Archive for March, 2008

28
Mar
08

The Great Wall Of China 221 BC-AD 1644

Out of all the monuments of military architecture in world history, the Great Wall of China is the best known but the least well understood. To stand high on one of its remote sections and see this great stone dragon twisting along the ridges both to the horizon behind and – so excitingly – to the distant horizon in front, is to experience a thrill that no other fortified structure on earth can provide.The Great Wall of China has been recognized for centuries as the largest fortified entity ever built, yet has remained poorly studied until comparatively recent times. It is therefore both impressive and elusive; presenting an appearance that can sometimes seem to be very simple and repetitive, yet at other times complex and baffling. Even though its construction is well recorded, the mythology and political propaganda that has grown up around the Great Wall often tends to obscure any straightforward examination of either its historical record or the attendant archaeological evidence. From the myths of its unbroken construction history and unbroken length, and from the tales of human bodies being used to build it. to the notorious nonsense about it being visible from the Moon, the Great Wall of China is far more than just a defensive structure; it is a national icon. Once despised as a symbol of all that was wrong with China, the Great Wall now acts as a symbol of all that is right with it. Built from the dust of China and, in many places sadly, returning to it, the Great Wall has often been more pillaged than preserved and now faces greater threats to its continued existence than ever before.
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28
Mar
08

The French-Indian War 1754-1760

The French-Indian War is the name commonly given to the conflict which arose in North America in 1754-55, between the British Thirteen Colonies (and Nova Scotia) and New France (comprising Louisiana, the Ohio River Valley, Quebec [known as Canada], and Cape Breton and St Jean Islands). Following the War of the Austrian Succession, which was officially concluded by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, Great Britain and France continued their disputes over land boundaries in North America. The fighting chiefly took place along the frontier regions of the northern Thirteen Colonies and in the Quebec and Cape Breton regions of New France. New France was at a numerical disadvantage due to a disparity in population: New France had 75,000 settlers, while the Thirteen Colonies had 15 million people. The frontier skirmishes of 1754 propelled both France and Great Britain to seek Continental allies. With Europe firmly divided into two camps – France, Austria and Russia on one side and Prussia and Great Britain on the other – conflict was inevitable. By 1756, the frontier skirmishes had developed into a fully-fledged war in North America and spilled over into conflict in Europe itself.
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28
Mar
08

The French Religious Wars 1562-1598

In March 1560 a group of lesser Protestant nobles attempted to gain control of the king at the chateau of Amboise in the Loire valley. The plotters intended no harm to the king, but hoped to topple his Guise ministers. But news of the plot leaked out, and the conspirators were rounded up before they could act. Some were butchered on the spot, and their bodies were left hanging from the chateau’s balconies. Meanwhile, Calvinists began to worship more openly and to attack Catholic churches in many parts of France. A flood of pamphlets denounced the Guises as usurpers. At an Assembly of Notables in August 1560, the Chancellor, Michel de 1’Hospital, pressed for a reform of the Catholic church as a way out of the crisis. The Huguenots advanced the claims of Bourbon and Conde against the Guises. Conde began to raise troops and called on several great nobles to join him. In December 1560 King Francis II died. He was succeeded by his brother Charles, who was only 10.
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28
Mar
08

The Crimean War

In March 1854, fa Britain to declare war on Russia in support of Turkey appeared both wise and necessary. The underlying reasons were long term, part of the so-called Eastern Question – the disintegration of the Turkish Empire, which stretched from the Alps to Egypt Russia, and in particular her Black Sea fleet, represented a menacing unknown quantity in this equation, the Tsar in repeated conversations with the British ambassador describing Turkey as ripe fa rich picking, ‘the sick man of Europe’. For the past 200 years Russia had been spreading territorial tentacles outwards from Moscow, southwards into the Ukraine and in 1783 to the Crimea. There Sevastopol provided a warm-water port from which the fleet could sail through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Straits into the eastern Mediterranean, directly to threaten British trade routes with the Levant and India. Overland probes in the Caucasus west of the Caspian Sea underlined Russian desire fa even further expansion into the Near East But these advances were too distant to perturb Europe. Incursions across the Danube into the Balkans towards Constantinople, occupation of which would allow Russian warships their free passage into the Mediterranean, were altogether a different matter. Only international diplomatic pressure had halted Russian troops uncomfortably close to the Turkish capital in 1829. An even more serious crisis evolved in 1833.
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28
Mar
08

The Cossacks 1799-1815

In theory a Cossack regiment mustered between 500 and 1,000 men depending on the Host the regiment was raised in. However, during the campaigns of 1812-14 the regiments usually mustered between 80 to 120 men, with the strongest mustering just 320 lances, the rest having become casualties or being used for escort duties or guarding prisoners. These regiments or Pulks were commanded by a voskovois ataman or Poloniski and were divided into between five and ten squadrons or sotnias of 100 men armed with lances. Each squadron was commanded by an esaul or captain, a sotnik or senior officer (for example, lieutenant), a cornet, who carried the colours and two or three Ckarungii or junior officers. To help them were ten Uradnik or NCOs all of whom were armed only with a sword. Each Cossack regiment usually had ten tirailleurs in each squadron, whose role it was to skirmish with the enemy. There were no trumpeters in a Cossack regiment.
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28
Mar
08

The Conquistador 1492-1550


Miguel de la Cruz was nervous as he slogged forward through the mud of the canal. Cortes had just led the cavalry away into the dense underbrush to find ground more suitable for horse, which left the foot soldiers dangerously exposed to a direct attack by no fewer than 8,000 Mayas who had gathered on the open field up ahead. If only the old friars back in Trujillo knewjust how frightening their tales of a devil’s army could truly be. Ferocious in their appearance, many of the Mayas wore helmets carved in the shapes of jaguars and other fantastic creatines; the array of shimmering plumes and banners that they carried was electrifying in the blazing sun. Miguel had fought Indian people before, but this army seemed more like some terrible legion of ancient myth. As the enemy’s drums and conch shell trumpets began to sound, Diego de Ordas signaled to his men to prepare for the attack. Miguel blew on the fuse of his matchlock confidently. Soon the frightening cries of the enemy began to grow louder. Miguel raised his weapon and took aim counting out the distance in his mind. Just a few more seconds, ‘Fire!’ cried Ordas. Miguel pushed the button trigger, the fuse sprung into the pan, and the heavy gun lurched backward with an ear-shattering blast. The gunner stepped sideways to reload, allowing a swordsman to take his place.
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28
Mar
08

Norman Knight 950-1204 AD – Weapons, Armour, Tactics


During the Viking incursions of the 9th and 10th centuries, England and north-western France suffered particularly. In or about on, Charles III (the Simple), King of the West Franks, was forced to allow a chieftain called Rollo, operating in the Seine valley, to settle his men on territory in what is now upper or eastern Normandy bounded by the rivers Bresle, Epte, Avre and Dives. The Treaty of St.-Clair-sur-Epte has come down in a semi-legendary form. In return for the gift of land the king would be a nominal overlord, possibly recognising Rollo’s conversion to Christianity and receiving military aid. The new state would also act as a buffer against further raiding. Rollo soon expanded his territories into lower or western Normandy. In 924 the Bessin and districts of Sees and Exmes were granted to him, whilst his son and successor, William Longsword, gained the Cotentin and Avranchin in 933. The newly defined boundaries fitted less those of the Carolingian province of Neustria than the old Roman province of the Second Lyonnaise. From this, Rouen had become the metropolitan head of the province and remained as the most important city of the new Norman duchy.
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