideology with the help of oil rents and "crowd out" secular and leftist ideologies in the region.

The fall of secular and left-leaning pan-Arabism and Arab Nationalism, and the rise of Political Islam and similarly religious and theological movements, is heavily rooted in how the Arab Cold War played out. The Arab Cold War was a regional struggle for hegemony and influence between newly ascendant republics run by military officials that were formed in the aftermath of overthrown monarchies in the Middle East (notably, Nasser's Egypt), and the surviving monarchies (notably King Faisal's Saudi Arabia). An important thing to recognize here is that Saudi Arabia relied heavily on backing conservative Islamic movements and organizations as a way to counter Arab Nationalism (as well as Marxist and Communist groups that were in tension with both Arab Nationalist and pro-Monarchy movements), even when certain groups--like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt--advocated a kind of Islamism that was anathema to Saudi elites.

Like some others have already pointed out, the failure of Nasser to lead an Arab victory over Israel in the 1967 war was a huge blow to both Nasser's image and the continuing appeal of Arab Nationalism, but also to the general economic stability of Egypt (Nasser had also become trapped in a quagmire during his intervention in Yemen). He subsequently had to mend ties with Saudi Arabia to get access to much-needed financial aid, and died shortly after; his successor, Anwar Sadat, had much closer ties with the Saudi Arabian regime and increasingly Islamized Egyptian society and allied with Islamist groups. Another important event would be the survival of the Jordanian Hashemite monarchy against Palestinian rebels during Black September, which was another critical blow to secular/leftist Arab Nationalist movements.

Thus, going into the 1970s, Arab Nationalist movements were starting to recede. But what really clinched the ascendance of political Islam was the enormous profits from oil sales that accrued to the Gulf States after the 1973 oil embargo and the spike in oil prices during the next ten years or so. The budgets of the monarchy, especially that of Saudi Arabia, boomed, and the Saudis were subsequently able to export their own particular brand of fundamentalist and ultra-conservative Islamic theology like never before--and support Islamist organizations in influencing society and politics. This was also encouraged by certain Western policies geared toward fighting Marxist and Soviet influence in the Middle East and larger Muslim world; the CIA's director in the '80s, for example, thought that religious education was an important weapon against Soviet atheism.

A great example of this is the rise of fundamentalism in Pakistan--Saudi funding was instrumental in the rise of Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan during the '70s, which supported the dictatorship of General Zia after he seized power in 1977. Saudi funding (along with CIA funding) was also instrumental in the rise of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as a kind of Islamist deep state within Pakistan, with deep ties to regional Islamic militant and terrorist networks, and which would become embedded into Pakistani political economy and play a key role in regulating Pakistani politics. And similarly, in neighboring Afghanistan, Saudi funding would prove critical in supporting the victory of Islamist groups over rival Marxist and communist groups.

Now, there are some complexities here that need to be addressed, because there are important theological and socio-political differences between the official Wahhabi ideology of Saudi Arabia, and properly "political" Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, and especially when compared with the revolutionary Islam of Khomeinism that was brought to the world stage after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. But despite the 1979 Iranian Revolution being a Shia-based revolution, it was still inspiring to many fundamentalist and radical Sunni groups because it was a solid example of an Islamic state being established, and inspireda and funded Shia groups like Hezbollah. And it was at this time that it seems that Saudi's religious exports became more sectarian in nature, as a way to counterbalance revolutionary Shiism with a pro-Saudi religious ideology (but lets save that for another time).


u/Shovelbum26 · 4 pointsr/AskHistorians

Especially considering the major population centers were, depending on the time period, mostly in Central America and the North American Mid-west. All of those cultures were definitely sedentary.

For good information on this I'd check out Mann's flawed but interesting 1491. I (and many archaeologists) feel he overestimates the size of pre-Columbian populations, but it's as exhaustive a look at demographics in the Americas just before contact as you will find, and it's very approachable for the layperson.

The upshot is, per capita, by European Contact, absolutely most Native Americans lived in sedentary, agriculture based state or chiefdom level societies. Maybe by geographic area nomadic hunter-gatherers might win out, but certainly not by population.

u/archaeofieldtech · 5 pointsr/AskHistorians

1491 by Charles Mann is a good read, and it gives some great population stats for the Americas.

I would also recommend searching out some peer-reviewed articles using Google Scholar and search terms like "Cahokia prehistoric population" or something. I don't have specific articles off the top of my head.

u/pipocaQuemada · 4 pointsr/AskHistorians

> Armchair generals can argue over and over about what the English 'should have done', but the fact remains that the decline in archery training led to the downfall of the longbow.

To be honest, half the reason for my asking this question was because I've been reading 1491, rather than trying to be an armchair general for the English. The book mentioned that guns weren't all that much better than bows (in terms of accuracy, etc.), so I was wondering how long that would have been true for.

u/[deleted] · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

> This is also probably the most boring aspect of eunuchs to me to be honest! It's like you study the history of steamships and everyone asks what iron they used.

There are people out there who would actually find the topic of your metaphor absolutely fascinating! That simple topic could provide a rich history of engineering, business, and politics. These books on the pencil and salt are just two examples of this.

u/The_YoungWolf · 64 pointsr/AskHistorians

Because by the time of Constantine's conversion, Christianity was no longer an obscure cult made up of subversive elements from the lower classes, but was firmly entrenched among the class of urban professionals and rising new military and bureaucratic officials that made up a very influential chunk of the Empire's demographics.

The Crisis of the Third Century brought substantial social and cultural changes to the Roman Empire. Most notably, it brought a rising tide of "new men" from outside the traditional upper classes of the empire to prominence. Their avenue to power was primarily through the military, for the Crisis was a series of divisive and devastating civil wars between self-proclaimed emperors:

> For the Roman Empire was saved by a military revolution. Seldom has a society set about cutting out the dead wood in its upper classes with such determination. The senatorial aristocracy was excluded from military commands in about 260. The aristocrats had to make way for professional soldiers who had risen from the ranks. These professionals recast the Roman army.

> ...

> The soldiers and officers [who fought in the Danubian campaigns], who had seemed so raw to the Mediterranean aristocrats of a previous age, emerged as heroes of the imperial recovery of the late third and early fourth centuries...The army was an artesian well of talent. By the end of the third century, its officers and administrators had ousted the traditional aristocracy from control of the empire.

These "new men" formed the basis of a new imperial bureaucratic and military administration that would preside over a recovery that spanned the fourth century. Their rise heralded the dawn of a new system of advancement that relied more on merit than birth. As a result, men from disparate regions, cultures, ethnic groups, and religions could rise to high positions with the administration.

This new culture and influx of talent allowed for men with Christian beliefs to quickly entrench themselves into the highest levels of Roman governance once Constantine converted to Christianity.

> The reign of Constantine, especially the period from 324-337, saw the final establishment of a new "aristocracy of service" at the top of Roman society...After the conversion of Constantine in 312, the emperors and the majority of their courtiers were Christians. The ease with which Christianity gained control of the upper classes of the Roman empire in the fourth century was due to the revolution that had placed the imperial court at the centre of a society of "new" men, who found it comparatively easy to abandon conservative beliefs in favour of the new faith of their masters.

So now the question is how Christianity was so appealing to this wave of "new men" (outside of how conversion allowed them to rise more quickly in the court of a Christian emperor).

Christianity offered a few distinct advantages compared to other religions at the time, chiefly its culture of community, exclusivity, and egalitarianism. Anyone could become a Christian no matter their ethnic, economic, or former religious background. And once you were a Christian, you were part of an exclusive community, of which many were men from well-off economic backgrounds and invested their wealth in improving that community. Thus, Christianity appealed to men who felt they lacked a social identity, and/or were trying to carve out a new niche for themselves in post-Crisis Roman society; and since the turmoil of the Crisis uprooted many people and produced a new group of ambitious, talented social risers, Christianity found itself with a wealth of new converts.

> The Church was also professedly egalitarian. A group in which there was 'neither slave nor free' might strike an aristocrat as utopian, or subversive. Yet in an age when the barriers separating the successful freedman from the declasse senator were increasingly unreal, a religious group could take the final step of ignoring them. In Rome the Christian community of the early third century was a p[lace where just such anomalies were gathered and tolerated: the Church included a powerful freedman chamberlain of the emperor; its bishop was the former slave of that freedman; it was protected by the emperor's mistress, and patronized by noble ladies.

> For men whose confusions came partly from no longer feeling embedded in their home environment, the Christian Church offered a drastic experiment in social living...


> The Christian Church suddenly came to appeal to men who felt deserted. At a time of inflation, the Christians invested large sums of liquid capital in people; at a time of increased brutality, the courage of Christian martyrs was impressive; during public emergencies, such as plague or rioting, the Christian clergy were shown to be the only united group in town, able to look after the burial of the dead and to organize food-supplies...Plainly, to be a Christian in 250 brought more protection from one's fellows than to be a civis romanus.

> ...

> What marked the Christian Church off, and added to its appeal, was the ferociously inward-looking quality of life...the wealth of the community returned to the members of the community alone, as part of the "loving-kindness of God to His special people.

> ...

> The appeal of Christianity still lay in its radical sense of community: it absorbed people because the individual could drop from a wide impersonal world into a miniature community, whose demands and relations were explicit.

Once Christians gained access to the highest levels of government via the "new men", and those "new men" carved out their own position among the elite classes of the Roman Empire, Christianity continued the process of adapting to the new culture of the classical world. The Crisis of the Third Century had brought more than civil war - foreign powers hostile to the Empire, such as Sassanid Persia and the Germanic tribes along the Rhine, had taken advantage of the weakness of Roman borders and launched raids and invasions into imperial territory. The mood of the apparent collapse of the "civilized", classical world took deep hold across the Roman Empire, and the narrative of Christianity was well-suited to adapt to this new mood:

> Hence the most crucial development of these centuries: the definitive splitting-off of the "demons" as active forces of evil, against whom men had to pit themselves. The sharp smell of an invisible battle hung over the religious and intellectual life of the Late Antique man...To men increasingly pre-occupied with the problem of evil, the Christian attitude to the demons offered an answer designed to relieve nameless anxiety: they focused this anxiety on the demons and at the same time offered a remedy for it. The devil was given vast but strictly-mapped powers. He was an all-embracing agent of evil in the human race; but he had been defeated by Christ and could be held in check by Christ's human agents.


> The early fourth century was the great age of the Christian Apologists...They claimed that Christianity was the sole guarantee of [classical] civilization - that the best traditions of classical philosophy and the high standards of classical ethics could be steeled against barbarism only through being confirmed by the Christian revelation; and that the beleaguered Roman empire was saved from destruction only by the protection of the Christian God.

When Constantine very publicly converted to Christianity, he was inundated by a flood of Christian "new men" who desired his patronage either for their own advancement within the government or for the advancement of their community's interests under his rule. By surrounding himself with Christians, Constantine surrounded himself with Christian propaganda, and allowed that propaganda to spread throughout the empire. And because Christianity was already entrenched among the urban middle class, combined with the eastern empire (the focus of Constantine's power and attention) being considerably more urbanized and developed than the western empire, this led to the majority of the entire empire becoming firmly Christian from the bottom up, despite the resistance of the traditionalist pagan aristocracy:

> This prolonged exposure to Christian propaganda was the true "conversion" of Constantine. It began on a modest scale when he controlled only the under-Christianized western provinces; but it reached its peak after 324, when the densely Christianized Christianized territories of Asia Minor were united to his empire.

Constantine's nephew, Julian the Apostate, who became emperor after the death of Constantine's son Constantius II, was a firm pagan who sought to roll back Christian infiltration within the upper levels of Roman government. But his premature death on the battlefield in 363, only three years into his reign, smothered those plans in the crib. The new Christian domination of the Roman world was here to stay.

Source: The World of Late Antiquity, by Peter Brown (pub. 1971)

I encourage you to seek out further replies and sources to this question. My sole source is a secondary one, and an old one, despite being an extremely influential work in the historiography of the late Roman Empire.

u/lobster_johnson · 21 pointsr/AskHistorians

Another book worth mentioning: The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. Won the Pulitzer prize, an instant classic, and perhaps one of the finest non-fiction books ever written. It paints the story of the bomb on a very broad, panoramic canvas, tracing the entire process of turning an outlandish, futuristic idea (all the way back to the musings of H. G. Well) into a real weapon with fatal and geopolitical consequences, through a complex landscape of politics, history, philosophy and psychology. Along the way it drip-feeds a course in elementary particle physics so that the technical details are easy to understand even for a layman — in fact, the first half of the book is pretty much the story of the atomic physics, from the discovery of the atom to modern quantum mechanics. The book is also superbly written; quirkily, occasionally lyrical, and very adept at making its characters come alive with plenty of juicy dramatic tension. (My only criticism about the book: Not enough Feynman!)

u/soapdealer · 7 pointsr/AskHistorians

The best account of the US's involvement is in Afghanistan that I've read is the Pulitzer Prize winning Ghost Wars by Steve Coll.

u/wtengtio · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

Tom Standage does a great job writing books which are thematically ordered, meaning he goes through history focusing on certain cultural phenomonam which influenced the time. His History of thr World in 6 Glasses" book is a great one. I'm currently reading his one on the first 2000 years of social media called Writing on the Wall.


Links! - 6 Glasses

Social Media

u/DrKarenDempsey · 76 pointsr/AskHistorians

Feminism as it currently exists today was not present in the medieval period. What we can talk about is female agency. In other words how women acted within the constraints of a patriarchal society either as individuals or as a group. Acts of subversion can be seen in a number of ways. I have mentioned a few times on here about how women could not participate fully in the church- they were forbidden to touch the alter. However, many women donated their clothes, or made personalised alter clothes for the church or priests. This meant that clothes that has touched them, that they had owned or made and perhaps worn on their body eventually came to wrap the alter - one of the most sacred parts of the church. Or touched the body of the clergyman they donated it too. While we cannot say that this was a feminist act it was certainly a way of cleverly avoiding the ban on touching (even if by proxy!).

Another, perhaps more obvious way, was that many women who were married once and became widows chose to stay that way. They elected not to remarry. Widows had a special place in society - they almost operated as men, especially in relation to property and wealth.

There are of course unmarried or single women who equally chose to live that way (a wonderful book on Cecila Penifader by Judith Bennettt shows one such (well off) peasant woman. This is a super book! I return to it again and again. Also, work by Dr Cordelia Beattie discusses single women Beattie, C. (2007) Medieval Single Women: The Politics of Social Classification in Late Medieval England. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dr Beattie has a range of really informative publications on medieval women!

u/yo2sense · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

The general resource for this is Thomas Slaughter's The Whiskey Rebellion. The central insight of that work is that the resistance was hardly confined to Western Pennsylvania but encompassed the entire frontier area of the United States. People living in backcountry areas basically hadn't been paying taxes since the Revolution began and didn't intend to start with such a heavy tax laid on by a distant government. What made Western Pennsylvania unique is the presence of someone actually willing to attempt to enforce the law in the person of General John Neville.

This is what we need to remember when looking into why the this tax was chosen. Eastern elites such as Alexander Hamilton looked upon frontier people much as Parliament looked upon the colonists when picking the Stamp Act tax or Mitt Romney looked upon the 47%. The whiskey tax would fall harder on freeloaders than on the productive people in eastern counties. For a more nuanced look at the politics see William Hogeland's The Whiskey Rebellion. Ron Chernow in Alexander Hamilton argues that the whiskey tax was the only real option for funding after federal assumption of state debts but doesn't explore the structure of the law designed to fall harder on small producers than on large.

The result was the strengthening of the government of the United States. It demonstrated to its states and foreign governments that it could enforce an unpopular tax and field large military forces to subdue its hinterlands. On the flip side, a lot of frontier farmers lost their land. Despite the prejudices of rich people, poor people really are poor. The situation became less bleak for western farmers after the opening of the Mississippi but agrarian unrest didn't subside until easy money and credit reached them in the wake of the demise of the First Bank of the United States ( See Gordon Wood Empire of Liberty page 298.

u/minnabruna · 8 pointsr/AskHistorians

You might like My Khyber Marriage and Valley of the Giant Buddahs. They are autobiographical reports by a Scotswoman who married a Pashtun and moved to Afghanistan in the 1920s. My Life: From Brigand to King--Autobiography of Amir Habibullah may also be of interest. It is an as-told-to autobiography of an Afghan brigand who briefly overthrew the King about ten years after the first two books were written. The Road to Oxiana is a bit clunky but offers a Western perspective on Afghanistan in the 1930s.

The more general Afghanistan of the Afghans, written by the husband of the woman mentioned above, focuses a lot of culture and cultural history, Afghanistan is a more general history and this Afghanistan claims to be more about the military history but I haven't read it myself to judge.

If you want something more contemporary, The Places In Between is a decent travelogue by an adventurer/preservationist/mercenary who walked through parts of the country. It didn't blow me away but it is interesting and most contemporary Afghan books from the West are such trash that this one shines in comparison. The author really did go to areas of Afghanistan about which most people know very little.

Ghost Wars is a popular book that focuses on the US involvement in the area during the Soviet Afghan war. Taliban is another popular book, and focuses on the Taliban in the 1990s and early 2000s. The link is to the second edition which I believe is updated.

u/no-tea · 70 pointsr/AskHistorians

Hamilton, as an artistic work, is really deep into using present references to illustrate how the past works, and this is no exception. Tl;dr: it's a joke made at the expense of people from New Jersey, nothing more, nothing less.

People from New York City, especially from Manhattan Island, have a long history of looking down their noses at the so-called "bridge and tunnel crowd," that is, people from outside Manhattan. This is because Manhattan has been the cultural, commercial, and transportation hub of the region for the last few hundred years. Witness the distinctions made in this New York Times article from 1904, in which the reporter notes who's riding the subway on its first day:

>The crowds varied from hour to hour. At first, the down-town trains were sparsely filled and the up-town trains crowded. The explanation was simple; the good folk of Brooklyn and Jersey had come over early to try the subway and get home to bed. Later on the down-town trains began to bear the preponderance; the up-town New Yorkers were trying the new experiment, and the Brooklynites and Jerseyites had gone home.

>And it was amusing to note the difference. The up-bound Brooklynites and Jerseyites and Richmondites had boarded the trains with the stolid air of an African chief suddenly admitted into civilization and unwilling to admit that anything surprised him. The Manhattanites boarded the trains with the sneaking air of men who were ashamed to admit that they were doing something new, and attempting to cover up the disgraceful fact. They tried to cover it up with gibes and jokes.

Or, if you want to look at something more recent, check out the famous New Yorker cover from 1976 that illustrates the stereotypical Manhattan attitude towards New Jersey.

This attitude is because, as Ben Franklin put it, New Jersey is a "keg tapped at both ends"-- Jersey is in the shadow of both Philadelphia and New York. In the modern era, this hasn't changed much, despite New Jersey's emergence as one of the wealthiest states in the Union. New Yorkers tend to treat Jerseyites as an indistinct mass, partially because New Jersey local government is extraordinarily Balkanized due to poor planning decisions in the late 19th century. The six densely-populated counties closest to Manhattan have 4.1 million people between them as of the last census -- nearly half the population of New York City itself-- but they're so splintered that the largest city, Newark, has less than 300,000 residents.

Now, to bring this into the context of Hamilton: dueling was illegal but tolerated in New Jersey at the time, which is why the actual duel happened in Weehawken. I suspect Miranda, like any good New Yorker, couldn't pass up the opportunity to throw shade.

u/WARFTW · 4 pointsr/AskHistorians

>I remember reading about a (recent) book that attributed the end of WW2 in the Pacific to the Soviet involvement more so than the atomic bombs dropped upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I can't recall the title. Maybe someone on here will be able to help with that...

You're talking about the following:

Although it doesn't fall into the category of a general history of the Eastern Front, it is an excellent monograph on the subject(s) it concentrates on.

u/Sevrenloreat · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

My understanding is it partially started when the church of England split from the Catholic church. Coffee was strongly associated with the Catholic church at time, and to distance themselves, people in England began to stop drinking it, and instead started drinking tea. There is actually a theory that tea helped out the industrial revolution, because it has minor antibiotic properties. Right when people started really bunching up in cities, is when tea got popular. It also may have contributed to British naval superiority, due to it's vitamin C. This helped fight off scurvy, and major problem at the time.

I would check out this book If you are interested in more information. It goes too far to the side of "this caused this" but as long as you keep in mind things are rarely as cut and dry as he implies, it has some great information.

u/toryhistory · -1 pointsr/AskHistorians

>Fascism in both Italy and Germany didn't arbitrate between labor and capital. It suppressed labor and made it subservient to capital.

I believe we have had this argument before. Italy and germany suppressed both labor and capital. If you don't believe me, check out Wages of Destruction or Hitler's Social revolution, both of which talk about how capital was bent to hitler's will.

>This is nothing like the system set up under the NRA or the NLRA.

As I said, the american system is a lot softer than the fascist systems, but the organizational principle is the same. Labors are cartels, each with local monopolies, organized hierarchically into federations lake the AFL-CIO. the principle difference is the strength of that hierarchy, and of course, the oppressiveness of the state.

>but that hardly means that he based the entirety of his domestic program off of what he saw.

I didn't say he did. I said he based the NRA on what he saw there (or, more likely, the people in his administration based it on what they saw there. No one ever claimed that FDR was a deep thinker). the new deal included a lot of things that were not the NRA. to attribute any philosophical principle (with the possible exception of raising prices) to the new deal as a whole is simply bad history, it was a massively varied effort, with lots of parts pushed by lots of different people for lots of different reasons, often at cross purposes.

>Moreover, even if he wanted to, you're denying agency to the entirety of Congress,

during the first 100 days, at least, congress seemed to be willing to pass just about anything that FDR sent before them. The NIRA was passed 7 days after being presented to congress, and was through both houses in less than a month, little altered from their original form. Exactly why this was the case is a pretty fascinating question, but I think denying congress agency for the legislation in this period is pretty fair.

u/Celebreth · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

Hey, I'm glad to be of service! :D And again, if you need any more, please don't hesitate to ask. On to the points!

u/Da_Jibblies · 21 pointsr/AskHistorians

Well first and foremost, the "Axis" that you referred to is not a monolithic entity, but rather, an alliance of world powers with their own vested interests, their own reasons for war, and their own justifications for military expansionism. So judging from how your question is framed, by "Axis" you seem to be referring specifically to Germany, but I will attempt to unpack your answer in as nuanced and comprehensive way as possible.

Many in the Japanese military saw the expansion of their empire as a means of becoming a modern state in the eyes of the world, on par with great European powers at the time. Furthermore, Japanese framed the rhetoric of this expansion within a dialogue of "Pan-Asianism", and the protection of Asian interests from white imperial powers in the West (namely Britain and the United States). Many Asian countries, be it the Philippines, China, Thailand, etc. had a long history of both military and economic subjugation at the hands of European and American imperialism. In this regard, the Japanese fighting allied troops in the pacific did not see themselves as agents of genocide, but rather, as protectors of a sort of paternalistic guidance of Asian independence and progression, with conveniently, Japan as the father figure protecting their fellow Asian "wards" within that paternalistic setting.

In regards to Germany, I think it is instructive for us to use an approach similar to Mary Renda's in her account of the U.S occupation of Haiti by asking the question: How does one imagine themselves when they pull the trigger of a gun? Again, engaging directly to your question, is it likely that the common German soldier saw himself as a vessel of genocide? Or, is it more likely that the background of the soldier in a prewar context (their class, their regional identity, their experiences with Jews before the war, the relationship to economic depression and recovery, etc.) shaped their attitudes and motivations going into the war? Some surely did see themselves as actors in the genetic purification of the German race, however, I would postulate that these were the minority of soldiers. Some saw themselves as restoring the glory of the German empire. However, as [Stephen Fritz] ( suggests, many others saw themselves upholding the less sinister values of National Socialism against the forces of communism and capitalism. National Socialism was more than just the idea of ethnic purity. We have to remember the context of post WWI German society; its political unrest of the Weimar Republic and its economic hardships. The soldiers of Germany experienced this context, it memory was palpable and vivid, and thus, many saw the country's renewed glory as intrinsically connected to the class, economic and political ideologies of National Socialism.

I do not have a comprehensive background in Italian history or Italian fascism, so I won't attempt to postulate on the motivations of soldiers in that context. However, I would just like to end by cautioning you of the approach that leads to questions like this. What you are doing is taking a presentist mindset, the knowledge and context of the present and imposing it on your inquiry of the past. In so doing, you devoid the subjects of your presentist thinking of their historical contexts, and in turn, pass judgment onto these historical actors and ascribe motivations that were either nominal or secondary to their lives and beliefs. This is not an attack on you, or, an attempt to scold you in an academic sense. Rather, it is simply an attempt to illuminate some the fallacies that everyone (including professional historians) bring with them that shape their historical scholarship. In the future, try to refine your inquires by identifying possibly presentist ideas and analysis. Again, I don't want this to seem like an attack, I am glad you are attempting to think about the motivations of the other in a historical context.

I hope this answer shed some light on your question and the historical contexts the shaped the more forgotten actors of the Second World War.

Further Reading:

[Japan at War] (

[The Programme of NSDAP] (

[Japan's Total Empire] (

EDIT: Spelling and formatting and junk.

u/grashnak · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

If you're looking for a broad survey book of the time period 400-1000, I would recommend Chris Wickham's The Inheritance of Rome (2009)

Great book. Goes a little beyond (a lot beyond) Italy to basically talk about every part of the Roman Empire, plus some stuff in Ireland and Scandinavia for comparative purposes, but really gives you a good broad sense of everything going on in the post-Roman world.

u/phunky_monk · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

In 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann Discusses a portion of your question.

> Was that statistically inevitable for a plague to be introduced?

Basically, yes. Most of 1491 is Mann tracing the history of and translating the results of years of academic research. He also explains various schools of thoughts on various issues. I don't have the book with me here at school, so excuse my foggy memory and paraphrasing.

First off, the number one killer of Indigenous peoples of the Americas was Small Pox. There were other diseased introduced, like the flu and the plague, but small pox was the most devastating.
Initial accounts of the new world by the spanish describe bustling civilizations. Only a few years later, entire civilizations had collapsed. Mann covers this in great detail.

Okay, back to statistical inevitability. Basically, not only did the indians have no immunity to diseases that europeans had been building resistance to for generations, but there is a school of academic research that believes indigenous peoples were more susceptible to diseases because of something called "haplogroups." . I don't fully understand the science behind it, but basically there are scholars who argue that the natives, because of their genetics, were more susceptible to these diseases. Mann describes the entire process which led to the experiments which support this belief.

Anyways, I hope this helps. I highly highly recommend 1491 if you are interested in the history of Native Americans. It is easily my favorite book I have read in my college career thus far.

u/neoquixo · 8 pointsr/AskHistorians

I would like to nominate Roger Goiran, a Bronze Star winning OSS Captain. Roger was head of CIA's Tehran station in the early 1950s and in Belgium in the early 1960s. Goiran had a very promising CIA career but somewhat fell out of favor after he resigned his Tehran post in protest when the plan to depose democratically elected Iranian President Mohammad Mosaddegh came through. Goiran believed the plan to put the Shah in power compromised US principles and threw its support behind English and French colonialism.

He is mentioned in Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes and Meyer and Brysac's Kingmakers

u/gshenck · 23 pointsr/AskHistorians

I'd reccommend reading A Medieval Life, which uses both outside research and a very fortunate abundance of local court records to piece together the life of a single villain from England.

The book makes it very clear several times that she isn't representative of all peasants simply because they were so diverse across Europe, but one thing I recall it pointing out is that there were indeed a substantial number of 'holidays', all based around the church calendar. Several large feasts around christmas and easter, as well as a long succession in the summer, along with a multitude of single day feasts throughout the year, plus you would have the sabbath.

It makes it clear that while she had hardships, it wasn't as bad as commonly imagined for many, if not most, in the lower class. If you made it past childhood you would likely live a fairly decent life (average lifespans are heavily skewed by the huge infant mortality rate), and the work itself wasn't for many as bad as commonly portrayed in modern fiction.

u/ProUsqueTandem · 6 pointsr/AskHistorians

Rubicon, by Tom Holland is a great book if you want to learn more about Roman history.
It is mainly about Caesar and his contemporaries, but almost every famous Roman of the Republic era passes the revue.

In my opinion it focuses on the most interesting century of Roman history, and is my favourite book about the Romans

u/CptBuck · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

FYI: in the /r/askhistorians booklist, the Byzantine recommendations are (of course) split between several different sections, so some are in Europe and some are in Middle East.

The word "Byzantium" or "Byzantine" isn't even necessarily mentioned in some of them, so for instance one of the standard introductory texts about the transition from "Rome" to "Byzantium," namely, Peter Brown's The World of Late Antiquity (which is excellent, read it!) might not appear at first glance.

Anyways, the point being that the book list is in general quite extensive, even if it's not always especially searchable : )

u/SplendourFalls · 4 pointsr/AskHistorians

The way you've phrased this question caught my attention, and I'd like to point you in the direction of what I think is one of the most important books ever written about the Second World War:

Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning tries to explain how a group of apolitical middle-aged men who weren't even professional soldiers, guys who had reached adulthood long before Hitler took power, men who weren't particularly anti-Semitic and didn't vote for the Nazis, became enthusiastic executioners of thousands upon thousands of Jews.

The process that turned law-abiding, conscientious citizens into murderers was an intricate and subtle process and cannot and never will be explained by simplifications like 'brainwashing' or 'the Nazis were all psychopaths', and that's the point Browning tries to get at in his book.

There are other books like Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners which argue that Germans have always been hell-bent on the elimination of the Jewish race since the beginning of time which will answer your question in a way that will make you feel much more comfortable, if that's what you want. If not, Browning's your man.

u/buddhafig · -5 pointsr/AskHistorians

Sorry I don't have the short answer, but Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared M. Diamond is a good source for crop development over history and how it affected various cultures.

u/GeneralLeeFrank · 5 pointsr/AskHistorians

It's a good read for historiographies, but I'm sure ancient historians have gone past some of his theories. Nevertheless, it's still regarded as a classic.

If you want more modern books, check out: Peter Brown's World of Late Antiquity and Peter Heather's The Fall of the Roman Empire

There are different theories on the fall, you could probably go through an entire library of them. I just picked selections I had from class, as I think these were more readable.

u/yang_gui_zi · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

Was waiting for someone to bring up Tsuyoshi Hasegawa. Pretty cool that he is your prof.

He wrote a whole book on this specific issue:

u/alfonsoelsabio · 8 pointsr/AskHistorians

I'd recommend two books that, while in contention historiographically, together do a good job of describing the length of Roman decline and the immediate effects on its citizens: Bryan Ward-Perkins' The Fall of Rome and Peter Brown's The World of Late Antiquity.

u/MuffinMedic · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning does a really great job of explaining much of what was done to the Jews over time.

u/Asshole_Salad · 11 pointsr/AskHistorians

This is actually a really good book about salt. It was widely available in little shakers and otherwise, and the supply and demand of it changed world history several times over. He compares it to oxygen - it's something you take for granted but when you don't have it, it's suddenly very, very important.

u/Poor-Richard · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

Yes there are numerous sources and I think you would be intrigued by just how much both of their public perceptions have changed over time. Hamilton was originally castigated, almost demonized, by many upon his death due to the harsh political lines that existed between him and his opponents (Jefferson, Burr, and really any anti-Federalist), and his extraordinary/imperfect personal life. Jefferson on the other hand was pretty ubiquitously lauded for a long time and it wasn't until historians began viewing his life later on that his legacy began to be questioned, when it has been revealed just how much Jefferson was a man of great contradiction.

Both were undoubtedly great men with perhaps even greater character flaws.

Really any book written during the Revolutionary period would expand on this in great detail, but specifically biographies of the two men or any of the Founding Fathers. You cannot research the men who typically are associated as the Founding Fathers or Framers without talking about the political discord that developed between the two sides.

Some of my favorites are below:

But this is by no means limiting and I didn't even link any Jefferson-centric biographies.

u/chaotey · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

No, the correct answer from any historian would be that salt was used in the preservation of foods an the treatment of wounds, vitally important for armies. I recommend at least a casual perusal of salt.

u/Cosmic_Charlie · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

Read McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom.

It's brilliantly written, engaging, authoritative, and generally accepted as "the book" for the Civil War in the minds of most historians.

You note you're a Tennessee boy. You may be interested in the older "New South" school vis-a-vis the War. Wm Dunning led a major push to view the War as one of Northern aggression. The Dunning School was quite influential until (roughly) the early Civil Rights Era.

There are also occasional, but lively debates on H-Net, South about how to view the Civil War.

As a side note, the whole Oxford History of the US series is worth reading. Some of the titles are dated, but they are all very good reads. (well, at least the ones I've read ;-) )

u/10z20Luka · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

Have you ever heard of this book called A History of the World in Six Glasses?

If not, then never mind I suppose. If so, would you mind giving me a quick rundown of your impression? Mostly dealing with accuracy and overall legitimacy, if you don't mind.

u/BookQueen13 · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

You might like The Inheritance of Rome for more information about that. It was one of my textbooks for my early middle ages course. The author makes some really good points about the collapse, or rather "unwinding", of the Western Roman Empire and the deteriorating relationship between East and West. If I remember correctly, there were some chapters solely on the Byzantine Empire as well.

u/ssd0004 · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

As documented in the journalistic novel Ghost Wars (fantastic book on the history of Afghanistan, I highly recommend it), Saudi Arabia gave a lot of funds for various Islamic militias in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. After the Soviets left and militias started fighting each other, funding also increased to the Taliban.

I can't say conclusively about other regions. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if many Sunni extremist groups have ties with Saudi Arabian reactionaries.

u/prehensilefoot · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

You may want to check out "A History of the World in Six Glasses," which looks at the history of some of the most ancient and popular drinks and the way they were used within different cultures:

u/sarasmirks · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

Distilled spirits were not widely known in Europe during the Middle Ages. And, from what I can tell, they were not considered a high class beverage even once they did become widespread. See, for instance, the Gin Craze in 18th century Britain. It's actually difficult to find the early history of some distilled spirits because they were popularized among the sort of people who wouldn't have been writing a lot of things down.

So that leaves beer and wine.

To an extent, the cultural prestige of beer vs. wine is geographic. Some parts of Europe are conducive to growing wine grapes and aging wine. Some are not.

So in places like Britain, where wine is not made locally, wine becomes a high-class beverage because it has to be imported from elsewhere. It's a valuable commodity, not your basic everyday beverage for the average joe. The everyday drink would have been beer, in wine-less places. And thus you get lots of paintings of nobles drinking wine and peasants drinking beer.

In the literature, too, beer is seen as a more local thing in non-winemaking places, whereas wine is an imported luxury. The average wife would have brewed her own beer, for example.

You can sort of think of it like the difference between tap water and Perrier, in the modern US.

But of course if we're talking about, for example, Italy, wine is made all over the country, and the everyday drink of choice is going to also be wine. (But probably rough plonk, not the fine wines reserved for the nobility and export to the ultra-rich in colder countries.) Southern Europe never really developed a strong beer culture, because there was plenty of wine to go around.

I unfortunately have no idea whether beer was imported to Southern Europe or whether it ever had the kind of cultural prestige that wine has had in Northern Europe, though my experience drinking beer in Italy in the present day implies that beer has never been a sought after luxury there. Peroni, ick.

The cocktail is a 19th century invention, by the way.

You might want to read A History Of The World In Six Glasses, if you like this sort of thing. It doesn't really answer your question about class and prestige, though, but it does touch on what drinks were invented when and what people would have been drinking at different points in time.

u/cariusQ · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

Curing meat was secondary factor. For most lower class and the poor, salt was simply too expensive to be used to cure meat.

The real reason is this; you would die if you don't eat salt. For example, your nervous system and brain would cease to function if you don't have sodium. Go read up on
Muscle contraction also depend on the sodium channel. See

Russia was trying to make rebel's life miserable. It's easy in our age of abundant to forget how precious salt used to be.

Throughout history, salt was a very precious commodity. A lot of societies had salt tax as an important source of government revenue(look up Gandhi's Salt March). You either have to mine it or made it from evaporation of sea water then transport it long distance, making it super expensive.

If you still interested, go read this book.

u/VetMichael · 4 pointsr/AskHistorians

If I may jump in here, /u/Mycd is making a similar argument to Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs, and Steel. Though I am not sure about the claim that livestock were a significant source of disease. I know that they were a significant source of vaccination in the 18th century, but disease? Zoonotic diseases aren't usually small pox level variants (except for exotic ones which emerge well after the Columbian exchange).

There is a history of continual exposure to the major, and quite deadly, pathogens in Eurasian history that were the subject of medical inquiry from about 1000 CE onward; Chinese and Indian physicians, for example, experimented with blowing the dust from dried scabs of plague victims into the noses of people who had not gotten sick yet in order to inoculate them. It didn't work as well as modern science would have liked - the Black Death claimed tens of thousands of lives in Cairo alone - but it was better than nothing.

In Diamond's book, he makes the argument that since Eurasian trade routes were roughly east-west, the pathogens had similar enough environs - and continual human hosts - to survive and even mutate. On the other hand, Diamond points out, there was no equivalent to the Silk Road in the Western Hemisphere, thus preventing continual human-to-human transmission necessary for viral or bacterial mutation to the degree in Eurasia. Also, the fact that different latitudes often brought wildly varying environments, hampered potentially deadly plagues from emerging on such a vast scale in the Americas. He doesn't say, though, that Mesoamericans or other major empires didn't have plagues - they did - but compared to Eurasian ones, they were relatively weak or mild.

Other sources: Bernard Lewis Islam: From the Prophet Muhammad to the Capture of Constantinople

Arthur Silverstein A History of Immunology

Jared Diamond Guns, Germs, and Steel

u/spedmonkey · 7 pointsr/AskHistorians

While I agree that your question is quite subjective, I'd suggest taking a look at Guns, Germs, & Steel, the ubiquitous recommendation when dealing with this question. I'm not sure I agree with all of Diamond's ideas, but it's a thought-provoking book, and he makes some excellent arguments within.

u/GnomishKaiser · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

If you want to more information on the founding of the US Navy I would suggest reading It goes in depth into the reasoning and building behind ships like the constitution and the rest of the small US navy at the time.

u/xbayuldrd · -1 pointsr/AskHistorians

This book talks a lot about that stuff. I recommend it.

u/snaresamn · 25 pointsr/AskHistorians

Well, they did have a technological advantage in the form of viking longships. These ships were long, shallow bottomed, flexible ships that were both graceful as well as being some of the fastest ships in the viking's geological sphere of influence. They were highly efficient in the sea as well as in the small rivers and fjords of Scandinavia and their shallow hulls allowed them to travel up mainland rivers, even reaching as far as Paris, France before the end of the viking age. The ships also allowed for long, fast voyages along coasts carrying vikings as far from Scandinavia as Italy, Turkey, Russia, North Africa and Canada.

Another piece of the reason they were so successful was that they often targeted under-manned monasteries, churches and small villages. 8th to 12th century England was not united by any means; you had North Umbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Wessex and all the smaller states within those areas that were not always at peace with each other, requiring fighting forces that were not seen to be as needed on the north and northeast coasts of England and modern Scotland.

Now we come to combining these two factors in viking tactics. Vikings were raiders, at least in the beginning, and were not setting out to conquer lands and steal fortifications as in your typical medieval battle. They use a hit-and-run style of raiding that left their victims little to no time to call for aid. They would spend their winters at home preparing their ships, weapons and bodies for the summer raids and after the spring crops had been planted they were off in search of the most plunder they could bring back with the smallest amount of risk involved. To a viking, it didn't matter if you were a soldier or a monk, if they engaged you in a fight and you lost, they were entitled to what you owned as they considered this a fair fight. So, in that way, they may have also had a psychological advantage as well. Other monks and god-fearing men heard account of these ruthless demons (some letters from monks who escaped the vikings survive these encounters) and fear and infamy about them spread through the British isles.

If you’re interested in further reading I highly recommend “The Viking World”

If you’re interested in reading a letter written about the vikings by a monk whose monastery was attacked by vikings, Yale has an online transcription available here:

u/ChermsMcTerbin · 8 pointsr/AskHistorians

I have and idea for a paper that would connect caffeinated beverages to increased industrialization. Anecdotally, you have tea/coffee (Industrialization)->soda(19th/20th century)->hyper caffeinated beverages (the 21st century and a 24 hour world). But that's another story.

I would suggest looking at A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage for a look at the impact of coffee on the modern world.

u/ocKyal · 744 pointsr/AskHistorians

By the time the Burr-Hamilton duel occurred, Jefferson and Burr were barely speaking even though Burr was the Vice-President. This is due to the fact that during the Election of 1800, there was a serious movement to place Burr as the President over Jefferson when the election went to the House of Representatives. Burr alienated Republicans by taking the position that he would not defer to Jefferson, the party leader, if he was selected as President.

Part of the hostility that ultimately led up to the duel between Hamilton and Burr was in fact b/c Hamilton actively endorsed Jefferson, whom Hamilton thought was mistaken in many areas, he at least had principles that he adhered to, over Burr, whom Hamilton viewed as having no principle but personal ambition, and his fellow Federalist Adams. Hamilton's endorsement was particularly powerful b/c even though he was on the downslope of his influence and power, he still controlled enough of the Federalist party to have the potential to swing a vote in the House and some have argued that Hamilton's influence was what swung the eventual deciding vote, Federalist James Bayard of Delaware, to pick Jefferson over Burr.

Jefferson never forgave Burr after this election and basically cast Burr out of the Democratic-Republican party. Jefferson so distrusted Burr that he shut Burr out of the administration, only meeting Burr for dinner once every two weeks and only allowing Burr to meet with his Cabinet once a year. Burr further broke with Jefferson when he sided with the Federalists over the repeal of the Judiciary Act. Burr was also distrusted by the Federalists, whom he courted to try and get back to power, and after his fateful duel with Hamilton he lost all influence with the remnants of that party.

Source: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

u/EvanHarper · 9 pointsr/AskHistorians

> the Luftwaffe in the 1930's was largely envisaged as a tactical weapon rather than a strategic one, for a variety of reasons. One was the predominance of the Blitzkrieg theory in German military thinking

I'm pretty surprised to see this from a flaired user. It's now well-established that there was no such underlying "Blitzkrieg theory" or "strategic synthesis" as the old books say. German procurement in the 1930s was not in any way intended to build "Blitzkrieg" capabilities, even under another name.

In fact, the Germans were influenced like so many others by the exaggerated claims of the inter-war bomber prophets, and believed they had constructed in the Luftwaffe a true war-winning strategic weapon. Their original war plan for France was actually conduct a very conventional, bludgeoning, limited-objective version of the Schlieffen Plan in order to seize airbases on the Channel coast from which to bomb Britain into submission. The Army was actually intended to support the Air Force!

Sources: Frieser, Tooze

u/MarcusDohrelius · 4 pointsr/AskHistorians

The Viking World is about as comprehensive of a volume as you could need. There are plenty of sections dealing with women in the Viking world. The work is scholarly but not unapproachable.

u/depanneur · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

The Viking World edited by Stefan Brink is a great source, filled with up-to-date papers written by some of the best scholars in Viking Age history and archaeology. It has chapters detailing everything from Norse-Sami relations, Scandinavian coinage to a few chapters regarding the impact by Scandinavians on the people they interacted with. I definitely recommend it.

The impact of the Scandinavian Invasions on Celtic Speaking Peoples is a bit dated, but is cool to have as a historiographical piece because so many of their interpretations have been proven wrong by new archaeological evidence and less narrow/literal readings of cherry picked primary sources (Binchy, for example, was a genius in the field of early Irish law tracts, however only reading law tracts will give you a very skewed view of how Irish society functioned). I only bought it because it's on sale and because it includes D A Binchy's classic "Changing of the old order" paper, even though new research has shown his theory of the vikings dragging the Irish out of an "old order" to be wrong.

u/AmesCG · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

On a related topic, how reliable is the popular Charles Mann book, 1491? It speaks to this issue, but I'm not sure how it's regarded.

u/Suck_It_Trebek · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

Read Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder. It's an exhaustive chronicle of the extermination programs of each respective regime, and argues quite persuasively that the development of extermination camps was a direct result of the combination of the two factors you mentioned in your post.

u/adlerchen · 10 pointsr/AskHistorians

Of course. The Carolingian kingdom even used roman law, and as a direct result so did Charlemagne's 3 successor states and thus so did medieval France and the Holy Roman Empire.

And it's not like there wasn't a roman empire during the medieval period. While western Rome collapsed in the 5th century, eastern Rome did not, and the indigenous inhabitants of what we now in English call the Byzantine Empire considered themselves Romans and were considered as such by their contemporaries. When Odoacer took the crown of Rome he himself didn't claim the title of imperitor, he sent the crown to the eastern Emperor as he felt it was his rightful property. And furthermore hundreds of years after that both the Arabs and Turks called eastern Rome "Rum" and the inhabitants of the eastern Roman empire "Romans".

  • Wickham 2009 - The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000.
  • Gabriele 2011 - An Empire of Memory: The Legend of Charlemagne, the Franks, and Jerusalem before the First Crusade.
u/PrimusPilus · 15 pointsr/AskHistorians

I don't disagree with the bulk of this, but two points:

  • Are you not perhaps underestimating the efficacy of Soviet intelligence operations against the Axis? Decisive examples might include the use of moles inside of Allied intelligence to verify German plans before Operation Citadel in 1943, as well as the activities of GRU agent Richard Sorge in Tokyo in 1941.

  • Are you not perhaps overestimating the wartime efficacy of the OSS? Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA in particular, seems to paint a fairly damning picture of Donovan & Dulles' covert ops during World War II.
u/redrosebeetle · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

In Christopher Browning's [Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland] ( he depicts the response of Police Battalion 101 to participating in the genocide of European Jews using testimony from their post-war trials. Nearly every member, including the Battalion commander, showed signs of regret or PTSD, according to Browning.

u/RufusSaysMeow · -1 pointsr/AskHistorians

I've spent a lot of time dealing with this question and have even written on the subject. I believe a "good" piece of historical writing needs to be able to capture the mind and attention of common people and historians alike. Pure scholarly historical work serves a purpose and has to be inherently accurate, but it does nothing to further the field and bring it to a wider audience. A balance needs to be struck between keeping the information accurate and the story line intriguing. Check out Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson if you haven't already. It is known as one of, if not the best historical books in terms of accuracy and reader interest.

u/goo321 · 1 pointr/AskHistorians


depending on where you are from, read a book about every major war your country fought. Who's kidding who, wars are the interesting parts.

Biographies or auto-biographies are interesting.

I remember as a kid i liked,

Recently liked:

u/ShellOilNigeria · 4 pointsr/AskHistorians

It is all very interesting. We will probably never figure out who actually did what and why.

I will have to check out Ghost Wars.

Currently I'm reading -

u/jimmythemini · 21 pointsr/AskHistorians

Based on my reading of The Inheritance of Rome by Chris Wickham, the short answer is that in the early medieval period, there wasn't a particularly strong conception in the lands of the Western Empire between a 'Roman' and 'post-Roman' era. Obviously this was even less of the case in the Eastern Empire, but I assume OP is mainly asking about the West.

In part, this is because the Western Empire fizzled out quite slowly and in an amorphous fashion, and wasn't replaced by what we might call 'coherent' nation states. Mediterranean trade - the lifeblood of the Empire - also declined terminally but very slowly. There was no set date for the Fall of the Empire as we conceive now - the Sack of Rome in 410 would most likely have been received with the same sense of shock that 9/11 was felt throughout the Western world. But at no point was it conceived as marking the end of the Roman world as 'Rome' at this point was centered in the East, and within the Italian peninsula the city of Rome had long been in decline.

Above all, 'Europeans' would also have conceived of themselves as members of Christendom, from which we can draw a pretty straight line from Constantine. So its for this reason that Charlemagne conceived of his Empire as a continuation of Rome, and not some sort of revival.

u/llordlloyd · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

The Japanese raised military units in their occupied territories, and I understand the Japanese-raised army was the basis of the resistance to the Dutch when they returned, so this is possible to some degree.

Some sources Link 1 Link 2. But these don't explain a great deal about the adaption of the 19th Century Japanese militaristic classes into their modern army. Sorry I can't specifically help here, perhaps someone
else can?

u/magnusvermagnusson · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

There is an interesting theroy out there that suggests that the Japanese simply didn't surrender solely because of the atomic bombs, but were in fact much more affraid of the Soviets invading. A fellow redditor pointed this out to me after i inquired about the esatern front in WWII .
TL;DR theory that the japanese were going to surrender anyway in fear of Soviet invasion

u/typesoshee · 11 pointsr/AskHistorians

This article is about the same theory and historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's Racing the Enemy. I think it's considered a big deal because it's saying that neither the atomic bomb nor the conventional bombing that preceded it broke Japan's will, i.e. city-bombing doesn't break wills, i.e. military thinking and the political narrative of WWII has been wrong and needs to change, and leaderships basically don't care about population loss.... and thus, there is likely to be political unwillingness to accept such a theory in both the U.S. (the atomic bombs didn't do anything) and Japan (the government didn't really care that the people were being bombed to death).

u/coinsinmyrocket · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

I'm not as well briefied in Japanese domestic policy during either World War so I can't really answer your question on school policy, but as far as book recommendations about the Japanese homefront, I highly recommend Japan at War: An Oral History by Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore Cook.

u/barkevious2 · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

Specifically regarding the First World War: Germany's reparations obligations to the western powers - already amended by international agreements reached in the 1920s - were abrogated entirely by the Lausanne Conference in the summer of 1932. For more on this, you might read the first couple of chapters of The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze, which deals with interwar Germany's competing economic philosophies within the context of the transatlantic political economy.

u/grotgrot · 12 pointsr/AskHistorians

In the book Salt it mentioned India being forced to export salt to the UK at low prices. Was that an isolated incident or were forced (cheap) exports the norm for the empire? If the latter, were the UK consumer savings a significant amount?

u/emr1028 · 8 pointsr/AskHistorians

Relations between the US and Afghanistan prior to 1979 were rather limited. The US was much closer with Pakistan, which had very sour relations with the Kabul government. The Afghan Durrani Monarchy had a number of Pashtun nationalists, including the Prime Minister Daoud (who eventually overthrew his cousin Zahir Shah and became president), and these nationalists were very unhappy that the Durand line, the 1894 border between British India and Afghanistan, was to remain in effect after the partition of India, effectively splitting the Pashtun population. Since the US wanted close ties with Pakistan, and since Afghanistan didn't really seem all that important, the US was never close with the Afghans.

That said though, the US did participate in a number of aid projects in Afghanistan, including things like sending teachers, building dams, digging canals, and various other things of this sort. For more information on this, I highly recommend 'Little America' by Rajiv Chandrekeshan.

Something else that's worth noting about that: In 1979, it was blatantly obvious that the Soviet Union was heavily manipulating events in Afghanistan. Daoud overthrew his cousin in 1973 with some level of Soviet support, and a communist named Taraki overthrew Daoud in 1978. Russian military advisers and helicopter pilots were working with Afghan communist troops to squash the many tribal rebellions that were springing up across the country, and the KGB was heavily involved in manipulating the Afghan press and the political process. As the situation in Afghanistan devolved, President Carter authorized about half a million dollars in non-lethal aid to the Afghan insurgents in June, 1979. This aid was only a drop in the bucket compared to what the Soviets were spending though, and nothing compared to what the US and allies would later supply the mujihadeen.

>What reasons personally would you give for the US invasion in 2001?

In 1998, al Qaeda successfully bombed the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In 2000, they successfully bombed the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen. In 2001, they successfully attacked airliners flying out of Boston, Virginia, and Newark, and used them in successful attacks on the Pentagon and New York City, killing about three thousand Americans.

We knew that bin Laden was behind the previous attacks - he had taken credit, and his fingerprints were all over them. The CIA had spent the last three years working to kill or capture bin Laden, but the Taliban, which had controlled most of Afghanistan since about 1996, continued to harbor him and prevent the US from apprehending him. Our previous attacks on al Qaeda infrastructure, most notably the 1998 cruise missile strikes, had effectively amounted to nothing, and after 9/11, there was an understanding in the United States that the situation was not acceptable. The Taliban continued to refuse to hand over bin Laden and his associates, and the rest is history. I don't happen to agree with much of the way that the war has been fought, but I think that the claims that the article present are blatantly false and reflect a disconnect from reality. Like many things at, that article is mediocre written fiction.

For more information on this type of thing, I highly recommend Ghost Wars, by Steve Coll.

u/eternalkerri · 50 pointsr/AskHistorians

It's hard to pin down exactly and by what standard you want to judge "Nazi Ideology".

Were most German soldiers patriotic and nationalistic. Most certainly yes. In Hitler's Army, the author makes strong arguments, using everything from rank and file soldiers diaries to communications between high levels of the Wehrmacht, that the average German believed in the rightness of their cause. That being the restoration of German pride, revenge for Versailles, defense against perceived threats to their way of life (Bolshevism), and defense of their homeland. As the war dragged on, defeatism, anti-Nazi sentiment, and war exhaustion did increase exponentially to where it was openly spoken of, at least by German civilians, their disdain for the Nazi's and Adolph Hitler.

In Ordinary Men, the author zeroes in on a particular police unit in Poland that actively participated in the Ethnic Cleansing of Poland of not only Jews, but Slavs, Poles, and other undesirables. While the book paints a largely dismal picture, showing that many went with the "following orders" principle, it was mixed, but definitely was a majority who participated in the Holocaust and Racist actions.

However, there are constant stories being cited, of German regular army, the Wehrmacht not dealing well with being tasked with taking on Holocaust related actions. There were reports of absenteeism, alcoholism, suicides, and even an occasional refusal of a direct order when these actions had to take place. While clearly these units did participate, it was not a mass action, but the large majority did participate. With what thoughts on their mind we can't say for sure across the board, but we do know that Nazi German soldiers overwhelmingly participated in these acts.

So on the whole, if you want to tie Nazism to the larger ideology of German Nationalism, then yes, the average soldier gladly followed the Nazi lead in this. While ascribing to their racist ideology and activities that related to the Holocaust, the numbers were smaller, but still a significant majority.

u/angryundead · 3 pointsr/AskHistorians

I'm not an expert but I can give you the layman's version from Six Frigates. (This is more concerned with the Naval history and events that lead to the conflict.)

The budding US military needed competent sailors because of continued conflict with the Barbary Coast states. As a result some of the sailors were from other countries (which was common in all navies at the time) and many of them were either current or former citizens of the British Empire.

At the same time the English were in a conflict with France and desperately needed more men for the Royal Navy. As a result they began impressing former British sailors from ships that didn't belong to them and specifically that were sailing under the colors of the United States. As you can imagine, with the Revolutionary War still very much in the common mind, this didn't sit well with the fledgling nation.

In 1807 there was the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, an international incident involving the desertion and recovery of sailors from British ships. The commander of the Leopard (Captain Salusbury Pryce Humphreys) unexpectedly opened fire on the Chesapeake after the Chesapeake refused to heave to to allow a search for deserters.

This nearly started a war by itself but lead to growing dissatisfaction in the United States with the way that the British (and the Royal Navy in particular) disregarded the sovereignty of the US.

Six Frigates also maintains that the British ambassador to the United States and the American president (James Madison) took an immediate disliking to each other which further disrupted diplomatic relations.

This breakdown of communications and the refusal of the American Congress and British Parliament to back down eventually led to the war.

At the time, too, the United States had the eponymous six frigates (Constitution, Chesapeake, Constellation, United States, Congress, and President) which gave them a fair amount of strength in the north Atlantic and they held a strategic advantage over the Royal Naval forces who were engaged with the French Navy. This strength contributed to the idea that the Americans should not back down. (The six frigates were also of a newer heavier variety which led to early victories in the war that deeply disturbed and embarrassed the Admiralty.)

The English (according to Six Frigates) wouldn't back down because they win at everything naval and all foreigners are inferior.

It looks, to me, like a slow-motion train wreck.

u/MadPat · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

I notice that nobody has mentoned Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder.

This is the story, not only of the Holocaust, but also of the millions of people either executed or starved by either Stalin or Hitler for other reasons such as Stalin's enthusiasm for dreaming up ways of consolidating his personal power. These people were either civilians or non-combatants such as prisoners of war. The final tally including the Holocaust and Stalin's purges and the Katyn massacre and much more is about 14 million people. This took place between 1932 and 1945 in an area that included most of Poland, a lot of Belarus and the Ukraine and a big chunk of western Russia.

It is an interesting read but also a difficult one. It has taken me a long time to get through the first three hundred or so pages not because the book is badly reading but simply because the subject matter is so depressing. Still, I recommend reading it if you have an interest in the time surrounding World War II.

u/Thecna2 · 10 pointsr/AskHistorians

Well they had a very well organised spy ring stages deep inside the Manhattan Project. The executed people over it. Its quite well known.

Richard Rhodes: The making of the Atomic Bomb

The spies...
cut/paste from wikipedia

  1. Morris Cohen – American, "Thanks to Cohen, designers of the Soviet atomic bomb got piles of technical documentation straight from the secret laboratory in Los Alamos," the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda said. Morris and his wife, Lona, served eight years in prison, less than half of their sentences before being released in a prisoner swap with The Soviet Union. He died without revealing the name of the American scientist who helped pass vital information about the United States atomic bomb project.[13]

  2. Klaus Fuchs – German-born British theoretical physicist who worked with the British delegation at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. After Fuchs' confession there was a trial that lasted less than 90 minutes, Lord Goddard sentenced him to fourteen years' imprisonment, the maximum for violating the Official Secrets Act. He escaped the charge of espionage because of the lack of independent evidence and because, at the time of the crime, the Soviet Union was not an enemy of Great Britain.[14] In December 1950 he was stripped of his British citizenship. He was released on June 23, 1959, after serving nine years and four months of his sentence at Wakefield prison. He was allowed to emigrate to Dresden, then in the German Democratic Republic.[15][16]

  3. Harry Gold – American, confessed to acting as a courier for Greenglass and Fuchs. He was sentenced in 1951 to thirty years imprisonment. He was paroled in May 1966, after serving just over half of his sentence.[17]

  4. David Greenglass – an American machinist at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. Greenglass confessed that he gave crude schematics of lab experiments to the Russians during World War II. Some aspects of his testimony against his sister and brother-in-law (the Rosenbergs, see below) are now thought to have been fabricated in an effort to keep his own wife, Ruth, from prosecution. Greenglass was sentenced to 15 years in prison, served 10 years, and later reunited with his wife.[18]

  5. Theodore Hall – a young American physicist at Los Alamos, whose identity as a spy was not revealed until very late in the 20th century. He was never tried for his espionage work, though he seems to have admitted to it in later years to reporters and to his family.[19]
    George Koval – The American born son of a Belorussian emigrant family that returned to the Soviet Union where he was inducted into the Red Army and recruited into the GRU intelligence service. He infiltrated the US Army and became a radiation health officer in the Special Engineering Detachment. Acting under the code name DELMAR he obtained information from Oak Ridge and the Dayton Project about the Urchin (detonator) used on the Fat Man plutonium bomb. His work was not known to the west until he was posthumously recognized as a hero of the Russian Federation by Vladimir Putin in 2007.

  6. Irving Lerner – An American film director, he was caught photographing the cyclotron at the University of California, Berkeley in 1944.[20] After the war he was blacklisted.

  7. Allan Nunn May – A British citizen, he was one of the first Soviet spies uncovered during the cold war. He worked on the Manhattan Project and was betrayed by a Soviet defector in Canada. His was uncovered in 1946 and it led the United States to restrict the sharing of atomic secrets with Britain. On May 1, 1946, he was sentenced to ten years hard labour. He was released in 1952, after serving six and a half years.[21]

  8. Ethel and Julius Rosenberg – Americans who were involved in coordinating and recruiting an espionage network that included Ethel's brother, David Greenglass. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were tried for conspiracy to commit espionage, since the prosecution seemed to feel that there was not enough evidence to convict on espionage. Treason charges were not applicable, since the United States and the Soviet Union were allies at the time. The Rosenbergs denied all the charges but were convicted in a trial in which the prosecutor Roy Cohn said he was in daily secret contact with the judge, Irving Kaufman. Despite an international movement demanding clemency, and appeals to President Dwight D. Eisenhower by leading European intellectuals and the Pope, the Rosenbergs were executed at the height of the Korean War. President Eisenhower wrote to his son, serving in Korea, that if he spared Ethel (presumably for the sake of her children), then the Soviets would simply recruit their spies from among women.[22][23][24]

  9. Saville Sax – American acted as the courier for Klaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall.[19]

  10. Morton Sobell – American engineer tried and convicted along with the Rosenbergs, was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment but released from Alcatraz in 1969, after serving 17 years and 9 months.[25] After proclaiming his innocence for over half a century, Sobell admitted spying for the Soviets, and implicated Julius Rosenberg, in an interview with the New York Times published on September 11, 2008

    The Soviets used to fly 'supply' missions out of somewhere in the midwest I think, they used to load up the data in that plane and fly it across weekly to Russia via Alaska/Siberia (if I recall correctly). The US intelligence services were mainly oblivious, they were allies after all.
u/DBHT14 · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

You are very welcome. Not sure if you have read it but an absolute must for understanding the first 40 years of the USN is Ian W. Toll's 6 Frigates.

And int he end by 1815 the USN just didnt have very many officers it could turn to for senior command.

Truxton and Dale had left prior to the war and were persona non grata. Prebble was dead along with Lawrence.

That essentially left Perry, Bainbridge, Decatur, Hull, Chauncey, Stewart, Rodgers, and Macdonough as the cadre of experienced captains to virtually run the navy. Which explains how to even just fill out the ranks men like Barron and Porter were brought back into the fold. And how men like Elliott attained rank. For better or worse there were about 2 dozen men of any rank in the USN who had commanded a vessel in battle and they couldnt afford to let too many go for reasons of personality conflicts.

Though when they started killing each other that was a different matter.

u/neinmeinstein · 5 pointsr/AskHistorians

I've specifically read documented cases of it happening during the Holodomor, as well as among [Soviet prisoners of war]( (a group of Holocaust victims that are often overlooked, ignored, or simply not included).

Off the top of my head I can't recall ever reading about cannibalism happening inside the concentration camps. This does not mean that it didn't happen, and logic would tell us it almost certainly did. However getting caught engaging in cannibalism would almost certainly be a capital offense. Furthermore there is the cultural stigma that it carries. These factors would contribute to participants remaining silent on the matter.

Other factors would include a lack of the necessary free time required to engage in it (daily schedules for prisoners were meticulous, and purposefully designed to ensure very little free time and privacy), a lack of method for preparing a body for consumption (some barracks had stoves but they were usually in the middle of the room and therefore constantly under scrutiny, and then you have to think about the tools that would be required to butcher a corpse. It would be very difficult to butcher meat without a knife, and where do you get that in a concentration camp?), and finally the fact that any bodies that would be available for consumption would almost certainly be severely malnourished and therefore not a great source of nutrition (and it's not like humans are an ideal source of food to begin with).

However, knowing what we know about starvation, it almost certainly did happen. At some point when human beings' needs are not met, we WILL revert to our baser instincts. I have read accounts that inmates would beat or kill over matters of food. Fistfights would often break out in the meal lines (your place in line could easily determine whether you would get food that day). Inmates would eat food regardless of its condition. Even if food was moldy, dirty, soggy, or stale, it would still be eaten. I've read that when soup was spilled, inmates would drop to their hands and knees and suck at the mud in order to get a few drops. In addition to the simple needs of humans, food could also be used for bribes and favors.

If you have any clarifying questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

EDIT: As far as bugs and rodents, I again can't recall any specific instances, but when you're starving to death, you'll eat anything. Conditions in the camp certainly attracted all sorts of vermin, so they were definitely available to those that could devise a way of catching and eating them.


Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

Hitler's Death Camps: The Sanity of Madness

Maus: A Survivor's Tale

u/labarge3 · 164 pointsr/AskHistorians

This is a tough question to answer with any degree of specificity because there was a plurality of experiences for peasants across Europe and the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages. However, in general, the economic life of medieval peasants was perilous. Subsistence agriculture provides little job security. A bad harvest could spell devastation for you, your family, and your community. I suggest taking a look at the online English translation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for evidence of famine/drought/general devastation in the British Isles. Here are a few examples from just the eleventh century - a time when the Commercial Revolution (which brought substantial increases in agricultural production and peasant populations) was beginning to take hold:

A.D. 1005… This year died Archbishop Elfric; and Bishop Elfeah succeeded him in the archbishopric. This year was the great famine in England so severe that no man ere remembered such.

A.D. 1070… There was a great famine this year.

A.D. 1082. This year the king seized Bishop Odo; and this year also was a great famine.

A.D. 1087. After the birth of our Lord and Saviour Christ, one thousand and eighty-seven winters; in the one and twentieth year after William began to govern and direct England, as God granted him, was a very heavy and pestilent season in this land. Such a sickness came on men, that full nigh every other man was in the worst disorder, that is, in the diarrhoea; and that so dreadfully, that many men died in the disorder. Afterwards came, through the badness of the weather as we before mentioned, so great a famine over all England, that many hundreds of men died a miserable death through hunger. Alas! how wretched and how rueful a time was there! When the poor wretches lay full nigh driven to death prematurely, and afterwards came sharp hunger, and dispatched them withall! Who will not be penetrated with grief at such a season? or who is so hardhearted as not to weep at such misfortune? Yet such things happen for folks' sins, that they will not love God and righteousness.

We do not have census data or detailed tax records to corroborate the extent of these famines, but we nonetheless have to assume that they were disruptive to peasants living off the English land. Entries like these from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle are echoed across other Latin chronicles and in Arabic ones as well. I am most familiar with The Complete History of Ibn al-Athir, which mentions numerous famines across the Islamicate World. Take, for example, his account of a long-lasting famine in Ifriqiya (roughly modern Tunisia) in the 1140s:

It had a terrible effect on the population, who even resorted to cannibalism. Because of starvation the nomads sought out the towns and the townspeople closed the gates against them. Plague and great mortality followed. The country was emptied and from whole families not a single person survived. Many people travelled to Sicily in search of food and met with great hardship.

Since medieval sources tend to be written from the perspective of literate men based in cities or monasteries, the perspective of peasants is often only briefly mentioned. It is likewise difficult to make any concrete estimations about lifespan, infant mortality rate, and nutrition for most medieval peasant communities due to lack of sources (although the picture begins to come into focus during the Early Modern Period). When we read about a “great famine” in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle or The Complete History of Ibn al-Athir, we therefore have to imagine that a bad harvest - caused potentially by drought, an early frost, heavy rains, or conflict - brought with it immense human suffering and the displacement of communities from their ancestral homes.

This is not to say that peasant life was only defined by suffering at the hands of subsistence agriculture and overly aggressive landed elites. We know that there were robust and complex communities in rural medieval villages, many of which survived the ordeals brought by mother nature. I recommend Judith Bennett’s biography of Cecilia Penifader as a microhistory of peasant life in the English town of Brigstock during the late-thirteenth through mid-fourteenth centuries.

For those interested in environmental data related to medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, I highly recommend the Old World Drought Atlas, which uses dendrochronological (tree-ring) data to chart annual rainfall across the region. This link shows annual rainfall in Europe in 1315, the first year of The Great Famine in Europe. As the link shows, there was abnormally heavy rainfall across Western Europe. This corroborates written sources, which detail how heavy rains destroyed harvests and had profoundly negative consequences for peasants.

u/Mister_Donut · 27 pointsr/AskHistorians

This article is a fairly succinct summation of the revisionist argument.

This book by a Japanese historian is the long form.

EDIT: Since I was asked to be a bit more explicit about the context of these links, I'll summarize. The basic argument here is that the dropping of the atomic bombs and Japanese surrender coming so close together is, in a way, coincidental. Japanese cities had basically been flattened (see this link for a comparison of Japanese cities destroyed to similar-sized American ones. Sorry I can't find a better page on short notice) and many of the conventional attacks were just as destructive as the atomic ones.

The Japanese high command weren't idiots, although some of them were nationalist fanatics. They knew they were losing the war, and indeed always stood very little chance of winning. However, they were hoping that a deal mediated through the Soviets, with whom they had a non-aggression pact, would allow them to hold on to some of their colonial possessions. Remember they had ruled Korea for decades, and were accustomed to it being fully in their control. They didn't see why surrender should necessarily end that.

The Soviets ultimately decided to break their pact with the Japanese, though and attacked Manchuria (with many many atrocities committed against Japanese colonists, btw. Read Japan at War for some first person accounts.) Their massive war machine, having been done with Germany for months, could have been in Hokkaido in weeks, rather than the months it would have taken to mount the American invasion of Kysushu. The Japanese military had been fortifying Kyushu with its best veteran troops in anticipation of American landings there. They would have been completely rolled in the north and Tokyo would have fallen by December.

The argument is that it was the prospect of occupation by the hated Russians that drove the high command to surrender, not the atomic bombs.

u/LaoBa · 2 pointsr/AskHistorians

A must-read is The Fire: The Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945 by Jörg Friedrich

For five years during the Second World War, the Allies launched a trial and error bombing campaign against Germany's historical city landscape. Peaking in the war's final three months, it was the first air attack of its kind. Civilian dwellings were struck by-in today's terms-"weapons of mass destruction," with a total of 600,000 casualties, including 70,000 children.

In The Fire, historian Jörg Friedrich explores this crucial chapter in military and world history. Combining meticulous research with striking illustrations, Friedrich presents a vivid account of the saturation bombing, rendering in acute detail the annihilation of cities such as Dresden, the jewel of Germany's rich art and architectural heritage. He incorporates the personal stories and firsthand testimony of German civilians into his narrative, creating a macabre portrait of unimaginable suffering, horror, and grief, and he draws on official military documents to unravel the reasoning behind the strikes.

Japan at War: An Oral History by Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook is an oral history and contains harrowing descriptions of the bombardments on Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

u/tenent808 · 1 pointr/AskHistorians

James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom is immediately the first book that comes to mind. As mentioned elsewhere in this thread, it is “the book” to read on the Civil War. It is a highly readable account of the build-up to the Civil War, causes, and the war itself. It also won a Pulitzer Prize. For more, I’d also check out Ta-Nehisi Coate’s online book club on Battle Cry of Freedom over at The Atlantic.

Other excellent works on the period I would recommend are:

  • Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin: an account of the Lincoln administration during the war years

  • The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner: details Lincoln’s career and his relationship and views on slavery.

  • Fall of the House of Dixie by Bruce Levine: takes a look at the southern plantation economy and its destruction in the Civil War

  • This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust: Harvard President and historian Faust looks at how the nation collectively dealt with the death of 600,000 young men and the national trauma of the war

  • Lincoln and His Generals by T. Harry Williams: an older book, but still a classic on the Union command structure and Lincoln’s difficulty in choosing an effective commander for the Union Army

  • Shelby Foote’s Civil War trilogy: for the military side of the conflict without much historiography

    Also, the Civil War produced some of the greatest memoirs in American letters:

  • Grant’s Memoirs: written after his presidency with the assistance of Mark Twain, who later compared them to Caesar’s Commentaries

  • Sherman’s Memoirs: called by literary critic Edmund Wilson a fascinating and disturbing account of an "appetite for warfare" that "grows as it feeds on the South"

  • The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government by Jefferson Davis: a massive tome of a book in which Davis lays out his rational for secession (in hindsight) and upon which much of the Lost Cause mythology would later be based

    And, I always recommend reading poetry and fiction, so I would also encourage you to look at Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, as well as the war poetry of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, particularly Melville’s poem The Martyr, written days after Lincoln’s assassination. More contemporary fiction would be Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, or EL Doctorow’s The March.

    Finally, check out David Blight’s Open Yale Lectures on the Civil War. Prof. Blight is a fantastic lecturer. They are free, and the course syllabus is online, and in 26 hours you can take a full Yale course completely on your own.
u/Tangurena · 28 pointsr/AskHistorians

> In my view, the second certainly wasn't

According to Rhodes [1], the Japanese command knew what affected Hiroshima was an atomic bomb [2] but concluded that since it took 4 years to build the first atom bomb, it would take the Allies 4 years to build the next. The folks at the top kept believing that they could force the Allies to a negotiated peace and that westerners were too weak - hence the suicidal efforts in Okinawa/Saipan and kamikaze to demoralize Allied troops.

The Yalta conference required Stalin to enter war against Japan within 90 days of the end of the German campaign. Depending on how you do the math and count timezones, Russia declared war against Japan and entered combat on day 89, 90 or 91.

According to Cook in Japan at War there were 4,335,500 Japanese soldiers at the time of the surrender with about 3,500,000 stationed outside the "home islands" (mostly stuck in Korea and Manchuria). This was a lot more than the Allies thought that Japan had.

1 - I forget whether it was in Dark Sun (most likely because it was the followup written after the fall of the Soviet Union which opened up a lot of their secret archives) or The Making of the Atomic Bomb.
2 - The Japanese had 2 atom bomb projects: a chemical separation project in Tokyo and a gaseous diffusion project in what is now called North Korea around the Chosin Reservoir.

u/SnowblindAlbino · 4 pointsr/AskHistorians

On this topic I always recommend people read Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb. It's really more a history of science/technology but it does cover the German and Japanese bomb programs as they relate to the Manhattan Project.

What I recall is that the general story of the Germans is that they lost some key physicists early on (many of them Jews who emigrated) and that Werner Heisenberg and his crew made an ill-advised decision to pursue a bomb design that required deuterium. Their deuterium came from a single source, a hydroelectric facility in Norway, and the French, Brits, and Norwegians were able to sabotage it often enough to keep the supply limited.

Add to this Hitler's fascination with some other projects-- and late in the war the better salesmanship from the rocket developers --and the German project really never had the resources necessary to win the race against the US.

The Japanese bomb project was really quite modest and probably doomed to failure as their scientists-- unlike the Germans --were isolated from the global community of theoretical physicists and thus lacked the necessary background to develop a bomb. They too lacked support from military/civilian leadership so their program was years behind the Germans, which itself was at least a couple of years behind the Manhattan Project.

All those factors considered, the US also had the tremendous advantage of not being a war zone. We could simply fence off a chunk of eastern Washington to develop uranium concentrating processes in secret. Ditto Oak Ridge in TN and of course Los Alamos in NM. No bomber raids and Oppie always had enough vodka on hand to make a Moscow Mule for his guests-- a far cry from trying to develop a weapon in an underground lab with unskilled slave labor, a la the German rocket program.

u/erdingerchamp66 · 98 pointsr/AskHistorians

I agree with both of the other commenters, but thought some perspective might perhaps be helpful.

In his highly acclaimed work Bloodlands, Timothy Snyder estimates that 3.1 million Soviet POWs were murdered by the Nazis through forced starvation as a part of Generalplan Ost. The USHMM estimates that about 1.7 million people were murdered in the Operation Reinhard camps, while another 1.1 million were murdered at the Auschwitz camps.

While many, many more people were murdered as part of the Holocaust via open air shootings, starvation, etc., it is not inaccurate to recognize that the Nazis killed more Soviet POWs through forced starvation than they did through the killing centers most people generally associate with the Holocaust.

u/captmonkey · 10 pointsr/AskHistorians

It's a bit of fact and a bit of propaganda. There are many claims in here, so I'll probably miss some, but let me start with the first big red flag that's demonstrably not true:
>And in the blighting shadow of Slavery letters die and art cannot live. What book has the South ever given to the libraries of the world? What work of art has she ever added to its galleries? What artist has she produced…

There were several big names from the south in literature during the Antebellum period. The best example I can think of, William Gilmore Simms, whom Edgar Allen Poe praised as "the best novelist which this country, on the whole, has produced.". The south even had at least one literary magazine that I know of, The Southern Literary Messenger, also edited by Poe for a short time, coincidentally. It's safe to say the south was not suffering for lack of writers during that period.

As for fine arts, I'm struggling to come up with native southern painters who remained in the south through their lives, though I'm not well-versed in art history. If you expand that to painters born elsewhere who worked in the south, I can come up with some like John Audubon and George Caleb Bingham. There are probably others, but I have to admit that art history is totally out of my realm of knowledge.

As for the greater claim of the entire article:
>Possessed of all the raw materials of manufactures and the arts, its inhabitants look to the North for everything they need from the cradle to the coffin. Essentially agricultural in its constitution, with every blessing Nature can bestow upon it, the gross value of all its productions is less by millions than that of the simple grass of the field gathered into Northern barns. With all the means and materials of wealth, the South is poor.

There's some truth in that. No, the south did not have much industry outside of agriculture, save for a few places in eastern states like Virginia. However, I'd say it's a stretch to say that the South looked to the North for everything they needed. Most of the whites in the south weren't plantation owners, but subsistence farmers who mostly took care of their own needs. The claim that the difference in economy was due to slavery is mostly true. In order to support industry, you need people to sell things to. Slaves don't need that many goods, so producing goods to sell is less enticing in such a market.

>Why are they subjected to a censorship of the press, which dictates to them what they may or may not read, and which punishes booksellers with exile and ruin for keeping for sale what they want to buy? Why must Northern publishers expurgate and emasculate the literature of the world before it is permitted to reach them?

There's a small bit of truth to the censorship, but I only know of one very specific case of censorship. There was an outrage among southerners in 1835 over mailed abolitionist pamphlets, Post Master General Amos Kendall allowed them to be banned them from being mailed to the south. During this time, several southern states also passed laws against distributing abolitionist literature.

The bigger issue here might be that of self-censorship. I think this goes beyond people who might have believed in abolition privately, but publicly denounced it (although those certainly existed as well). Newspapers in the south, even those that took a more liberal stance, seemed unable to reconcile that the system of slavery their part of the country relied on was an inherent evil. A great example of this is Brownlow's Whig, a newspaper created by William Brownlow, who would eventually serve as governor and senator of TN, following the Civil War. I choose Brownlow because he's the perfect example of this confusing dichotomy and the shifting view of some southerners on slavery. When the paper begins in the 1830s, he is decidedly pro-slavery. As the war approaches, he continues to support slavery, but he is staunchly opposed to secession. During and after secession, he continues to oppose secession and in the meantime, his views on slavery shift. First, he begins to admit that Union is more important than slavery before finally taking a flat-out abolitionist stance by the end of the war.

From a transcript published in the July 2, 1864 issue of his paper, illustrating the strange position before advocating complete abolition:
>I do now know that I would be willing to go so far as probably he would. But I cordially agree with him in this -- I think, considering what has been done about slavery, taking the thing as it now stands, overlooking altogether, either in the way of condemnation or in the way of approval, any act that has brought us to the point where we are, but believing in my conscience and with all my heart, that what has brought us where we are in the matter of slavery, is the original sin and folly of treason and secession, because you remember that the Chicago Convention itself was understood today and I believe it virtually did explicitly say that they would not touch slavery in the States. ... We are prepared to demand not only that the whole territory of the United States shall not be made slave, but that the General Government, both the war power and the peace power, to put slavery as nearly possible back where it was -- for although that would be a fearful state of society, it is better than anarchy; or else use the whole power of the Government, both of war and peace, and all the practicable power that the people of the United States will give them to exterminate and extinguish slavery.

It's pretty clear that no one told Brownlow not to talk about abolition. His paper was known for being inflammatory and he didn't really care what the authorities had to say. It was shut down and reopened several times over the years as he fled from public backlash, assassination attempts, and eventually the Confederate army. It changed names almost as often as he changed locations including: Tennessee Whig, The Whig, The Jonesborough Whig, The Jonesborough Whig and Independent Journal, The Knoxville Whig and Independent Journal, and perhaps most colorfully, Brownlow's Knoxville Whig and Rebel Ventilator. My point being, it was pretty clear that he didn't care if he upset people and wasn't the type of man who wouldn't talk about abolition because it might against some regulation. He didn't believe in abolition for other, personal reasons until later on. I think this might be indicative of the more widespread form of "censorship" and not talking about abolition.

As far as the entire article, it seems to fall into the old view of looking reasons why the south was backward rather than seeing the north as revolutionary and the south as being more in step with other countries, like those in Europe and Russia. I agree with James McPherson's assessment in Battle Cry of Freedom that the war was the south's counter revolution to an economic, social, and political revolution that was happening in the north. In short: the article presents a heavily biased, though not completely untrue view of the south and its problems.

edit: added more sources and expanded a bit.