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Not The Great Awakening, Either One

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So, I’m having this very odd day. 

I am, for some reason, more “up” than I’ve been for a while–both more awake, and in a better mood.  The awakeness is probably just a function of having slept in a little–I didn’t get up until six!–and the better mood is probably at least in part having had a good few hours of work this morning.

But all of this cheeriness does, in fact, leave me with something of a dilemma. 

My intention as of a couple of days ago was to write a follow up to the last post, about the ways in which the time of the Revolution and the Second Great Awakening mirrored our own.

And the mirror is there.  There was a first rate culture war going on at the time, fought out by the men who wanted to emulate the French and make government and public life in America secular, and those who wanted to continue to Puritan tradition and uphold the state-established churches of New England as a model for the country.

And, I will admit, part of me is intrigued by all of this because both sides lost, which is largely what I think is going to happen when we come out of the other side of the time we’re in.

But, for some reason known only to my poor beleaguered brain, I don’t care this morning.  It’s going to be a wretched day in terms of weather.  We’ve already had three days of rain and more than a little flash flooding.  There’s now more rain, and lots of humidity.

And last night, I don’t know why, I started reading a Carl Hiassen novel called Native Tongue.

I have this sort of odd relationship to the novels of Carl Hiassen.  If I’m in the right mood, I absolutely love them.  They’re never “mysteries” in the sense of puzzles, and they’re not “crime novels” in the way the works of Dennis Lehane are.  

What they are is a kind of localized onrush of insanity, a sort of through the looking glass experience, that seems to work because Hiassen does absolutely nothing to make it all sound plausible. 

I’m blithering here, but I do in fact know what I mean.  Hiassen takes completely off the wall people and events and presents them flat, as if there’s no reason to think they’re out of the ordinary.  And in doing that, he makes things that are very much out of the ordinary seem–well, everyday.

Funny, but every day.

When I am not in the mood to read Carl Hiassen, I can’t read him at all. He does what I usually think of as everything wrong when he writes–there’s little or no backstory for any of the characters, and the characters are presented acting without explanation by themselves or the narrator.

The whole character-driven thing that is usually my only reason for wanting to read fiction isn’t there, but I can still read this man forever. 

And when I’m not, I can still tell that he writes well–using that now as a technical thing.

I admit to being surprised that Hiassen ever got as popular as he did.  He is good, but good isn’t enough, and I think these books must have been hell on wheels to publicize when they first came out.  They are like very little else that’s ever been out there–Don Westlake’s comic stuff, like Dancing Aztecs, is what comes close–and what, exactly, were people going to find to say?  This book is about these little rat like creatures with blue tongues, and there’s a theme park with staff dressed up in animal costumes, and…

Whatever.  I really do like this book, and I really do like people who can be funny when they write.  I seem to be better at being funny in person, although I never can see it myself. 

I’m going to go off and get some work done on syllabi and that sort of thing.

I just can’t get serious today.

Written by janeh

August 16th, 2011 at 8:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

26 Responses to 'Not The Great Awakening, Either One'

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  1. I have only read one book by Hiaasen, namely SKIN TIGHT. I usually cannot read books where the characters act in such bizarre ways that they defy belief, but in this book his protagonist was sane, which is what made the difference. It was not at all the kind of mystery I usually look for, but still it was a book I could not put down.

    Somehow, though, I have never felt the urge to reenter the wacky world of Carl Hiaasen.


    16 Aug 11 at 11:19 am

  2. I’ve read several Hiaasens and enjoyed them, but lost interest in them eventually. I remember being hugely amused by one of his rogues taking infinite pains to introduce a cockroach or some other noxious bug into a hitherto unopened tub of yoghurt or somesuch. But, whereas I can’t resist a new book by any number of my favourite mystery writers, eg Haddam, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Mark Billingham, Laura Lippman, Karin Slaughter, and a supporting cast of at least dozens, I can’t work up the same enthusiasm for Hiaasen, or Deaver, or some others, including most science fiction and fantasy. Life’s too short.


    16 Aug 11 at 12:10 pm

  3. I keep looking through Hiaasen, but the temptation has yet to overwhelm me. I don’t expect it will in the future. If I want to see people acting in a bizarre fashion without explanation, I really don’t need fiction.

    As regards politics and religion, I’d be very careful how I defined “secular.” I find neither the Goddess of Reason nor Gaea worship to be much of an advance in that regard. Perhaps the essence of the problem is that our political masters are miffed that we worship other gods than them?


    16 Aug 11 at 5:55 pm

  4. I’ll put Hiaasen on my Don’t Bother List. :)

    Right now I’m reading a very long book “The Third Reich in Power” by Howard J Evans. Its a history of Germany from 1933 to 1939 and very detailed. I’ve been struck by how often you could replace Hitler with Stalin and Germany with the USSR and still make sense.

    I agree with Robert’t last paragraph. Stalin tried to get rid of religion, Hitler tried to control it, and neither state is one I’d be willing to follow.


    16 Aug 11 at 7:07 pm

  5. Speaking of books, I have recently been reading a lot of military history, which I admittedly have more interest in than separation of church and state in New England.

    I started out by re-reading THE FACE OF BATTLE (John Keagan : The Viking Press : New York : 1976), which is an excellent book that I would recommend to anyone whether they have any particular interest in military history or not.

    The first section of the book, entitled “Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things”, is an overview of military history — how it has been used in the past, how it has changed over the centuries, and how it has been plagued with errors and erroneous conclusions. Much of what Keagan says here applies to anyone trying to put together an accurate account of any historical event.

    The second section is a description of the Battle of Agincourt (1415), and besides his own account of the battle itself, Keegan makes a good attempt to sort out the whys and wherefores of apparent contradictions among various earlier accounts of the battle.

    The third section is an account of the Battle of Waterloo (1815), where again Keegan does a remarkable job of merging assorted first-hand accounts of the battle into one cohesive whole.
    The fourth section is an account the Battle of the Somme (1916), which is a devastating indictment of the incompetence prevalent at the top levels of the British army.

    The fifth and last section is “The Future of Battle,” where Keegan does a really good job of explaining why we need to pay attention to military history, but where his conclusion that we will have no more major battles has sadly proven to be erroneous (sort of like people calling World War I the “War to End all Wars”).

    To give you a flavor of Keegan’s writing style, which I found highly readable, I want to quote one paragraph from the last section (pages 297-8):
    Where Sir Herbert Butterfield proposes in MAN ON HIS PAST, therefore, that ‘every battle in world history may be different from every other battle, but they must have something in common if we can group them under the term “battle” at all,’ without mooting what that thing in common may be, we are now in a position to submit a suggestion. It is not something ‘strategic’, nor ‘tactical’, nor material, nor technical. It is not something any quantity of coloured maps will reveal, or any or even any set of parallel readings from the military classics, though the classics brilliantly illuminate our understanding of battle once we have arrived at it. What battles have in common is human: the behavior of men struggling to reconcile their instinct for self-preservation, their sense of honour and achievement of some aim over which other men are ready to kill them. The study of battle is therefore always a study of fear and usually of courage; always of leadership, usually of obedience; always of compulsion, sometimes of insubordination; always of anxiety, sometimes of elation or catharsis; always of uncertainty and doubt, misinformation and misapprehension, usually also of faith and sometimes of vision; always of violence, sometimes also of cruelty, self-sacrifice, compassion; above all, it is always a study of solidarity and usually also of disintegration — for it is towards the disintegration of human groups that battle is directed. It is necessarily a social and psychological study. But it is not a study only for the sociologist or the psychologist, and indeed ought not perhaps to be properly a study for either. For the human group in battle, and the quality and source of the stress it undergoes, are drained of life and meaning by the laboratory approach which social scientists practice. Battles belong to finite moments in history, to the economies and technologies which those societies sustain. Battle is a historical subject, whose nature and trend of development can only be understood down a long historical perspective.

    For a long time I have been reading accounts of World War II, particularly in the Pacific and in Russia, and I have always had difficulty trying to explain to my friends and family just why I read so much military history and “men’s fiction.” Keegan says it (above) better than I have ever been able to explain it. I have no interest in reading “official” accounts of wars, with their emphasis on generals and armies and regiments. I am only interested in reading about specific men and women who have fought and won, or fought and lost.
    Once I finished with Keegan’s book, I was in full military-history mode, so I decided to read another book that has been sitting on my bookshelves for a couple of years, namely GUADALCANAL: The Definitive Account of the Landmark Battle (Richard B. Frank, Penguin Books, New York, 1990). I had already read HELMET FOR MY PILLOW: From Paris Island to the Pacific (Robert Leckie, Random House, 1957) and INTO THE VALLEY: Marines at Guadalcanal (John Hersey, 1943; reprinted 2002, Bison Books ), MARINE: The Life of Chesty Puller (Burke Davis, Bantam, 1991), and WITH THE OLD BREED AT PELELIU AND OKINAWA (E. B. Sledge, Novato, California: Presidio Press, 1981). I have also read numerous works of fiction that have included parts of the Battle of Guadalcanal, and watched assorted films about Guadalcanal, so I have long felt a need to read an overview so that I could see more clearly how the various pieces fit together. Unlike the official accounts, Frank’s book (616 pages, plus 50 pages of appendices) is extremely readable. His extensive research in Japanese documents archives also allowed him to present both the American and the Japanese sides of the battle, thereby making the reasons the American marines won on Guadalcanal much easier to understand.

    Next I read GOODBYE DARKNESS: A Memoir of the Pacific War (William Manchester; Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1979). It took Manchester almost thirty years before he was able even to think about his experiences in the Pacific, and when his dreams finally forced him to remember, he decided to go on a journey back to the Pacific and also a journey back in time. He writes not only about his own experiences in the war, but also about the major marine battles in which he did not personally take part. In addition he reports on the condition of the islands and battlefields today (i.e. 1978). He describes who the people are who are still living on the different islands, what their experiences in, their memories of, and their attitudes toward the war are, plus Manchester tells us what it feels like to walk on the ground where the battles were fought. Having previously read definitive accounts of the Battle of Tarawa, the Battle of Peleliu, and the Battle of Iwo Jima, I skimmed over most of the general parts of those chapters and read only the personal accounts Manchester included, not because the parts I skipped were not well written, but because I could not experience those horrors again.
    I am now in the process of re-reading TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC (James A. Michner : Curtis Pub. Co. : 1946), which is about the soldiers, sailors, marines, seabees, and nurses who spent most of the war sitting around on islands behind the front lines, suffering in their own way from boredom as well as from the same tropical diseases that afflicted the fighting men on the front lines.

    If any of you are interested, I can also recommend some good books about the European theater of World War II.

    I also read military history because someone needs to remember the men and women who fought for our country – the ones who lived, and the ones who died. To forget them is to dishonor them.

    I have not yet been able to read many accounts of the Vietnam War because it is too painful for me. Even though I did not fight myself, I have known too many people who didn’t come back, or who came back disabled mentally or physically.


    18 Aug 11 at 8:03 pm

  6. Charlou, have you read Keagan’s “The Mask of Command”? He is indeed a very good military historian.

    I have both “With The Old Breed” and “Helmet for my Pillow” on my Kindle. With The Old Breed is a very graphic desccription of war as an infantryman.


    19 Aug 11 at 2:08 am

  7. Oddly enough, I never thought to look up what else Keegan has written. Now that I know he has written more, I’ll see if I can afford any of his other books.


    19 Aug 11 at 2:27 am

  8. John Keegan is a prolific author. I agree with John about his “The Mask of Command”. I also have his “The Price of Admiralty”. Both excellent books. Manchester’s “Goodbye Darkness” has long been my touchstone for Pacific War memoires – a brilliant, immensely moving tour de force. “With The Old Breed” is excellent, but harrowing. I also found James Jones’s “The Thin Red Line” to be the best fictional account of the Battle for Guadalcanal that I’ve seen.

    My father fought in the Pacific Theatre as a dive bomber pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force, and I myself spent 27 years or so in the RAAF, so I’ve always been interested. Before that, in 1963, I spent six months or so in Rabaul, New Britain, which was one of the main Japanese bases from which its attacks on Guadalcanal and elsewhere in the Southwest Pacific were launched. There were still millions of tons of wrecked military materiel lying around the place then, and it was easy to gain a much clearer perspective about how things must have been during the war when standing on the actual scenes of much of the action. It was also still possible to meet and speak with some of the actual Coastwatchers.


    19 Aug 11 at 10:24 am

  9. I have not yet read THE THIN RED LINE. I saw the movie and was greatly disappointed, but I have heard that the story was “Hollywooded up”. I want to read the book to see what was actually in it, and to see what was added or changed for the movie.
    I ordered two books by Keegan last night–THE MASK OF COMMAND and SIX ARMIES IN NORMANDY.
    Have you ever read HELMET FOR MY PILLOW? I thought it was a much better account than WITH THE OLD BREED. “Helmet” is on my re-read list.
    If you are at all interested in the European theater of WWII, I can recommend two good books. One is AND NO BIRDS SANG, by Farley Mowat. It is an account of his experiences as a very young soldier in WWII. It starts out with him eager and excited and impatient to get into combat, and then follows him through the Italian campaign, which leads to his realization of what war is really about. I say all this lest you be misled by the early chapters into thinking it is a superficial, fluff book.
    The second book I want to recommend is CASE BY CASE: A U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent in World War II, by Ib Melchior. It is also an autobiographical account. Melchior has also written a number of novels, but it turns out that each of them is just a fictionalized account of actual events in his life, and if you read his autobiography you will get the full accounts. I had hoped that his novels would bring in additional stories based on the experiences of other counterintelligence agents, but in that I was disappointed. CASE BY CASE will definitely not disappoint you. It is one of those excellent books that has not gotten the recognition it deserves.

    I had two uncles who were in the navy in the Pacific in WWII, but I don’t even know what ships they were on. And now, of course, it is too late to ask them. Another uncle was in the Army of Occupation in Germany after VE day, and he never wanted to talk about his experiences either.


    19 Aug 11 at 12:43 pm

  10. Used to study WWII fairly intently. These days, unless it’s work-related, I seldom go further forward than the Franco-Prussian War, nor further back than Marlborough–the period of real armies and not warbands, which could still be led and not just commanded. “Once war was glorious, and men were uniforms to shame a peacock. Now it was only necessary, and men wore uniforms the color of mud.”–Flynn, I think.

    Keegan was new when I was in graduate school, and THE FACE OF BATTLE was all the rage. I was less impressed with that one. A lot of prior work was not, I thought, adequately credited–THE FIRST DAY ON THE SOMME, for instance. But some of his later work has been much more impressive.


    19 Aug 11 at 3:17 pm

  11. If you happen to have a Kindle, there is an interesting book about the Peninsular War up to and including the Battle of Waterloo. CHARLES O’MALLEY, THE IRISH DRAGOON (Charles James Lever, William Currey & Co., Dublin, 1841). The story is told in the third person for the first chapter and a half, and then transitions gracefully to the first person where it continues for the rest of the book. Lever lived 1806-1872, so it obviously not based on his personal knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars, but supposedly some of the high jinks taking place at Trinity College in Dublin were Lever’s exploits. The novel has an odd structure, consisting of an on-going narrative liberally interspersed with assorted characters (mostly career military) telling anecdotes from their lives. Fortunately, the stories they tell are interesting, funny, and short enough that the reader doesn’t lose interest, though I will admit I got a bit impatient at times to get O’Malley to the front lines in Portugal. I would say that many or even most of the stories were probably directly based on anecdotes that Lever had heard real people telling.
    I found the story doubly interesting because besides my interest in the Peninsular War, there is a lot about Ireland and Irish politics in the beginning of the book. And I have some Irish ancestors, one of which was from the west of Ireland, where O’Malley grew up.
    The book was originally published in two volumes, both of which are available free as e-books. I got very frustrated with the free volume one because all the letters with diacritical marks were replaced by blank spaces, so that a word like fête came out “f te”. Since there were a lot of French words and phrases tossed around by the characters, this became highly annoying, and I ended up paying $2 for a better copy of volume one. The free volume two did not have this problem.
    Apparently the last time it was published in paper form was in 1919 in Boston by Little, Brown & Co. I am tempted to see if I can get a copy through inter-library loan because there are a lot of illustrations that are not included in the e-books.

    It is also available as a new paperback book with the original pub date given as 1872, but apparently this is because it is a reprint of the 1872 edition. It was quite a popular book and was still being republished as late as 1918.

    Anyway, if you have any interest in the Peninsular War or the Battle of Waterloo or Ireland around the years 1805-1815, I thoroughly recommend this book.


    19 Aug 11 at 5:13 pm

  12. Forgot to ask you, Robert, but could you recommend some good accounts of the Franco-Prussian War? My great-grandfather was drafted by the Prussians and fought in that war, after which he decided he’d be better off immigrating to the U.S. so that his children would not also have to be canon-fodder.


    19 Aug 11 at 5:14 pm

  13. Make that cannon-fodder!


    19 Aug 11 at 5:15 pm

  14. Well, yes. Obviously “canon-fodder” are those forced to read GREAT EXPECTATIONS and SILAS MARINER.

    Books. For an overall history of the war, first place to Geoffrey Wawro’s THE FRANCO-PRUSSIAN WAR (2003), though Michael Howard’s 1961 book of the same title is perfectly competent.

    For the cannon-fodder’s perspective, David Ascoli’s A DAY OF BATTLE: MARS-LA-TOUR 16 AUGUST 1870 may be a better bet. He does the fall of the French Second Empire–about the first six weeks of war–ending with Sedan, and tosses off the remainder of the war in an epilogue. This gives him more space to consider being a common soldier in a battle of the period.

    Ought also to mention Wawro’s THE AUSTRO-PRUSSIAN WAR (1996) which sets things up for the FPW. Note, given Prussian conscription and reserve obligations, an especially unlucky ancestor might have been drafted in time to fight Denmark in 1864, called up in the reserves to fight Austria in 1866, and then been mobilized with the Landwehr for the French war of 1870-71. You’d about look for a new country at that stage. Several of my “muss-Preussen” ancestors did.


    19 Aug 11 at 5:42 pm

  15. I just checked, and great-grandpa served in the Prussian army from the fall of 1869 (age 23) until the fall of 1871 (age 25). In 1873 he lit out for the States. He may have actually volunteered–the accounts are unclear. Can’t ask him now, of course.

    I’m not so much interested in overviews of the Franco-Prussian War as I am in first-hand accounts.


    19 Aug 11 at 5:56 pm

  16. I never saw a first-hand account in English by a German participant below the rank of General, and only one in French. But the authors mentioned have all read them in German. Ascoli uses the lower ranks memoirs and letters more than Wawro or Howard, describes marches and rations and sometimes translates passages.

    Ought to have explained the joke. Prussians came in a variety of flavors–East Prussians around Konigsburg, West Prussians in what is now south-central Poland and so forth. The Germans of Hanover, Brunswick and such, annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866 called themselves “Must Prussians.” (In WWII, the ethnic Germans drafted into the Waffen SS on a similar program were known as “Booty Germans.”)


    19 Aug 11 at 6:44 pm

  17. Charlou, thanks for the reference to Charles O’Malley.

    I found 2 volumes free at manybooks.net


    19 Aug 11 at 8:23 pm

  18. Robert– Since I am fluent in German, I would appreciate it if you could tell me some of the German titles. That’s if you happen to have the books you mentioned in your own possession. If you would have to go on a book hunt to find copies to get the bibliographies, then of course I could do that as easily (or with as much difficulty) as you could.


    19 Aug 11 at 8:34 pm

  19. Charlou, “The Thin Red Line” is an excellent book. I liked it better than other fictional accounts of the Pacific campaigns, eg Mailer’s “The Naked and the Dead”. Audie Murphy’s “From Here To Eternity” is also worth reading for an account of his European theatre experiences, although disappointing in that he didn’t have more to say. Still, after the war he had, and the PTSD he inevitably must have experienced, it’s not surprising that he might have thought enough was enough. Perhaps if he had lived longer, and been better educated himself, he might have been inspired to emulate Manchester and produce a work of similar quality and significance.

    As for Hollywood, all I can say is all gods be praised that Spielberg and Hanks may have set standards that the usual Hollywood hacks might be shamed into emulating in future.

    Speaking of times gone by, my great-great grandfather reputedly was an officer in a British regiment at Crimea. For a magnificent account of the Charge of the Light Brigade, and of the Irish situation during those times which back-grounded the incompetent leaders in that campaign, Lords Lucan and Cardigan, chase up a book called “The Reason Why” by Cecil Woodham-Smith. It was written in the 1950s but is still in print. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be available for Kindle.


    19 Aug 11 at 9:40 pm

  20. A lot of my stuff is in storage, but there are some published letter collections and one memoir which might give a good notion of the war from the sharp end;
    Julius von HARTMAN, Briefe aus den Deutsche-Franzosischen Krieg
    Melchior Paul, Graf HATZFELD, Hatzfelds Briefe
    Hans von KRETSCHMAN, Kriegsbriefe
    Klemens Wilhelm MECKEL, Ein Sommernachtstraum
    George Heinreich RINDFLEISCH, Feldbriefe

    Not all conscripts, but at least none of them was running a corps.

    Woodham-Smith is a great book. Note it’s also been published as THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE. Not, I think, with any variant in text. Might also check out Mark Adkin’s THE CHARGE.

    Maybe worth noting that a lot of the distinctions we think of as normal–the relative comfort and safety of higher ranks, for instance–aren’t always true in the 18th or 19th Centuries. In the American Civil War, the person in an infantry brigade most likely to be killed in action was the brigade commander, and I believe we lost more corps commanders than we had corps. Much the same for Napoleon’s wars. 1870 is both the first year a battle was conducted by a general entirely from maps miles in the rear, and the last time an army commander could ride to the top of a hill and see his army below.

    It’s only in 1914, pretty much, that being promoted above Captain makes one safer, and making Colonel makes you more isolated.


    19 Aug 11 at 10:33 pm

  21. Actually, I read THE REASON WHY back in the late 1950s. Which means, of course, that I don’t remember much at all about it.


    20 Aug 11 at 12:06 am

  22. “It’s only in 1914, pretty much, that being promoted above Captain makes one safer, and making Colonel makes you more isolated.”

    And then only in the ground forces, I think. To this day, naval captains command fighting ships at sea and, as such, are at as least as much and probably more risk than any of their more junior crew members. Air Force group and wing commanders still fly combat missions.


    20 Aug 11 at 12:34 am

  23. Quite right. In some ways, the Air Force reminded me of Feudal Europe–a whole village of ground personnel, relatively safe, to send off one combatant with expensive equipment. I used to think of “non-flying officers” as the equivalent of merchants and enlisted men on flight status as the equivalent of medieval sergeants–both not really well comprehended by the system.
    You’re exactly right about the navies too, but of course since WWII sea duty has been pretty safe for everyone.

    Oh! Pertinent and I ran across it last night looking for something else: in the FPW, Prussians lost 3% of their enlisted men killed, 8% of regimental officers, and 9.6% of staff officers. Doesn’t make war a great way of solving disputes, but it beats having “chateau generals.”

    Charlou, standard Prussian draft age was 18. I don’t know what they did about the new territories of 1866, but the obvious explanation of going in at 23 would be that he finished college, and so served as an officer. Might be something that could be checked, since most of the old Prussian records seem to have turned up again. And in that case, you needn’t bother with how the average soldier was treated, you could follow his unit.


    20 Aug 11 at 10:10 am

  24. Ah, no, not college! Not only was he a common farm laborer, but his ancestors and his wife-to-be’s ancestors were common laborers back for generation after generation after generation. According to his bio-sketch in 1908, “When twenty-three years of age he joined the Prussian army and took part in the French-German War.” That sounds as if he enlisted voluntarily. But from stories he told my father, his grandson, there was not a lot of voluntary about it. Therefore it behooves me to dig through the military records of the appropriate time and place and see what I can find.
    So far the Family History Library here in Salt Lake City does not appear to have any service records or even unit lists for the Prussian army in the appropriate time period. They do have church records for many units in the army, but since my great-grandfather did not get married or have a child born & baptized during his service, his name would not appear in his unit’s church records.

    Fortunately for me, my great-grandfather came to the U.S., worked as a farm laborer until he could buy his own land, then he sent for his fiancee (my great-grandmother), married her, and they raised a family of five daughters and one son, all of whom got good educations and owned property, thus breaking the cycle of poverty that their families back in Germany had been locked into for generations.

    I often think of what a waste it was back in Europe, that so many people with good minds were denied opportunities to use their brains.

    Of course the same thing can be said about women’s minds in previous centuries when they were likewise denied an education just because of their gender.


    20 Aug 11 at 10:50 pm

  25. Any idea where in “Prussia” he was from? They were pretty serious about drafting at 18, so I’m wondering if he came from someplace like Hanover or Brunswick which was annexed to Prussia following the 1866 war. I don’t know what they did with people who hadn’t been picked up in the rather more slipshod Hanoverian or Brunswick draft, but I can easily imagine them informing some young men that they hadn’t really missed military service after all. Nominally, most of those territories went into X Corps, which had a fairly rough war, but they swapped some regiments around, possibly fearing a mass desertion.

    Talent. Yeah, McCloskey was right about that. One of the best things about the modern era is that bright people can mostly get educated, and we need more intellectual work and less menial labor. It isn’t just “careers open to talents” though: it’s also farm machinery, automation and hybrid crops. You have to solve both the political and the technological problem.


    20 Aug 11 at 11:17 pm

  26. He wasn’t actually Prussen. He came from Brunsbuettel, which was in southern Holstein, right where the Elbe empties into the North Sea. I’m not sure when Schleswig and Holstein came under the control of Prussia.

    Even today, most Germans think of themselves first as being a native of a city, then of a province, and as my old German professor used to say, “dann nichts, nichts, nichts, und dann Deutsch.” One of the scientist working in my husband’s department at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna used to laugh when she told people where she was from. “I am from Muenchen, that is I am from Bavaria. And I suppose I must also say I am from Germany. but I do not think of myself as being German. I think of myself as being a Muenchner.”

    Unfortunately, the only thing we know about my great-grandfather’s military service is that he said he had been cannon fodder, and he did not want his children to be cannon fodder. He was intelligent enough to have recognized all the stupidities of war and the incompetence of leaders.


    21 Aug 11 at 12:13 am

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