The book I read to research this post was The American Civil War by John Keegan which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. This book must be one of the if not the definitive books on the American Civil War and I can’t praise it enough. It reads almost like a thriller and goes into almost every aspect of the war in great detail. Over a million people died in this war so in terms of casualties it is one of the worst wars ever on a par with the 2 world wars. The Union & the Confederacy where quite mismatched with the northern states having the lion’s share of resources and population. America was only starting to become industrialized but most of this had been in the north. In the south wealth was regarded as being measured by how many slaves and an able bodied male slave would sell for around a thousand dollars. The vast majority of people didn’t have many slaves and if they had plantations they tended to be quite small. Only the very elite had the kind of wealth portrayed in the film Gone With The Wind. One of the big factors in the war was the Confederacy taking a huge portion of land from Mexico which was actually a bigger country both in area and population wise but lost the war they fought. Another factor was their was a slave taken to one of the northern states where slavery was abolished and he went to court to try and get his freedom because he was still a slave. The court which was in the south tried to change the law to get the verdict they wanted which resulted in quite a backlash from the Union. Of course the last straw was the Confederacy proclaiming independence. This book which is a pretty big book depicts the war battle by battle. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it is a great book. John Keegan has written quite a lot of history books and I have read several and reviewed them. His books always seem to be really good.
Tags: america, american civil war, book reviews, books, history, textbooks, us history, usa, warfare
Tags: book reviews, books, british history, colin g maggs, great britain, history, railways, steam locomotives, steam trains, textbooks, worcestershire
The book I read to research this post was The Branch Lines Of Worcestershire by Colin G Maggs which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. Colin is a railway author who tends to specialize in the West Country region and Worcestershire isn’t too far from that region. There have been quite a few railways closed in this county and sadly he covers the routes with in the county which is a shame because there are lines like the Tenbury line & Severn Valley Railway which extend quite considerably beyond the boundaries and I’m sure lots of information was left out. Apparently the branch from Stourbridge Junction to Droitwich was almost closed due to competition from the more direct Bromsgrove line with both going from Birmingham to Worcester. What saved it was the high speed trains going from Birmingham to Gloucester and beyond which needed the Bromsgrove line and a local service had to go on the Stourbridge Junction line as a result. The Tenbury line was one of several in the country called the bluebell line on account of it being quite a scenic route. The Severn Valley Railway although it has charitable status is quite successful as a privately run steam enthusiasts railway and one of the longest in the country. There was a branch line that took in the industrial town of Halesowen linking Stourbridge Junction to Barnt Green. There was also a branch line from Evesham to Leominster which are both small market towns. Of course a lot of these lines were making a loss but fed traffic to the major lines and gradually more and more lines were closed as traffic fell. I was born in Kidderminster on the Stourbridge Junction line which was an important terminus on account of its carpet manufacturing so this book is very interesting to me. The book itself is a little bit short but is an enjoyable read.
Tags: biblical history, book reviews, books, christianity, history, judaism, religion, textbooks, the bible
The book I read to research this post was The Second Messiah by Christopher Knight et al which is a very good book which I bought from Amazon. This book is similar to the kinds of books Andrew Collins & Graham Philips write in that they have taken the information in the bible and looked at what the evidence suggests. The book mainly focuses on the Turin Shroud & Jesus. According to this book Jesus never claimed to be God and the idea of son of god is a mystical one applying to everyone else as well. Jesus founded a church called the Jerusalem and when he died his successor was James both one of the apostles and his brother. Peter was a bit of a heretic who taught Jesus was God and what he taught appealed to the Greeks & Romans. When Jesus died he wasn’t very popular but when James was put to death there was a massive uprising which ended in the Romans putting to death and expelling the Jews from Israel. The Turin Shroud according to the authors contains the image of a crusader put to death possibly by the Saracens. The shroud didn’t come into contact with the poor man but apparently it contains predominantly lactic acid which came into contact with oxygen and reacted to form the image. It goes into how it was created but it’s quite complex. I’m not sure if I agree with everything in the book but it is definitely an interesting read. I do enjoy reading these kind of books.
Tags: american civil war, book reviews, books, history, racism, slavery, textbooks, the enlightenment, us history
The book I read to research this post was The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand which is an excellent book which I bought from Amazon. This book which won the Pulitzer Prize for best history book covers the period from the emancipation of slavery through the American Civil War through to the First World War. It covers quite a lot of schools of thought from that period and the title isn’t referring to a single group of intellectuals but quite a lot. Some of the arguments against the abolition of slavery included that they couldn’t sustain the American economy if they had to pay everyone a living wage, that the people who were employees rather than slaves would find their wages would fall as more people came onto the employment market and rather stupidly they argued that humans would become extinct because the children of mixed relationships would be sterile. Of course there was absolutely no evidence for the last reason. At the Battle of Antietam twice as Americans died as in all the other wars on American soil combined. At the beginning of the American Civil War the Union troops were badly organized and it looked unlikely they would beat the Confederates. Other schools of thought in this book include Spiritualism which started with the Fox sisters and became a religion in its own right and although it has been claimed the sisters were frauds Spiritualism is probably bigger than ever. It has been claimed for example the sisters cracked their knee joints to simulate tapping although the answers they gave were generally very accurate. Yet another school of thought is Darwinism which is more or less accepted as fact by modern society. The Origin Of The Species which Darwin wrote is still in print and I think is a free e-book on kindle.
Tags: book reviews, books, british history, history, locomotives, pendolinos, railways, textbooks, trains, transport, virgin trains
The book I read to research this post was Virgin Trains by John Balmforth which is a very good book which I bought from a local bookstore. This book is around 80 pages and has some wonderful photos of Virgin Trains but sadly doesn’t have much information which is a shame as I am sure there is plenty of potentially interesting information they could write about this subject. When Virgin took over the West Coast & Cross Country in 1998 the railway stock was mostly from the 60′s & 70′s and in bad need of replacing and they agreed to upgrade the stock to Pendolinos, Voyagers & Super Voyagers by 2002 and were successful in doing this. Even the renamed HST’s foremerly Inter City 125′s were retired from there main routes completely from 2004. Much of the signalling in Britain is limited to only letting trains go at a maximum of 125 mph when they are capable of 140 mph upwards. Britain has more tilting trains than any other country in the world largely thanks to Virgin. They have had reliability problems with these tilting trains but this has mostly been sorted out. There has been controversy over the number of slots they have at Birmingham New Street which has meant some of the local trains have had to be transferred to Snow Hill although this has meant you can catch a local train from Stourbridge all the way to Stratford Upon Avon as the same trains goes on both lines so its not all bad. I think linking 2 local lines and another example is the train from Lichfield to Redditch is a good idea and passengers are bound to travel to the further destination if they can do it on one train. I did enjoy reading this book and Virgin has had some initiatives like recycling tickets and timetables as well as old uniforms which has probably not caught on although they are trying. I’d recommend this book for the wonderful photo’s.
Tags: book reviews, books, france, germany, history, military history, normandy, textbooks, warfare, world war 2
The book I read to research this post was Tigers In Normandy by Wolfgang Schneider which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. The tigers were German tanks that were probably the finest tanks of World War 2. The Allies had no equivalent of this tank which started to be deployed in 1944 and perhaps sadly was never manufactured on a huge scale although I suppose that might have changed the outcome of the war which would be bad. Their turrets had different markings and camouflage according to what regiment they were sent to. When D-Day happened the Tiger tanks did well but were overwhelmed by the numbers of tanks etc in the opposing armies. There was a German soldier called Wittman who worked as a gunner on tigers and before that on anti-tank guns and at the time he was a hero to the Germans. Legend has it that he wiped out 25 tanks but despite turning the tide at The Battle Of Goodwood and winning an Iron Cross it’s thought his total number of kills is probably more like 7. To get an Iron Cross you didn’t necessarily have to kill loads of enemies but they had to think you were instrumental to the outcome of the battle. At Caen just after D-Day Mongomery got 3 complete motorized divisions landed nearby to sort out the enemy and the sheer amount in that fighting force was unheard of in any previous campaign. The Germans inflicted heavy losses in terms of destroying tanks but the men tended to survive and it was simple enough to transfer them to other tanks. The Allies thought losing tanks was preferable to losing men in terms of fighting their campaign. Many of the tiger tanks had to travel long distances to fight and the mechanics often had to travel about 50 km to get from one tank to another so were heavily stretched. This book does contain lots of sumptious photos of tiger tanks and I really enjoyed reading it.
Tags: book reviews, books, history, iraq, islam, islamic history, middle east, military history, textbooks, the iraq war
The book I read to research this post was The Iraq War by John Keegan which is an excellent book which I bought from kindle. I did recently review another book on the Iraq War and I must admit this book is a little bit better. In Britain John is a very successful historical author mostly doing wars in the 20th century. He also helped cover the Iraq War for the Daily Telegraph so has detailed knowledge. It was a war that was carried out very rapidly. The Iraqi military had experienced the relentless bombing of the earlier Gulf War and many fled both when the bombing started and the Allied military started advancing on their positions. The bombing campaign wasn’t on as big a scale as the earlier because in the other war the Iraqi military positions were more concentrated around and in Kuwait making it easier. In this war they spread around the country making it more difficult to find them. Also another thing that the Iraqi militaries resolve to fight was they were poorly equipped and also many were fed up with the relentless purges where in many cases people loyal to Saddam had been tortured and put to death. Any General’s who were doing their job well and appeared to be getting popular were seen as rivals and faced this fate. The Iraqi army still used T55 tanks which were Russian issue but were 50 years old and death traps against the Allies tanks. Although ultimately there were no weapons of mass destruction like nuclear or biological weapons there were thousands of chemical warheads although the problem with using these in a war theatre is it is easy for a well organized army to take counter measures not to mention the wind has to actually blow towards the enemy. The Iraqi’s in the war did often comandeer cars and taxi’s and post machine guns on them to fight. A lot of the general population seemed oblivious to the fact there was a war going on and on occasions almost drove into firefights where the Allies shot at them because they mistook them for suicide bombers. Also after the military action the Iraqi Army was disbanded and recruitment for a new army and police force started from scratch which probably wasn’t entirely satisfatory because it meant hundreds of thousands were made unemployed and there was no subsistence in Iraq for them so many turned to terrorism. I really enjoyed this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it. It has to be one of the definitive reads on this subject.
Tags: argentina, book reviews, books, british history, falklands war, great britain, history, mount longdon, parachute regiment, the falkland islands
The book I read to research this post was Two Sides Of Hell by Vincent Bramley which is a very good book which I bought from a car boot sale. This book tells the story of the Battle of Mount Longdon, the fiercest battle of the Falklands Campaign. The story is told from the perspectives of the Argentine & British soldiers who have been interviewed in addition to the author’s experiences in the battle with the Para’s. It tells of how the Argentine soldiers were flown in airliners with the seats taken out to make more room and being told to sit on their kit. The ordinary Argentine soldiers were also starved and abused by their officers. One soldier tells of how they had nothing to eat despite their being thousands of sheep and plenty of food in Port Stanley. He got permission to slay a sheep and someone suggested they send it back to the base to be enjoyed by all the men and the dead sheep disappeared. Obviously one of the officers must have sold it on the black market. Another incident involved an Argentine conscript going into Port Stanley to buy food for him and his co workers. He got caught but luckily an officer he knew backed him up with a white lie, otherwise he would have been sent to military prison. The British Para’s by contrast couldn’t belief the heroes send off they got and got to travel on the luxury liner Canberra although it was modified for their use. Of course they had hardship later on. In the Battle for Mount Longdon many Argentine soldiers were sprayed with machine gun bullets while they slept and probably died in their sleep. This book started as a project the author and a tv crew were doing for Argentine television and they saw the potential for doing a book. I really enjoyed this book which is quite unusual in telling the story from both sides.
Tags: book reviews, books, bridges, british history, canals, history, holyhead, industrial revolution, scotland, thomas telford
The book I read to research this post was Thomas Telford by L T C Rolt which is an excellent book which I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. Telford has the unusual distinction that the new town of Telford is named after him. He is also one of the greatest British people of all time. He isn’t as well known as Brunel but where as Brunel did much in the Industrial Revolution, Telford built fine roads, canals and bridges. Telford also lived near the beginning of the Industrial Age but for example didn’t see the full potential of the steam engine. He started out as an architect who later learned about engineering. Among his early work the bridge that spans the River Severn at Bewdley in Worcestershire is his finest. He raised the entire bridge in one season which was unheard of. There was a church at Shrewsbury in Shropshire and he was asked to repair the roof. He realised the foundations weren’t adequate and graves had undermined what foundations there were. He reported this and they thought he was trying to create work for himself. The church collapsed soon afterwards. He built the Ellesmere Canal, the Gotha Canal in sweden, the liverpool & Birmingham Junction Canal & the Shrewsbury to Holyhead road. The Gotha canal cuts straight through Sweden. He built a formidable bridge for Holyhead across the Menai Straits. He died before the Liverpool & Birmingham Junction Canal could be completed. He built many harbours and bridges in his native Scotland. At that time the Highlands were largely inaccessable. He was asked to judge designs for a Clifton Suspension Bridge across the Severn and turned down a design by a young Brunel along with all the others and submitted his own design. Interestingly Rolt has also written a book about Brunel.
Tags: australia, baghdad, book reviews, books, history, iraq, islam, middle east, textbooks, the iraq war
The book I read to research this post was Red Zone Baghdad by Marcus Fielding which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. This book is about the Australian militaries involvement in the Iraq War of 2003 and its aftermath. Their forces were only in a firefight the once and they had very restrictive about when they could take any kind of military action. They were there mostly in a role of training the newly formed Iraqi police and army and also in an advisory capacity. The author of this book who is now retired from the army was a colonel serving in Iraq at this time. Most of the Australian contingent served at the Allied Headquarters at the Republican Palace in Baghdad. Because the Australian contingent was small it allowed them to pick and choose who they sent and the American’s in particular were very impressed with them. They had to run a convoy 4 times a day to and from the Republican Palace along some of the most dangerous roads in the world. For the people who worked here it was the only way in or out. For many years also under Saddam the minority Sunni’s had been in charge and the other factions mainly Shi’ites & Kurds saw it as a chance to get even. Although the actual invasion was 2003, there was several wars which comprised it including an all out civil war in 2006/7 where the USA military felt if they announced civil war had broken out it would give Al Quaeda a kind of victory. In the Republican Palace civilians worked alongside the military and the US Embassy was relocated there. It wasn’t unusual to see women in military fatigues and crew cut and equally it was the same with men wearing suits and having ponytails. Some of the American Generals where far from happy at President Obama wanting to gradually withdraw US troops from Iraq. I did really enjoy this book which looks at the Iraq from an interesting angle. I must admit being british the topic of the Australian Military in Iraq hasn’t been covered by the media.