Napoleon and Typhus

With a combination of archaeology and medical forensics, a new theory of Napoleon’s defeat in Russia [via HNN] has emerged: typhus, spread by lice. This is interesting stuff, an important addition to the history of the era, and highlights the role of disease combined with modern organizations, not to mention the role of luck in military affairs. I’m not convinced yet that the weather and supply issues can be dismissed out of hand, but you can’t rely on journalistic accounts of scholarship to give you a really full picture of their argument, especially the balance of causation.

Lost Sounds: the Rebel Yell

Recreating the sensory experience — sounds, tastes, smells, etc. — of the past is a fascinating challenge which historians have started to take much more seriously in  the last decade or so. It’s easier when there are examples to work from, but recording and photographic technology aren’t much more than a century-and-a-half old, and surviving early recordings and photographs are very rare and often don’t cover what the historian really wants to know. Sometimes, though, you get lucky. The Museum of the Confederacy — an educational and historical institution, not a memorial to the Lost Cause — has found several early recordings of the long-lost “Rebel Yell” and used digital sound technology to recreate the battlefield experience. Then, Civil War Reenactors took up the call, so to speak, and you can hear a 400-man brigade recreate the sound in the second video. [Via Kevin Levin]

Extra Credit Opportunity: “Terrorism, War, and The Challenge Facing the US in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Your first extra credit opportunity of the semester is on Tuesday the 26th:

The International Academic Affairs Committee, the Dept. of History, the Dept. of Social Sciences, and the International Studies Program are sponsoring a program entitled: “Terrorism, War, and The Challenge Facing the US in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” It will be held on Tuesday January 26 in the Crimson and Gold Ballroom. Admission is free, and the program is open to all members of the university community as well as the community at large. People are free to attend whatever session interests them. The featured speakers in the morning are professional historians who work for the Department of the Army. The US military officers on the afternoon panel have extensive experience as advisers in Iraq and Afghanistan. An Afghani officer is also included on the panel.
9:00 Registration
9:45 Welcome—Dr. Lynette Olson, University Provost
10:00 Mr. William Lambert—Military and Political Overview of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Theater
11:00 Dr. Don Wright—The War in Afghanistan
12:00 Break for Lunch
1:00 Military Officers Panel—MAJ Dave Conner, MAJ Paul Culberson, MAJ Nicholas Dickson, MAJ Nelson David, and LTC Mohammed Omari
2:00 Wrap-Up Panel—All Participants, Dr. John Daley (Chair, Dept. of History) Moderator

You don’t have to attend the whole day: just one panel is enough for extra credit, but if you want to do more (the afternoon sessions look particularly good to me!) you can. The usual requirements of extra credit: attend, and write me a 1-2 page summary and reaction paper.

Miscellaneous announcements: Guest Lectures, Test, Fun

We’ll have two guest lectures from PSU Grad student, military historian and WWII reenactor Dustin Strong: “Napoleon and his Wars” on October 9 and “WWII” on November 16. Mr. Strong’s lectures, like my own, are required, and I will expect to see his presentation reflected in your test answers and essays where appropriate. Mr. Strong has also announced two WWII reenactments open to the public as extra credit opportunities: Sept. 26-27 at Bristow Jones Memorial Airport (Bristow, OK) and Nov. 7 at Forest Park (Ottawa, KS). For the extra credit, include in your summary/reaction paper a description of the battle, and those of you doing WWII topics for your book review are strongly encouraged to talk to members of one of the units, as they are usually very well-informed on the equipment and history of the units they portray.

My apologies to the 2pm section for missing Monday: I have put the lecture outline online, so that anyone who missed class due to the weather or illness can review it. Those of you were there for the 11am class are welcome to look at it as well, obviously.

Regarding the Test on Monday, covering chapters 15 through 20, inclusive, and the lectures, the format will be very much like the pop quizzes: I will choose four or five (or six) terms from each chapter — the terms in the “Key Terms” lists, of course — to put on the test. From those, you will pick twelve (12) to answer: at least one from each of the six chapters, and the rest from any of the remaining terms. I will supply the test and paper; you bring something to write with and everything you can remember about the last month’s readings and lectures.

Finally, for fun, here’s pre-Revolutionary satires on French aristocratic hairstyles, including a recreation of the Battle of Bunker Hill [mildly adult content]. The one that made me laugh was the one with the hairdresser using a nautical navigational tool — the sextant — to arrange the hairstyle.