Friday, April 2, 2010

Quote of the day (1)

From W.L. Burn, The Age of Equipoise (Norton, 1965), p.56:
"Harriet Martineau's two volumes, The History of England during the Thirty Years' Peace, covering the years 1815 to 1846, were published in 1849; by 1855, but for the Crimean War, it would have been possible to speak of forty years' peace. Within that period British troops had been in action against Gurkhas, Pindaries, Mahrattas, Sikhs, Afghans, Burmese, Chinese, Kaffirs, Ashantis and Boers. Ships of the Royal Navy had bombarded Algiers, routed the Turks at Navarino, operated against Mehemet Ali, underwritten Latin American independence, blockaded Buenos Aires and the Piraeus, captured slavers and waged war on pirates from the Caribbean to the China Sea. Assam, Sind, the Punjaub [sic] and a great part of Burma had fallen to British arms. Quae caret ora cruore nostro? [What coast does not know our streams of blood? -- Horace; translation courtesy of a loyal reader.] It was natural that a country which lived by its foreign trade and its foreign investments should protect and extend them, in the last resort by force; it was remarkable that so many of its inhabitants did not realize that this had been done for years and treated the Crimean War as something different, not merely in scale but in kind, from anything that had happened since Waterloo."
(Actually, not so remarkable if one accepts a distinction between wars that involve more than one Great Power and wars that do not.)


treehouse said...

I take it this is a distinction of some significance in international relations and international (what used to be called diplomatic) history. Recent work on imperial and colonial history tends to downplay or ignore this distinction because it obscures fundamental continuities between strategies of warfare and control of civilian populations from colonial to "multi-Great Power" situations. See, for example, Isabel Hull's important 2005 book Absolute destruction : military culture and the practices of war in Imperial Germany, which locates the beginnings of concentration camps in Southwest Africa, or the Paul Kramer's (U. of Iowa) work on the abuse of civilians by American armed forces in the Philippines in the early 20th century (after the end of the Spanish-American War, though most people wouldn't consider Spain to have been a "Great Power" at that point in history).

LFC said...

Thank you for the comment.
On the one hand, the distinction is of some significance, at least for some people who study int'l relations and int'l history -- specifically, the somewhat more 'traditional' scholars, whether of a 'realist' bent (e.g. Mearsheimer, Tragedy of Great Power Politics) or those interested in 'cycles' of great power competition and their connection (or lack thereof) to economic cycles and forces (e.g. P. Kennedy, J.S. Goldstein, W. Thompson, G. Modelski, etc.)

On the other hand, I think you make a good point about continuities between colonial and multi-Great Power wars. I had heard of (though have not read) Hull's book; I had not heard of Paul Kramer's work, so thank you esp. for that reference. I think there are some scholars of IR who are recognizing the existence of the continuities -- probably this is not the best example, but Alexander Downes' recent book Targeting Civilians in War looks in its case studies both at Great Power wars (WW1 and 2, specifically) and also eg at the British treatment of Boer women and children during the Boer war (concentration camps, again).
Also those who want to break out, for whatever reason, from the traditional approaches to security studies would be sympathetic to this point (I have an article in mind, but I have to go look up the cite. Back in a minute.)

LFC said...

Tarak Barkawi and Mark Laffey, "The Postcolonial Moment in Security Studies," Review of Int'l Studies v.32 (2006), pp.329-52

LFC said...

Actually Paul Kennedy (Rise & Fall of the Great Powers) is not interested in cycles per se, hence doesn't really belong w/ those others in the first group.