463 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Military History about their New Books
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    • Society & Culture
    • 4.4 • 14 Ratings

Interviews with Scholars of Military History about their New Books
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    David Hosaflook (trans.), "The Siege of Shkodra: Albania's Courageous Stand Against Ottoman Conquest, 1478" (2017)

    David Hosaflook (trans.), "The Siege of Shkodra: Albania's Courageous Stand Against Ottoman Conquest, 1478" (2017)

    Mehmet the Conqueror shook Europe to its foundations when he captured Constantinople in 1453 and, over the next decades, the Ottoman sultan continued his westward advance through the Balkans and the Mediterranean. But one Albanian fortress became an “unexpected bone in Mehmed’s throat” (xviii). David Hosaflook’s The Siege of Shkodra is the first English rendition of Marin Barleti’s 1504 eye-witness account of that standoff that includes the Christian victory in 1474 and subsequent defeat in 1479. The year after that, the Turks were in Italy (Otranto, 1480), though they would not keep it their foothold. This volume includes Barleti’s compelling story, essays that place it in historical and cultural context, and a number of Ottoman sources that corroborate or contrast with the Christian version. Barleti is also important today as “the first Albanian author” and thus an important national figure in the last century since the end of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War.
    In the discussion today, Professor Hosaflook explains the siege, its political and strategic importance, and the Albanian position between the Ottoman Empire, Venice, and the Christian West. He talks about Early Modern Mediterranean slavery, religion, and diplomacy. In addition, he discusses the military lessons we find in this primary source, and his own exploration of castle ruins. He also reflects on his scholarship and three decades of living in a rapidly-changing Albania.
    David Hosaflook is a professor of European History, Intercultural Studies, Philosophy of Religion, and Christianity. He’s also the cofounder and executive director of the Institute of Albanian and Protestant Studies. In 2019, he became laureate of the (first annual) ‘22nd of November Prize’ from the Republic of North Macedonia.
    Krzysztof Odyniec is a historian of the Early Modern Europe and the Atlantic World, specializing in sixteenth-century diplomacy and travel.
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    • 59 min
    Stefano Marcuzzi, "Britain and Italy in the Era of the First World War: Defending and Forging Empires" (Cambridge UP, 2020).

    Stefano Marcuzzi, "Britain and Italy in the Era of the First World War: Defending and Forging Empires" (Cambridge UP, 2020).

    This is a reassessment of British and Italian grand strategies during the First World War. Dr. Stefano Marcuzzi, Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute, tries to shed new light on a hitherto overlooked but central aspect of Britain and Italy's war experiences: the uneasy and only partial overlap between Britain's strategy for imperial defense and Italy's ambition for imperial expansion in his book: Britain and Italy in the Era of the First World War: Defending and Forging Empires (Cambridge University Press, 2020). 
    Taking Anglo-Italian bilateral relations as a special lens through which to understand the workings of the Entente in World War I, Dr. Marcuzzi reveals how the ups-and-downs of that relationship influenced and shaped to a limited degree Allied grand strategy. Dr. Marcuzzi considers three main issues – war aims, war strategy and peace-making – and examines how, under the pressure of divergent interests and wartime events, the Anglo-Italian 'traditional friendship' turned increasingly into competition by the end of the war, casting a shadow on Anglo-Italian relations both at the Peace Conference and in the interwar period. 
    While not everyone will be convinced by some of his arguments and propositions (such as the partial rehabilitation of such rightly discredited figures as Salandra and Sonnino), that does not take away from the great effort that Dr. Marcuzzi has made.
    Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written for Chatham House’s International Affairs, the Institute of Historical Research's Reviews in History and the University of Rouen's online periodical Cercles.
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    • 1 hr 1 min
    Bing West, "The Last Platoon: A Novel of the Afghanistan War" (Bombardier Books, 2020)

    Bing West, "The Last Platoon: A Novel of the Afghanistan War" (Bombardier Books, 2020)

    The Last Platoon: A Novel of the Afghanistan War (Bombardier Books, 2020) is a riveting book of infantry ground combat. As a work of fiction it is superb, showing the personal drama, drives and experiences of regular Marines combined with the high ambitions and political maneuverings of the highest ranks, including the President and Secretary of Defense. This narrative is not just fictional. It is a pastiche of the lives of Marines that Bing West has followed over the course of the last twenty years, with each firefight being a compilation of his own, personal experiences. This fact makes this book of interest not just to people looking to read fiction, but also to anyone who wants to know what war is like, how it impacts the people around them and just what happens in the far reaches of Afghanistan. More than an action story, this is a story of the morality of war told by someone who knows how it feels and what it means.
    In this episode, Bing and I discuss his life and background; his experiences of America’s wars in the Middle East; his analysis of America’s success and failures; how these wars compare to his own, Vietnam, and the wars of the past; and what challenges future warfare could pose to the United States.
    Jeffrey Bristol holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Boston University, a J.D. from the University of Michigan and an M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Chicago. He practices law, works as an independent scholar and serves as a naval officer in the US Navy Reserve. He lives in Tampa, Fl.
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    • 57 min
    Gershom Gorenberg, "War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East" (Public Affairs, 2021)

    Gershom Gorenberg, "War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East" (Public Affairs, 2021)

    As World War II raged in North Africa, General Erwin Rommel was guided by an uncanny sense of his enemies' plans and weaknesses. In the summer of 1942, he led his Axis army swiftly and terrifyingly toward Alexandria, with the goal of overrunning the entire Middle East. Each step was informed by detailed updates on British positions. The Nazis, somehow, had a source for the Allies' greatest secrets.
    Yet the Axis powers were not the only ones with intelligence. Brilliant Allied cryptographers worked relentlessly at Bletchley Park, breaking down the extraordinarily complex Nazi code Enigma. From decoded German messages, they discovered that the enemy had a wealth of inside information. On the brink of disaster, a fevered and high-stakes search for the source began.
    In War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East (Public Affairs, 2021), Gershom Gorenberg tells the cinematic story of the race for information in the North African theater of World War II, set against intrigues that spanned the Middle East. Years in the making, this book is a feat of historical research and storytelling, and a rethinking of the popular narrative of the war. It portrays the conflict not as an inevitable clash of heroes and villains but a spiraling series of failures, accidents, and desperate triumphs that decided the fate of the Middle East and quite possibly the outcome of the war.
    Gershom Gorenberg is a columnist for the Washington Post and a senior correspondent for the American Prospect, as well as an Adjunct Faculty at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
    Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, 2020). Visit him online at ZalmanNewfield.com.
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    • 1 hr 3 min
    Michael Kluger and Richard Evans, "Roosevelt's and Churchill's Atlantic Charter: A Risky Meeting at Sea that Saved Democracy" (Naval Institute Press, 2021)

    Michael Kluger and Richard Evans, "Roosevelt's and Churchill's Atlantic Charter: A Risky Meeting at Sea that Saved Democracy" (Naval Institute Press, 2021)

    Winston Churchill was no stranger to storms. They had engulfed him in various ways throughout his long career and he had always turned to face them with jutting jaw and indomitable spirit. Dark clouds had hovered over him from the moment he became Britain’s Prime Minister in May 1940. Now, fifteen harrowing months later, he was setting out to meet President Franklin Roosevelt, the one man who could offer real assistance in his hour of need. And another storm awaited—this time one of a meteorological kind as his ship, HMS Prince of Wales, ran into a howling gale within hours of leaving its base at Scapa Flow.
    After five days, the coast of Newfoundland hove into view and Britain’s Prime Minister was piped aboard USS Augusta at Placentia Bay to meet with FDR. The meeting produced a document, strangely never signed, called The Atlantic Charter—an eight-point agreement designed to act as a guide for how the world’s nations should behave towards each other in the post-war years. Many of the principles laid out in this document are incorporated into the Charter of the United Nations.
    In their book, Roosevelt's and Churchill's Atlantic Charter: A Risky Meeting at Sea that Saved Democracy (The Naval Institute Press, 2021), Michael Kluger and Richard Evans explain how this document came into being—bits of it being scrawled out on scraps of paper over dinner—and delve into the lives of the two most prominent and influential figures of the twentieth century. While this narrative book is not aimed at an academic audience, it is sure that this exciting and interesting tale, will interest the lay educated public who is beginning to be interested in the history of the Second World War.
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    • 41 min
    Sarah Kovner, "Prisoners of the Empire: Inside Japanese POW Camps" (Harvard UP, 2020)

    Sarah Kovner, "Prisoners of the Empire: Inside Japanese POW Camps" (Harvard UP, 2020)

    Sarah Kovner’s Prisoners of the Empire: Inside Japanese POW Camps (Harvard UP, 2020) is a nuanced look at the experiences, narratives―and the popular/historical memories of those experiences and narratives―of World War II-era Allied POWs in Japanese custody, especially in the English-language world. While never denying the horrors of war and the POW experience, Kovner finds less systemic and intentional cruelty by the Japanese camp commanders and guards than she does poor planning and preparation, and often outright neglect when it came to the fate of internees. 
    Simultaneously, the book is sensitive to how POWs’ experiences differed enormously due to their status in the eyes of the Japanese as well as the time and place of their captivity. In particular, Kovner contrasts the experience of white, mostly Anglophone POWs and Asians, who were more likely to be subjected to systematically poor treatment. In addition, Prisoners of the Empire also explores the ways that Japan “was present even when it was absent” in the twentieth-century history of international agreements on POW treatment and war crimes. Kovner has produced a significant and thought-provoking contribution to several different subfields of history. In addition to its obvious relevance to those interested in the history of modern Japan, World War II, and historical memory, because of its considerations of such issues as the Geneva conventions and war crimes trials, the book will also be of interest to readers interested in international law and relations.
    Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese and East Asian history in the Graduate School of Humanities, Nagoya University.
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    • 52 min

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