|Gallipoli one hundred years on|
|The last few years have been very busy, and even though I have very little spare time for reading, I cannot stop acquiring new books. As I type this, there are more than a dozen piled up on top the bookcases waiting to be read. There are more in other rooms of the house. When this blog started my main plan was to talk about books, hoping that some of the recommendations might be of interest to others. So much is published these days that it is very easy to be wholly unaware of new releases let alone old titles.|
As 2015 comes to an end, the enthusiasm of the media in Britain for talking about the Great War has flagged - but then since they began in 2013 there was always a fair chance of the energy running out too soon. Perhaps I have just missed it, but there seems to have been little on TV, in the press, and fewer big book releases, although a lot of more specialist stuff. Presumably next year with the centenary of the Somme there will be more, albeit probably focused almost entirely on the first day. (It's a safe bet that the Easter Rising will figure large in the Republic of Ireland of course, with the danger that entrenched myth will be triumph over real attempts to understand the motives and actions of everyone involved).
One book I stumbled across and managed to find the time to read during the Christmas break is Peter Stanley, Die in Battle, do not despair - the Indians on Gallipoli, 1915 (Helion and company, 2015). So many books on the campaign understandably focus on the ANZACs, or less often the British Divisions, with only occasional mentions of the 29th Infantry Brigade, the mountain batteries, and the very numerous supply troops sent by the Indian Army - or indeed of the French contingent. The author discusses their military role in considerable detail, but is to be praised for attempting to integrate this with an understanding of the social context. One problem is that there is only one personal account by an Indian soldier, so that much of the time we have to rely on what their British officers or other observers report that these soldiers said and did. Yet Stanley uses these sources with skill, and asks important questions even if they cannot always be answered and that in itself is well worth doing. Similar questions - on attitudes, motivation, preservation of identity through diet and ritual including burial - are well worth remembering when we think about the Roman army, where the evidence is far poorer. The importance of comparatively elderly Indian officers in the effectiveness of the infantry battalions also provides an echo of some of the long serving Roman centurions. The subject is an interesting and neglected one, important in its own right, and the book is readable and insightful so that it is well worth reading in its own right, apart from sparking thoughts about other armies in other periods.
Before I came across this book, I got a Blu-ray copy of the Australian TV mini-series Gallipoli - 100 years in the making. As far as I know this has not been shown in the UK, although it deserves to be. At times it has the feel of a drama-documentary, as it follows Hamilton and the high command, the correspondents covering the campaign, and the main group of characters in a fictional battalion of the AIF, who manage to take part in most of the key events of the campaign, at least in the ANZAC beachhead - when they befriend some men from the Light Horse you know that the disaster at the Nek is on the way. I'm sure it is something that I'll watch again (and have already re-watched the first episode with a commentary provided by the historical consultant). The people making this made a real effort to get things right - the scene where the characters are part of a burial party chimed with many descriptions of such things from this and other campaigns and I have not seen before in a drama. I am not sure whether the sub-plot about the brothers and the girl back home quite works, but it may grow on me. As is usual for film and TV, they struggle to cope with the basic truth that far more casualties are wounded rather than dead, but then it is harder to deal dramatically with long term serious injuries which take a character away from the main setting. On the whole I think it is very good. Not quite as involving as the eighties series Anzacs which to my mind is one of the best dramas ever made about the First World War, especially for the Western front, but this is more focused and it made a nice change to continue the story into the winter months and to the evacuation in early 1916. It is hard to imagine something like either series being made in the UK, which is a shame.
|I have just finished work on the manuscript of the new non fiction book, after working on it for some two and half years. It is Pax Romana. Peace, conquest and the Roman empire and looks at the big question of whether or not the famous 'Roman peace' was a reality. These days empires are none too fashionable, often seen both as bad things and also by extension as inefficient, while the academic instinct is to play down the modernity of the Romans and instead emphasize how primitive many aspects of state and society were. |
No one can question the success of the Romans in conquering so much of the world - or doubt the longevity of their empire - but what did this success really mean? Was the world truly as peaceful as the notion of Roman peace and the boasts of successive emperors claimed? If there was peace, then how did it happen, how was it maintained and how stable was it? It is important to understand how contact with Rome and occupation by the empire changed the lives of people in the provinces. These are big questions and the answers are complicated, but they are vital for understanding the Roman world.
PAX ROMANA is due for release in the second half of 2016 in the UK and USA, although so far I do not have precise publication dates. It has been a fascinating book to write, and I hope readers will share this interest.
As an aside, I must apologise to those who have e-mailed me in the last month or two. Finishing the book on time while keeping up with real life has meant that there is a long backlog of messages awaiting answers. I shall do my best to reply to all of them soon.
|Run them ashore released in paperback|
|RUN THEM ASHORE will be released in paperback tomorrow. This is the fifth novel in the series, and sees the characters involved in the war along Spain's Mediterranean coast as the Allies cling on to a small toe-hold of the country. They work with the Navy and with Spanish partisans fighting the guerrilla or 'little war', so see different sides of the war. With the attempt to take Malaga, the siege of Cadiz and the Battle of Barrosa, there is plenty to keep them busy.|
|Augustus in paperback in USA|
|Today sees the release of the Yale University Press paperback edition of AUGUSTUS. Must dash - I'm very busy working on the next book! Details of that to follow.|
|Waterloo event in Penarth Book Festival|
I shall be taking part in a panel talking about Napoleon and Waterloo as part of the Penarth Book festival - follow this link - on the 12th October.
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