Bye-bye COPAC, hello Library Hub Discover – search UK and Irish libraries

A generation of researchers and librarians will have grown up with COPAC (Consortium of Online Public Access Catalogues), the union catalogue for research libraries in the UK and Ireland.

Today (31 July 2019), COPAC was retired and replaced by JISC Library Hub Discover (https://discover.libraryhub.jisc.ac.uk/). Time to update those bookmarks!

Library Hub Discover currently contains over 39 million records contributed by 110 institutions across the UK and Ireland. The holdings will include books, journal titles, grey literature, etc. but also maps which you can locate using Advanced Search.

Library Hub Discover is a great resource to discover rare and specialist material tucked away in other libraries or to find out what is available in a library near you.

Contributing libraries include national libraries (e.g. British Library, National Library of Scotland, etc.), Higher Education libraries and some specialist libraries (e.g. Historic England Library, National Gallery Library, National Portrait Gallery Library, National Trust Libraries, Royal Asiatic Society, Royal College of Physicians of London, Royal Society Library, Science Museum Library, The National Archives Library, V&A Libraries, Wellcome Library and many more).

While you are here…

… have you considered using WorldCat, a major union catalogue for US libraries? Excellent to just find out whether something actually exists. Access our subscription (better) version or the free version.

… do you know about the Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog, a huge union catalogue based in Germany? Excellent of course for German-speaking countries, but you can also, in a single search, locate collections in worldwide library or library-consortia catalogues.

New Bodleian History Books: July 2019 – Primary Sources

The German historian Leopold von Ranke (1795–1886) is usually hailed as the founder of modern source-based history and the originator of the idea of source criticism (Quellenkritik) in his Zur Kritik neuerer Geschichtsschreiber, a short treatise published as an appendix to his Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494–1514 (1824). The form of primary historical sources can of course vary immensely, from written documents and eyewitness accounts to data recorded in interviews and fieldwork, from archaeological sites to artefacts, and from images in paintings, photographs and video recordings to audio recordings and recorded oral history. The later 20th and early 21st century have seen a veritable explosion in the amount of primary source material available in the form of electronic data, whether from internet pages, emails, blog posts, or YouTube contributions.

Ultimately primary sources are what all historiography relies on, even if it is through secondary and tertiary studies, but access to sources can be problematic. Source materials in the form of “relics” (tangible objects) may be one-of-a-kind artefacts in a museum somewhere or archaeological evidence in a remote, restricted dig. Human “narratives” (written sources) may only exists in the original documents in a foreign language kept in the basement of an archive, or in a priceless manuscript or unique handwritten letters secured in a private collection or library. Access to such primary sources is made vastly easier through the painstaking and often undervalued work of researchers who find and edit or document them, possibly translate and write a commentary on them, and then publish the results in order to make these materials available to other historians who, naturally after application of rigorous Quellenkritik, are able to use them to illuminate the past. In this month’s blog I would like to highlight some of the editions of primary source materials newly added to the Bodleian History collections.

The Middle Ages

Samu Niskanen presents a first volume of the collected Letters of Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1109), one of the most interesting theologians and philosophers of the 11th century. With a new edition and English translation of 148 letters from Anselm’s time at the abbey of Bec in Normandy (1060-1093), this first volume offers a fresh account of the saint’s life before becoming archbishop of Canterbury. A critical apparatus, detailed commentary, and an introduction analysing the letters’ transmission to the present day accompany the text. Of interest to political and social (rather than religious or philosophical) historians of the earlier Middle Ages is Neil Stacy’s edition of the Cartae baronum of 12th-century England, documents which detail the numbers and names of all knights on English estates held by the tenants-in-chief of Henry II in the year 1166. Bringing together all the extant cartae for the first time, as well as including evidence of cartae now lost, this edition is a key source for any scholars interested in tracing the histories of individual honors and identifying comital, baronial and knightly landholders of the time.

Rather more local, but also rather longer-term history is covered in two new editions (and translations) of original source material from Germany and Italy respectively. Karin Gieschen has edited the documents of one of the prominent convents of Lower Saxony in her volume on the Urkundenbuch des Augustinerchorfrauenstifts Katlenburg. Founded in 1105 in a former ducal castle, the convent attracted high numbers of female nobility from the 13th century until its secularisation in 1534. Many of its documents were lost over time through fire and sacking; the remainder, held at the regional archives since 1721, is here edited for the first time with an introduction charting the colourful history of the convent and surrounding area. A similarly fascinating detailed look at small-scale local history is offered by Gabriele Archetti and Irma Bonini Valetti with their Italian translation of the Medieval Chronicle of Giacomo Malvezzi. A doctor and humanist of the 15th century, Malvezzi compiled the history of his hometown of Brescia in Lombardy from its founding myth through Roman times to the 14th century, drawing on earlier materials such as Paul the Deacon’s History of the Langobards, and painting a colourful picture of the town through real and imaginary events and characters. This edition includes an introduction with biographical information on Malvezzi as well as a discussion of the structure, the aims and the classical and medieval sources of the chronicle.

The 18th and 19th Centuries

More documents that shed light on Italian history, this time of the 18th century, are offered in Andrea Zedler’s historical-critical edition of the Italian travelogue of the Bavarian Kurprinz Karl Albrecht (later Holy Roman Emperor Karl VII) in Giro d’Italia: die Reiseberichte des bayerischen Kurprinzen Karl Albrecht (1715/16). Accompanied by a commentary, the four accounts by the Prince himself and people who travelled with him offer detailed information on the route, elaborate courtly ceremonial and expenses associated with the royal trip abroad, and help to illustrate political as well as cultural aspects of the voyage and its various destinations. Returning to great Britain, an important part of the Victorian era is made accessible in the 16th and final volume of the collected works of Florence Nightingale edited by Lynn McDonald, Florence Nightingale and Hospital Reform. The volume includes writings on her ideas on safer hospital design, location, and materials; plans for children’s, general, military, and convalescent hospitals and workhouse infirmaries; her influential Notes on Hospitals; her anonymous articles on hospital design; and her copious correspondence with architects, engineers, doctors, philanthropists, local notables, and politicians on the subject.

The 20th century

Two of the new editions of primary sources newly arrived at the Bodleian collect or examine primary sources from World War II. Somewhat controversial in its critical approach to a collection of sources often regarded as sacrosanct, Jürgen Graf presents a thorough Quellenkritik of eyewitness accounts from survivors as well as confessions from the perpetrators of the Holocaust in Auschwitz: Augenzeugenberichte und Tätergeständnisse des Holocaust. 30 Gaskammer-Zeugen kritisch geprüft. The volume offers a new edition of the primary sources themselves as well as a critical analysis on their reliability with a view to possibly misremembered or deliberately embellished or understated accounts, and their alignment with other contemporary historical documents and material evidence. More eyewitness accounts from World War II are also newly edited by David G. Roskies in Voices from the Warsaw Ghetto, a collection of reports, diaries, prose, artwork, poems, jokes, and sermons by the Jewish residents of the ghetto, which were gathered in secret and buried for safekeeping, and rather miraculously survived the devastation of the war.

Into the 21st Century

Very current issues are the topics of the final two volumes I would like to highlight in this month’s blog. In his Making Climate Change History, Joshua P. Howe collects key documents from the scientific and political history of climate change from the 19th to the 21st century, including congressional testimony, scientific papers, newspaper editorials, court cases, and international declarations. The collected documents range from Joseph Fourier’s 1824 “General Remarks on the Temperatures of the Globe and the Planetary Spaces” through The Conservation Foundation’s Implications of Rising Carbon Dioxide Content of the Atmosphere from 1963 all the way to Pope Francis’ 2015 Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home. Finally, though it is not in the first place an edition of primary sources, Ian Milligan’s History in the age of abundance? How the web is transforming historical research fits in superbly with the topic of this blog in that it discusses the issue of the enormous surge of primary source materials in our age of technology. Historians studying the last decade of the 20th and the first decades of the 21st century encounter historical records radically different from what has ever existed before, being faced with massive quantities of digital information in materials such as old and current websites, social media, blogs, photographs, and videos. In this study Milligan discusses the opportunities as well as technical and ethical challenges of these materials, outlining possible approaches, methods, and tools, and considering the wider implications of this shift to digital information for historians, their professional training and organization, and society as a whole.

You can find more editions of primary sources available at the Bodleian here on our virtual LibraryThing shelf.

New: Military Architecture 1600-1900

S. Vauban, Traité de l’attaque et de la défense des places (La Haye, 1743). Military Architecture 1600-1900 (Leiden, 2018), accessed 8 July 2019, http://primarysources.brillonline.com/browse/military-architecture-1600-1900.

I’m pleased to report that Oxford researchers now have access to Brill’s Military Architecture 1600-1900.

This online resource contains 99 printed works which represent the revolutionary developments in fortification in Early Modern Europe in theory and in practice.

The collection covers not only military architecture, but to some extent also the military arts (artillery, army camps, siege) and military and some naval history. While it focuses on early modern history, there are translations of works from Ancient Rome and there is at least one book on medieval military architecture (A. Hamilton Thompson, Military Architecture in England during the Middle Ages. London, 1912). A number of early modern printed books were published before 1600.

It’s possible to search the full-text of the entire collection or of individual books, but bear in mind that the collection comprises works in different languages, including Latin, and may use old language and orthography. Likewise, the rendering of the text from early modern print-type has not always been successful, so it pays to browse the books and read texts to get a sense of the content.

Many works will include illustrations of buildings, fortifications, harbours, etc. It does not appear to be possible to search for these separately.

Obsedio Bredana Armis Phillippi IIII (Antwerpen, 1629), p.9. Military Architecture 1600-1900 (Leiden, 2018), accessed 8 July 2019, http://primarysources.brillonline.com/bowse/military-architect

You will be able to copy the OCRed text of any selections or of a page; you can also download the ebook, or selections of it, as a zipped file; and you can share the link to the resource via email and social media.

Citations can be saved to Endnote and RefWorks, but also seem to work with Zotero.

More about the content

“Similar to the arts, military architecture was split up in national schools or styles, so called fortification manners.The works of Busca, Cattaneo, De Marchi, Tensini, Theti, Zanchi, reflect the Italian School, Errard and Perret the French one and Specklin’s Architektur von Vestungen is an adaptation of the Italian school in Germany.

Stevin’s Sterctenbouwing discusses Cattaneo, Theti and Specklin to assess the benefits of their fortification systems for the Low Countries. The later French school is well represented by Pagan and the works of probably the most famous engineer of all times, Vauban. His various “fortification manners” were applied all over Europe and beyond.

While these works in Military Architecture 1600-1900 allow for a comparative analysis in text and image of European fortification schools, others focus on more local conditions such as Stevin’s works in Dutch and French on the role of pivoted sluices in the fortifications of various harbor towns.

Moreover, Military Architecture 1600-1900 provides insight in the training of fortification in theory and practice for multiple “user-groups”. While the works of the classical authors Caesar, Valturius and Vegetius were used for the philological study of the military arts at universities, the reality of warfare required for training of practical skills for engineers and landsurveyors in the field. Translations of Euclid, works on the practice of geometry and landsurveying (Mallet, Nienrode, Metius, Sems&Dou) were filling that gap. Although Military Architecture 1600-1900 represents the protagonists of the history of fortification, it also includes lesser known authors such as Bruist, Capo-Bianco, Gaya, Gerbier and Pfeffinger. Moreover, the selection does not limit itself to military architecture, but includes the military arts (artillery, army camps, siege) and history.” (Military Architecture, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2018, accessed 8 July 2019 http://primarysources.brillonline.com/browse/military-architecture-1600-1900).

The breakdown of titles per country is as follows:

  • Netherlands: 46 titles
  • France: 25 titles
  • Italy: 14 titles
  • Germany: 13 titles
  • England: 1 title

Military Architecture 1600-1900 is now accessible via SOLO or via Databases A-Z. Enjoy!

Gale Ambassador Scheme – Deadline extended to 15th July!

The deadline for Gale’s Ambassador Scheme has been extended to Monday 15th July!

Don’t know what the Ambassador Scheme is? See our blog post here!

This is a paid opportunity to gain experience with a Global Publisher, working with such resources as the Times Digital Archive, Eighteenth-Century Collections Online and State Papers Online. Apply today at the Gale Ambassadors Site

Chinese eresources trials until 25 August 2019

I’m pleased to report that the HD Chung Chinese Studies Librarian has organised trials of three Chinese eresources. Access is available on-campus and off-campus with VPN.

The resources being trialled are:

雕龙中日古籍全文资料库 Diaolong Database of Chinese & Japanese Pre-Modern Books: Provides full-text access to almost 30,000 pre-modern Chinese and Japanese titles covering history, politics, economy, religion, philosophy, literature, ethnography and geography. It includes collected works such as 方志丛书 (China local gazetteer series), 四库全书  (Classified collection of complete works), Japanese Pre-Modern Books and Qing Dynasty archives. http://hunteq.com/ancientc/ancientkm

中国近代报刊 (Chinese Modern Newspapers): Database provides access to pre-1949 Chinese newspapers published on mainland China and Taiwan, including Shen bao, Zhong yang ri bao, Taiwan min bao and Taiwan ri bao. http://www.dhcdb.com.tw/SP/

大公报 = Ta Kung Pao (1902 -1949): one of the major Chinese newspaper titles which is considered to be an authoritative source for the study of Chinese modern history, politics and society. http://tk.dhcdb.com.tw/tknewsc/tknewskm

The trials end on 25 August 2019. If you have any feedback or questions, please email the HD Chung Chinese Studies Librarian.

While you are here, check out…

New Bodleian History Books: June 2019 – Kings and Queens

For millennia kings and queens, emperors and empresses, royal consorts and mistresses, and in general members of royal houses have captured the attention of historians, historiographers, biographers, anthropologists, social scientists, theologians and the common people alike – from Suetonius and De vita Caesarum to Hello! Magazine. Because the earliest roots of kingship are found in sacral power, kings have been (and occasionally still are) considered by their people to have divine ancestry, even to the point of being revered as living gods; an idea that still continued in a way into the Christian Middle Ages through the concept of the divine right of kings. Monarchy or kingship (or queenship) thus denotes not only to a form of government but also to a supposed quality of “majesty” which marks rulers and their families as exceptional, and seems to still lie at the core of the fascination with royalty found in today’s society.

Examples of monarchs can be drawn from all four corners of the world, from the pharaohs of Egypt to the kings of Babylon and Minoan Crete, the emperors of ancient China, Japan, and Byzantium, the Caesars of Rome, the kingdoms of medieval Europe, and the emirates and sultanates of North Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Until as late as the 20th century monarchy was the most common form of government, and while most monarchs today do not wield anywhere near the power of the kings and queens of old, they are still the heads of state in 45 nations across the world in both constitutional and autocratic monarchies – so there is plenty of material not only for the royalty-hungry tabloids of today, but also for the historians who chart how kings and queens and royal families influenced the time in which they lived, and shifted the course of history.

Mirrors for Princes

The speculum principum as a genre of political writing has its roots in the early Middle Ages, but theories of ideal kingship, books of advice for new rulers, or collections of examples of great rulers, are a type of writing that seems almost as old as the institution of monarchy itself – and continues in some form to today with self-help books on leadership such as Covey’s The 7 habits of highly effective people (1999) or Goleman’s Primal Leadership (2002).A new edition of the most famous example of the genre is just out by Cambridge UP in Machiavelli: The Prince with a revision of Russell Price’s acclaimed translation and a rewritten and extended introduction by Quentin Skinner, an improved timeline of key events in Machiavelli’s life, and an enlarged and fully updated bibliography. The essay collection Concepts of Ideal Rulership from Antiquity to the Renaissance (also available online), on the other hand, deliberately stays away from such classic specula as The Prince or earlier examples such as Seneca’s On Clemency, and instead examines ideas of rulership discussed in other literary genres, from Plato’s dialogues and Aristotle’s ideas on kingship to the advice of the Byzantine peasant-turned-emperor Basil I to his son Leo VI in the 9th century, and literature aimed at the later medieval Italian officials called podestà. Finally, in Autorità e consenso: regnum e monarchia nell’Europa medievale Maria Pia Alberzoni discusses the idea of or “monarchy” in the European Middle Ages as a model formulated on the examples offered by the Classical (Roman Imperial) world, but revised through reference to the Bible and other European nations, with a focus on the developments of the concept of legitimate power and its affirmation.

Empires and Emperors

If rulers of single nations make their mark on history and attract the interest of the historian, the more so do the rulers of multiple nations amalgamated into an empire.

In Emperor: A New Life of Charles V Geoffrey Parker draws on new evidence for a study of the world’s first transatlantic empire with an account of the life of Emperor Charles V (1500-1558), ruler of Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and much of Italy and Central and South America. Parker’s biography explores both political aspects in Charles’ achievements and the decisions that created and preserved his vast empire, and more intimate details of the ruler’s life for any insight into his character and inclinations. A comparison of two dynasties of near-contemporary medieval emperors is offered in an essay collection on the Staufen and Plantagenets. Contributions discuss a wide range of issues on these German and the English royal houses of the 12th century, including the images of their respective rulers on coins and seals, the ideas and ideals of kingship propagated in their narratives, the expansion of their domains by marriage, or the issue of ruling a territory that stretches across barriers like the English channel and the Alps.

Queens and Consorts

Among the predominantly male monarchs throughout the ages, powerful and successful female rulers tend to stand out even more, and have been accorded rather more attention over the last half century; and although they may not nominally reign, the influence and power wielded by the wives and consorts of kings and emperors is now also being recognised.

Catherine Hanley discusses the woman who was arguably England’s first regnant queen in Matilda: Empress, Queen, Warrior. While undeniably closely tied to powerful male monarchs as daughter of the English king Henry I, wife of Holy Roman Emperor Henry V and Geoffrey of Anjou, and mother of England’s Henry II, Matilda was an impressive, powerful, and fascinating woman in her own right as an empress, the first ever female heir to the English crown, and an able military and political leader. A woman similarly in the shadow of more famous and powerful male royals around her is the subject of Conor Byrne’s monograph Katherine Howard: Henry VIII’s Slandered Queen: a woman stripped of her title of queen not 16 months after becoming the monarch’s fifth wife, and beheaded three months later at only 18 or 19 years of age. The study challenges her notorious reputation of promiscuity and accusations of adultery, attempts to redeem her as the monarch’s most defamed queen and adjust a popular opinion skewed by her representations in media. A reigning queen who very much overshadowed her own prince consort, on the other hand, is Queen Victoria (1819–1901). In her new biography The Young Victoria Deidre Murphy charts the years preceding her 63-year-long reign in a volume which includes portraits of the queen as princess, childhood diaries and sketchbooks, clothing, jewellery, and correspondence, and paints a vivid picture of Victoria’s early years through accounts of her personal relationships with famous people such as her mother, the Duchess of Kent, and Prince Albert, as well as with lesser-known figures such has her first schoolmaster, her governess, and her half-sister.


You can find more books on the subject on our online LibraryThing shelf tagged with kings and rulers, queens and royal consorts, and monarchy.

New: Oxford Medieval Texts online (Oxford Scholarly Editions Online)

William, Mynors, R. A. B, Thomson, Rodney M., and Winterbottom, Michael. Gesta Regum Anglorum. Vol. 1. Oxford Medieval Texts. Oxford, 2019.

Medievalists rejoice!

You now have online access to some of OUP’s Oxford Medieval Texts volumes via Oxford Scholarly Editions Online (OSEO) which is accessible via SOLO.

Oxford Medieval Texts (OMT) is an important series of published scholarly editions of selected key Latin texts relating to the history of medieval Europe. Authors include, for instance, Abelard, Bede, Malmesbury, Saxo Grammaticus, and others.

The critical texts are accompanied by a full scholarly apparatus and include a commentary and English translations on facing pages.

Currently 31 ebooks in the OMT series are now available.

This subscription is made possible thanks to the generosity of the Madeline Barber Bequest.

The earliest OMT example in OSEO is

The latest is

The Bodleian hardcopy of the OMT series is in the Upper Reading Room (URR), Old Bodleian Library, at shelfmark K.7.34.

Check here for a full list of the 100+ titles in this series.

While you are here, check out…

History of the British Isles Assessment

For those of you about to undertake the History of the British Isles assessment, please note that library staff will be ready and willing to offer assistance during the next few weeks. Don’t hesitate to approach us if you need help locating resources.

Please remember, the library will be closed on the morning of Wednesday 26th June, reopening at 2pm. In addition, during 9th week the library will be closing at 7pm, so plan your time carefully.

Contact us at library.history@bodleian.ox.ac.uk with any further questions. Most importantly, good luck!

Vacation Loans

With the end of Trinity Term fast approaching, readers are advised that vacation borrowing for the summer will commence on Wednesday 26th June. Please note, this is 9th week, due to the History of the British Isles assessment for 2nd year History undergraduates. From this date onwards, HFL borrowing limits will increase to 30 items (short loans inclusive), with a due date of Monday 14th October. Wishing you all the best of luck in the coming weeks!

New Bodleian History Books: May 2019 – War

War is
A grave affair of state;
It is a place
Of life and death,
A road
To survival and extinction,
A matter
To be pondered carefully.

Thus Sun Tzu in his Art of War (p. 6), the probably earliest philosophical treatise on a phenomenon of human interaction which more than any other has been credited with shaping and changing the course of history. From the Thermopylae (480 BC) and Marathon (490 BC) to Stamford Bridge and Hastings (1066); from Agincourt (1415) and the Siege of Orléans (1428-29) to Trafalgar (1805) and Waterloo (1815); from Saratoga (1777) and Gettysburg (1863) to the “Battle of Britain” (1940) and Stalingrad (1942-43) – the outcome of battles has determined the outcome of wars, and the outcome of wars has determined the fate of the nations who fought them.

No wonder then, that battles, war, warfare, and military history are topics to be found frequently in the new history books at the Bodleian every week – the nine volumes I’d like to present here are only some of the books on war in history that are newly arrived this month.

War and Culture

In his recent study War in Human Civilisation, Azar Gat collects some of the fundamental questions on war and its relationship to human civilisation:

Why do people engage in the deadly and destructive activity of fighting?…Have people always engaged in fighting or did they start to do so only with the advent of agriculture, the state, and civilization? How were these, and later, major developments in human history affected by war and, in turn, how did they affect war? (p. ix)

Three of the books on war new this month tackle such questions of its impact on or relationship to humans and their culture and cultural ideas.

Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), Prussian General and military theorist, and veteran of the Napoleonic wars, argues in his treatise Vom Kriege (On War) that the violence of war “arms itself with the inventions of Art and Science” – that is, with ideas (i.e. tactics and strategy), and with technology (i.e. weaponry). Two of the new studies argue that it is in fact not technology, but the human mind which is the most powerful weapon of all. Both studies take a macrohistoric approach to the topic – in Carnage and Culture Victor Davis Hanson discusses nine landmark battles from the victory of the Greeks against Xerxes at Salamis to the Tet offensive, arguing that it is positive Western culture and values which produce superior arms and soldiers. Similarly, John A. Lynn in Battle: A History of Combat and Culture looks at examples from several millennia and from around the globe to explore the way ideas, far more than bullets or bombs, shape the conduct of warfare. Human ideas and ideologies as the causes of wars, rather than as the weapons used in the waging of them, are discussed in Arnaud Blin in his study on War and Religion. Moving from the emergence of the great monotheistic faiths in the Mediterranean through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance into the modern era, he shows how religion not only fuelled a great number of conflicts but also defined the manner in which these wars were conducted and fought.

Men and Steel

In yet another famous treatise on war, Dell’arte della guerra (1521), Niccolò Machiavelli discusses four mainstays of war and their relative importance:

Men, steel, money, and bread, are the sinews of war; but of these four, the first two are more necessary, for men and steel find money and bread, but money and bread do not find men and steel. (Book 7)

The history of weaponry and weapons technology is of course closely linked to the history or war in general, and Machiavelli’s synecdochal use of “steel” comprises the entire phenomenon of the arms race, whether in the form of artillery, aircraft, firearms, missiles, or, in the 20th and 21st century, weapons of mass destruction. No less interesting are the humans who wield those weapons. Two of the new Bodleian books discuss these two closely linked aspects for the same series of medieval wars, the crusades. In Artillery in the Era of the Crusades Michael S. Fulton draws on both literary and archaeological evidence to examine the use of mechanical artillery, particularly the trebuchet, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the Levant, while Steven Tibble’s The Crusader Armies draws on a wide range of Muslim as well as Western texts and archaeological evidence to discuss strategies of attack and defence, adaptation, evolution, and cultural diversity of the two opposing armies.

War in Human Memory

Throughout human historiography and literary production wars have been reported, described, narrated in fiction, romanticised, and sparked a plethora of both poetry and prose in an effort to understand it or process the experience – from the Chanson de Roland to Shakespeare’s Henry V, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Wilfred Owen’s poetry, Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Heller’s Catch-22.

Attempting an overview of such memory and memorializing of one particular war, The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the Crusades surveys the multilingual literary output on the theme of the crusades over the space of an entire millennium, from the earliest reports to the modern era, presenting the enduring legacy of the crusaders’ imagery from the chansons de geste to Walter Scott and from Charlemagne to Orlando Bloom. Memories of war with a rather shorter afterlife, and rather less romanticised and more credible, are collected by Frances Houghton in The Veterans’ Tale, accounts of how British veterans of the Second World War remembered, understood, and recounted their experiences of battle throughout the post-war period, and the contrasts with official, scholarly, and cultural representations of the Second World War in Britain.

The End of the War

Clausewitz advocates a theory of two types of war, or more specifically, of two different ways to end a war: either by completely destroying the enemy, or by prescribing peace terms to him. The latter type has thankfully been rather more prevalent in recent times, and has resulted in peace treaties which are as famous and as history-defining as the wars they ended, and three of the new books look back at the conclusion of three major wars of the 20th century. A new addition to the Very Short Introduction series discusses The Treaty of Versailles on the centenary of the end of World War I, analysing the many subtle factors that influenced the treaty, and looking back at how the many conflicting objectives (such as a desire for peace after five years of disastrous war, demands for vengeance against Germany, the uncertain future of colonialism, or the emerging threat of Bolshevism) evolved throughout the remainder of the twentieth century – and also looks at its role in bringing about the conditions which ultimately led to World War II. The 70th anniversary of the conclusion of WWII, the 1945 Potsdam Agreement, is occasion for Das Potsdamer Abkommen 1945-2015, a collection of essays which discusses the conflicting objectives of the three main global powers, the Soviet Union, the USA and Great Britain, in the aftermath of the victory over Nazi Germany. Already at the time of the Potsdam Agreement, however, the battle lines were being drawn for the Cold War. The ending of this longest (if not most violent or bloodiest) war of the 20th century is discussed by Michael Cotey Morgan in The Final Act: the Helsinki Accords, if they did not actually end the Cold War, certainly served as a blueprint to do so. This account of the diplomatic saga that produced this historic agreement draws on research in eight countries and multiple languages, and argues that despite being initiated by the Soviets, the final agreement embraced liberal democratic ideals more than communist ones, and instead of restoring the legitimacy of the Soviet bloc, established principles that undermined it.

You can find more books on the subject on the History at the Bodleian LibraryThing shelf, tagged with “war”, “warfare”, “military history”, and “treaties”.