Guide Absolute Destruction: Military Culture and the Practices of War in Imperial Germany

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April 2017

This is the British naval blockade. The rules of sea warfare were a thorny issue, not least because the main attempt to regulate this field, the Declaration of London, had not been ratified by any of its signatories prior to the war. Still, it could be seen as customary law, a position that not only the Germans, but also neutral states such as the Netherlands and Sweden, which were severely affected by the blockade, maintained p. Yet the situation changed when Britain introduced a series of measures, starting with an order on 11th March , that expanded the blockade by targeting German exports and confiscated enemy property from neutral vessels.

The pretence for this act was reprisal against the German declaration of unrestricted U-boat warfare around the British isles, but the measures were in breach of the earlier Declaration of Paris of pp. Not only does it fail to take considerations of morality and, perhaps more importantly, legitimacy into account, given the fact that the estimated death toll of the blockade among German civilians — with an estimated excess mortality of between , and a maximum of , p.

Without doubt, this is one of the most important books on the Great War that has been published in the context of the centenary. However, it is not without flaws, and not all of its arguments are entirely convincing.

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Notes: [1] See especially p. Compare her previous book: Isabel V. Hull, Absolute Destruction. Redaktion: hsk. ISSN: DE EN. Hull: A Scrap of Paper. A Scrap of Paper.

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Ithaca Cornell University Press. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press. Hull, Isabel V. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Clark, Christopher M. New York: Harper Perennial. Chickering, Roger. Imperial Germany and the Great War, — New Approaches to European History Mommsen, Hans. The Rise and Fall of Weimar Democracy. Peukert, Detlev. New York: Hill and Wang. Gere, Cathy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Stern, Fritz R. Berkeley: University of California Press. Smith, Helmut W. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kershaw, Ian. London, New York: Arnold. Eley, Geoff. London: Routledge. Mazower, Mark. New York: Penguin Press. The book has been revised and reprinted many times since. This is a polemical essay, not a carefully argued historical study.

These scattered individuals gained cohesion by the use of the same non-vernacular language for ritual performances, the experience of hierarchical structures in an allegedly all-encompassing natural order, and a confluence of cosmology with history. These performative and ideological constructions, Anderson argues, led individuals to identify as part of a larger community whose members they would in large parts never get to meet personally.

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This imagination was so pervasive that it left the disadvantaged without many options of questioning their place within this community and in society more broadly. The latter group was created by the union of the former ones, who provided popular texts written in vernacular languages to reach the biggest number of literates in society possible. Through print, it was easy to disseminate new scientific theories, technological possibilities, and, most importantly, the increasingly secular ideologies that went along with them. Why nationalism and not any other substitute for the sacred? Anderson explains this by two factors: First, the rise of new local elites in the 18 th and early 19 th centuries, in particular in the Americas, who provided social structures and introduced a new print culture that provided more coherence in the colonies than any political or intellectual ideology ever did ch.

Second, dynasties dissolved in newly found nation states in the 19 th and early 20 th centuries, which, in order to reach their citizens, had to use vernaculars as official languages chs. Racism is one of the consequences of pathological nationalism—inside and outside of Europe ch. Conrad argues that previous histories of colonialism ignored the impact German imperialism had on the global, European, and even German social, political, legal, and economic landscape even though its investment in this endeavor did not last for very long.

The work was first published in German in It contains eleven short but dense chapters, which are loosely connected and aptly illustrated with pictures and maps and framed by a historiographical introduction and suggestions for further reading. It is a crystal-clear and concise account that again leaves me speechless; I find it hard to imagine how the main actors of my dissertation could uninterruptedly do their brain research while so much change and injustice was occurring outside of their labs.

Chapter 8 is of most direct interest to my project, as it explicitly addresses anthropologists around and their racial imaginations; a topic that intersects with the earliest anthropological studies of left-handedness in native peoples in the s. The German colonizers first acquired territories in what is now Togo, Cameroon, Namibia, Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda; in the late s, they additionally colonized parts of what is now China, as well as Samoa, New Guinea, and some Pacific Islands. Bismarck granted this endeavor continuing financial and government support, tough being critical at first.

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The acquisition process ended in and left Germany as the fourth-largest European empire ch. The imperial structure resembled those of other countries, Conrad suggests: enforcement of racial hierarchies that were stimulated by social Darwinism, an alleged civilizing mission ch.

This era ended formally with the Treaty of Versailles, which became effective in January , but Conrad suggests that colonial thought and practices continued throughout the Weimar Republic ch. Accordingly, Bowersox draws on a vast range of written and visual sources—including periodicals, popular literature, atlases, textbooks, school exams—as well as artifacts like toys and tools. He found these in private collections, German national and local museums and archives, and the Pathfinder Archives.

Educating the future of the nation appropriately meant securing the future of the nation. Colonialism, then, was not at all only a matter of the colonies.

War comes to Germany, part 1

Moyd draws on limited accounts from native East African populations memoirs, photographs, anecdotes and reads German sources against the grain reports, newspaper articles, military training material in order to illuminate the life of askari , soldiers who fought in the Schutztruppe and were recruited from what are now Sudan, Congo, and Tanzania, between their enlisting in and the end of WWI. The account shows that these men helped build and sustain the German Empire and rose to authority in their local communities at the same time.

The detailed footnotes in addition to a chronology, glossary, Note on Spellings, Currency, and Measurements, as well as select maps and images make this accessible work appealing to various audiences from different academic backgrounds.

These trace askari life from the recruitment and incentives incl. Hull bases her argument on archival sources at German federal, state, and university archives as well as private collections of the von Trotha family. She uses secondary accounts of contemporaneous counter-developments in Britain in order to contrast the German history from other European approaches.

All sources, primary and secondary, published and unpublished, are detailed in a page bibliography. Hull focuses on the actual practice of fighting and the ways in which enemies were treated, if and how prisoners were made and how so many of them got killed anyway.

Part II details the popular, constitutional, and institutional structures of the military in Germany since the unification wars. Hull emphasizes the self-perpetuating culture of violence and tendencies towards irrational force and primacy of military priorities that were imbedded in military training and practices, already described in Part I in the context of the colonial wars. This attitude of risk, force, meticulous planning, and total victory is exemplified in the Schlieffen Plan that mapped out a military strategy for an offensive war against France and virtually the rest of Europe in ch.

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One wonders how, in the face of this gruesome history, German universities and literature of the late 19 th and 20 th centuries were ever able to sustain their world-wide fame. Clark puts particular emphasis on the decisions in the European capitals that built upon one another and finally lead to the outbreak of the war. He acknowledges the potentially determinist notion of his account and cautions to bear in mind that each of the actors may have had the potential to decide and act differently; but the sum of decisions made inevitably led to WWI.

Furthermore, Germany may have been able to signalize their willingness to keep peace to Britain and France, but their allegedly friendly invasion of Belgium in order to fight the French initiated a virtually pan-European conflict. Part II is more analytical and pursues four questions in four chapters: chapters: What events led to the polarization of Europe in the first place? How was foreign policy made and who made it? Why were the Balkans so central to this story? In chapter 1, Chickering summarizes on a few pages the story Clark is detailing on He illustrates the different decisions that led to the outbreak of WWI and the ways in which the spirit of Feinde ringsum united Germans and Austrians and glossed over interior social and cultural problems p.

With the land campaigns of , virtually all German resources were directed to the war effort; the French announced la guerre integrale total war in , but at that time, the entire German society and industry had already been mobilized for the war ch. The economic burden of war was significant.

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Many women had to join the workforce; depending on their class background, they worked in factories, as secretaries, or as nurses. Nonetheless, gender stereotypes persisted: the woman at home, supposed to wait for her husband to return, the man at the front, engaging in fighting and intercourse with prostitutes to keep his morals up.

But the offensives that were taken in the hope to achieve this victory weakened the German troops and they had to retreat.