by Mitch on January 27, 2011 1 Comment

BATTLE OF DERNA This propaganda poster shows three Italian monoplanes circling the battle of Derna during the Italo-Turkish war (1911–12).

IN THE AUTUMN OF 1911, Italy declared war with Turkey in a dispute over the territory now known as Libya, then part of the decaying Turkish Empire. The Italian army possessed a number of foreign aircraft – French Blériots, Farmans, and Nieuports, and German Taubes. An air flotilla, initially comprising just nine aeroplanes and 11 pilots, was sent off with the Italian force that embarked for the Libyan coast in North Africa. In the short but brutal war that followed, the aeroplanes performed creditably, carrying out reconnaissance missions, mapping areas of the desert, and dropping propaganda leaflets promising a gold coin and sack of wheat to all those who surrendered. On 1 November, Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti dropped four grenades over the side of his Blériot on to a Turkish military ...

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ABYSSINIAN WAR (1935–1936)

by Mitch on January 25, 2011 0 Comments

Marshal of Italy Pietro Badoglio

Duke of Aosta.

During the early 1930s Italy progressively encroached on Abyssinian territory from colonial bases in Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. The ostensible casus belli under which Italy invaded in 1935 was a disputed border in the Ogaden peninsula. The real cause was Benito Mussolini’s desire to extend Italy’s empire in East Africa, along with nationalist pursuit of blood revenge for humiliation inflicted by the Abyssinians on an Italian army at Adowa in 1896. A border skirmish between Abyssinian and Italian troops occurred at Wal Wal on December 5, 1934. For 10 months tensions built in the region and internationally. London tried to appease Rome by offering a strip of Abyssinian land to Italy, but Mussolini personally wanted war to “erase the shame” of the defeat at Adowa and to celebrate the cult of violence and of “action” that underlay his fascist movement ...

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by Mitch on January 24, 2011 0 Comments

Benito Mussolini and Fascist Blackshirt youth in 1935 in Rome

Also known as Ethiopia, prior to World War II the ancient kingdom and empire of Abyssinia was the only African nation besides Liberia that remained independent of European imperial conquest. At the end of the 19th century, Italy annexed neighboring Eritrea, which imperialists in Abyssinians also coveted. Along with a misread treaty and ongoing border dispute, that act led to war. The Abyssinians decisively defeated the Italians at Adowa in 1896, a humiliation of the Regio Esercito that Italian nationalists and imperialists could not forget or forgive. Border skirmishes with Italian forces from Eritrea or Italian Somaliland occurred into the 1930s. This long-running dispute with Italy was then referred to the League of Nations. Benito Mussolini did not wait upon a legal ruling. Instead, he ordered an invasion of Abyssinia in 1935, which began the Abyssinian War (1935–1936). Some ...

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Lessons from Counterinsurgencies Before Vietnam I

by Mitch on January 24, 2011 0 Comments

Capture of Fort Riviere, Haiti, 1915, by Donna J. Neary; illustrations of three Medal of Honor recipients: (left to right) Sergeant Ross Iams, Major Smedley Butler, and Private Samuel Gross (USMC art collection).


Before Vietnam, both the Army and the Marine Corps had much experience fighting guerrilla-style opponents. The Army seemed to learn anew for each counterinsurgency, while the Marines codified their corpus of experience in the 1940 Small Wars Manual. In fact, the Marines’ lessons from leading Nicaraguan Guardia Nacional indigenous patrols in counter-guerrilla operations against Sandino’s guerrillas may very well have served as the basis from which to design their CAP model in Vietnam. Nonetheless, there are a host of good works and lessons from the Banana Wars, from the Philippine Insurrection, and from the Indian Wars. This section encapsulates some of the common lessons from these wars and recommends some key books that cover them. The ...

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Lessons from Counterinsurgencies Before Vietnam II

by Mitch on January 24, 2011 0 Comments

The photo above has this caption: "The Sultan of Bayan visits Captain John J. Pershing at Camp Vicars, Mindanao, 1902 - (National Archives)".

The photo below shows Howard Taft at a function with the local Moro chiefs.

During the Philippine Insurrection from 1899 to 1902, the US military learned to avoid big-unit search and destroy missions because they were counterproductive; to maximize the employment of indigenous scouts and paramilitary forces to increase and sustain decentralized patrolling; to mobilize popular support by focusing on the improvement of schools, hospitals, and infrastructure; and to enhance regime legitimacy by allowing insurgents and former insurgents to organize anti-regime political parties. In Savage Wars of Peace, an award-winning study on America’s role in small wars, Max Boot attributed American success in the Philippine Insurrection to a balanced and sound application of sticks and carrots: the US military used aggressive patrolling and force to pursue and ...

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French invasion of Dahomey

by Mitch on January 20, 2011 0 Comments

In the colonies, rivers often offered the most obvious routes of advance. The 1892 French invasion of Dahomey was greatly facilitated by the gunboat Topaz, which shadowed the French advance along the Queme River and helped to shatter several Dahomian attacks.


The Fon of Dahomey (now Benin) fought against the French from 1891 to 1902. The Second Franco-Dahomean War, which raged from 1892 to 1894, was a major conflict between the French Third Republic, led by General Alfred-Amédée Dodds, and the Kingdom of Dahomey under King Béhanzin. The French emerged triumphant and incorporated Dahomey into their growing colonial territory of French West Africa.


In 1890, the Fon kingdom of Dahomey and the French Third Republic had gone to war in what was remembered as the First Franco-Dahomean War over the former's rights to certain territories, specifically those in the Ouémé Valley.  The Fon ceased hostilities with the French ...

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French invasion of Madagascar

by Mitch on January 20, 2011 1 Comment

The 1895 French invasion of Madagascar nearly came to grief when General Duchesne lingered for too long in the islands malarial lowlands to construct roads and bridges to support a thrust toward Tananarive. His force melting away from disease, Duchesne was obliged to strike inland with a 1,500-man 'flying column'.


In 1894, French planners estimated that 18,000 to 20,000 porters and mule drivers would be required to support a 12,000-man expeditionary force to Madagascar. The inclusion of the two-wheeled metal voiture Lefevre allowed the number of porters to be reduced to 7,000 when the French invaded the following year. But the expedition stalled on the coast as roads and bridges over which the vehicles (called La fievre, or 'fever wagon' by the troops) could pass had to be constructed. General Charles Duchesne, his force perishing from disease before even a shot could be fired, was ...

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Book Review: No fixed values': A reinterpretation of the Influence of the Theory of guerre révolutionnaire and the Battle of Algiers, 1956-1957

by Mitch on January 14, 2011 0 Comments

Christopher Cradock and M.L.R. Smith."No fixed values':A reinterpretation of the Influence of the Theory of guerre révolutionnaire and the Battle of Algiers, 1956-1957".Journal of Cold War Studies 9:4 (Fall 2007):68-105. Doi: 10.1162/jcws.2007.9.4.68.


Reviewed by James McDougall, University of London Published by H-Diplo on 8 February 2008


(c) 2008 H-Net:Humanities and Social Sciences Online


'Values', violence, and counter-insurgency


In August 1845, Marshal Soult, the French Minister for War, wrote indignantly to his-fellow officer and subordinate, Marshal Thomas-Robert Bugeaud, Duke of Isly and Governor of Algeria, to protest at disciplinary measures being applied in the army of Africa. Soldiers of a light infantry battalion had been subjected to a variety of punishments outside the provisions of army regulations, up to and including le clou au rouge - being suspended by a cord, with which hands and feet were tied ...

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BOOK REVIEW: Slavery and the Birth of an African City: Lagos, 1760-1900

by Mitch on January 14, 2011 0 Comments


Published (June 2008)


Kristin Mann. _Slavery and the Birth of an African City: Lagos, 1760-1900_. Bloomington and Indianapolis: IndianaUniversity Press, 2007. xii + 473 pp. Tables, maps, notes, bibliography, index. $55.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-253-34884-5.


Reviewed for H-Atlantic by Ana Lucia Araujo, Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples, York University


The Emergence of a West African City


Few studies have focused on specific western African slave ports.

Following the path of Robin Law's _Ouidah: The Social History of a West African Slaving Port_ (19??), Kristin Mann's _Slavery and the Birth of an African City_ analyzes the evolution of Lagos as a slave port during the transatlantic slave trade, an important Atlantic commercial center during the legitimate trade of palm oil, and as a prominent British colonial capital.


The book shows, on the one ...

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BOOK REVIEW: The Maphumulo Uprising: War, Law and Ritual in the Zulu Rebellion

by Mitch on January 14, 2011 0 Comments


Published by (April, 2008)


Jeff Guy. _The Maphumulo Uprising: War, Law and Ritual in the Zulu Rebellion_. Scottsville: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2005. xii + 276 pp. Illustrations, maps, notes, selected bibliography, index. $34.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-86914-048-9.


Reviewed for H-SAfrica by Aran MacKinnon, History Department, University of West Georgia


War, Law, and Ritual in the Zulu Rebellion


In _The Maphumulo Uprising_, Jeff Guy has crafted a gripping story of the political machinations, chiefly intrigues, and paranoid colonial imaginations that surrounded the remarkable African effort to resist Natal intrusions and exactions during the Zulu, or "Bambatha," Rebellion of 1906. Guy brings to the project all his considerable expertise in the history of Natal and Zululand, and he greatly illuminates the story. Yet, as Guy notes, this monograph is the product of his effort "to go into the minutiae of events and to ...

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BOOK REVIEW: French Colonialism Unmasked: The Vichy Years in French West Africa

by Mitch on January 14, 2011 0 Comments


Published by (May, 2008)


Ruth Ginio. _French Colonialism Unmasked: The Vichy Years in French West Africa_. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006. xviii + 243 pp. Notes, bibliography, index. $65.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8032-2212-0; $24.95 (paper), ISBN 978-0-8032-1746-1.


Reviewed for H-French-Colonial by Richard S. Fogarty, Department of History, University at Albany, State University of New York


True France


Ruth Ginio's examination of the three years of Vichy rule in the federation of French West Africa (FWA) opens with the memory of Bara Diouf, who described the sadness among many African residents of the capital in Dakar when they heard about the defeat of France in June 1940. This emotion, he explained, grew out of "'a myth of an admired republican France toward which we all felt great esteem'" (p. xiii). Ginio's book addresses how Vichy's naked displays of ...

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Great Java War, (1815–1830)

by Mitch on January 13, 2011 0 Comments

The final version of Prince Raden Saleh’s  Capture of Diponegoro, oil on canvas, 112 x 178 cm, Museum Istana Jakarta, shows a different composition and emotional quality all together. An angry Diponegoro is the acting figure in the center of the painting. He struggles to keep his feelings - in true Javanese fashion - under control. His look is provocative and challenging, while the Dutch officers are frozen in static gazes that do not meet anybody’s eyes.


PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Dutch East India Company forces vs. Javanese guerrillas led by Dipo Negoro


DECLARATION: Jihad proclaimed, 1815

MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Dipo Negoro’s rebels wanted to suppress Dutch economic and political

domination of Java.

OUTCOME: The rebels were ultimately defeated, at great cost, but the Dutch did liberalize administration of Java.


Dutch forces, 100,000

CASUALTIES: Dutch losses may have ...

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Javanese-Chinese-Dutch War (1740–1743)

by Mitch on January 13, 2011 0 Comments

19th Century Javanese drawing, illustrating an episode of the Geger Pecinan (‘Chinese Revolt’) the war that erupted in Java 1741-2

PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Dutch East India Company vs. Chinese on Java; some Javanese sided with the Chinese, some with the Dutch



MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Dutch East India Company deportations of Chinese on Java incited a rebellion against the Dutch.

OUTCOME: The rebellion was put down and peace was restored between the Dutch and Chinese on Java.


Totals unknown, but in 1741, the Dutch post at Semarang was besieged by 23,500 Chinese and Javanese rebels.

CASUALTIES: About 10,000, on all sides died.



Chinese trade with Java was a long-established fact centuries before the Dutch entered the Javanese trade under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company. Chinese traders became integrated into the Dutch-Javanese ...

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by Mitch on January 12, 2011 0 Comments

Belgian and Congolese soldiers in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) soon after independence.

The so-called Colonial Charter of 1908 set out the main lines of the Belgian colonial system: a rigorous separation between the budgets of the colony and the mother country; a strict parliamentary control of executive power (in order to avoid the excesses of the former Leopoldian despotism); the appointment of a governor-general in Congo, whose powers were strictly limited by the metropolitan authorities; and a tight centralism in the colony itself, where provincial authorities were granted little autonomy.


In reality, Belgium’s political parties and public opinion showed little interest in Congolese matters. Consequently, colonial policy was determined by a small group of persons, in particular the minister of colonies, a handful of top civil servants in the Ministry of Colonies, some prominent Catholic ecclesiastics, and the leaders of the private companies that were investing increasing amounts of capital ...

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by Mitch on January 12, 2011 0 Comments

During World War I, Belgian colonial troops participated in the military campaigns against the Germans in East Africa. They occupied a large part of this German colony. After the end of the war, the Belgian government tried to exchange these territories against the left bank of the Congo River mouth, which was in Portuguese hands. This plan failed to materialize, and finally, on May 30, 1919, according to the Orts-Milner Agreement (named after its Belgian and British negotiators), Belgium’s spoils of war only consisted of two small territories in the Great Lakes region bordering the immense Belgian Congo, namely Rwanda and Burundi (their ancient names being Ruanda and Urundi).


As was the case with the other former German colonies, the League of Nations entrusted both of these territories to the victorious power as ‘‘mandates.’’ Belgium administered these mandates through a system of indirect rule. The pre-colonial social and political ...

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Congo crisis - Mercenaries

by Mitch on January 12, 2011 1 Comment

Mike Hoare

During the Congo Crisis Mike Hoare organised and led two separate mercenary groups:


    * 1960–1961. Major Mike Hoare's first mercenary action was in Katanga, a province trying to break away from the newly independent Congo. The unit was called "4 Commando". During this time he married Phyllis Simms, an airline stewardess.

    * 1964. Congolese Prime Minister Moïse Tshombe hired "Colonel" Mike Hoare to lead a military unit called "5 Commando (Congo)" made up of about 300 men most of whom were from South Africa.His second in command was a young South African paratrooper Capt. GD Snygans. The unit's mission was to fight a breakaway rebel group called Simbas. Later Hoare and his mercenaries worked in concert with Belgian paratroopers, Cuban exile pilots, and CIA hired mercenaries who attempted to save 1,600 civilians (mostly Europeans and missionaries) in Stanleyville from the Simba rebels in Operation Dragon ...

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The Congo

by Mitch on January 12, 2011 0 Comments

During the age of discovery, European vessels searched the shores of Africa for riches and glory. The unknown region of what is now known as sub-Saharan Africa turned out to be an inhabited region where peoples and cultures flourished. As the explorers came upon the Congo River and landed on its shores, they recognized that the area was different from anything that they had ever seen. The Portuguese arrived first at the mouth of the Congo River, encountering the people of the area. This encounter began a long and destructive relationship that still affects the people of the DRC (Hochschild 1999, 7–18).


More recently, the DRC has suffered from the colonial legacy of King Leopold II of Belgium. Formerly known as the Congo Free State, the DRC endured Leopold’s destruction, devastation, and extraction. As the personal colony of the king, the DRC provided Belgium with substantial revenue and ...

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by Mitch on January 12, 2011 0 Comments

African Warriors in Natal, January 1, 1879. A contingent of African soldiers fighting for the British stand in formation behind British officers in the colony of Natal during the 1879 Zulu War.


The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 was fought between Britain and the Zulu nation in South Africa. The war remains one of the most dramatic in both British and southern African history during the colonial period. It marked the end of the independence of the Zulu nation and the entrenchment of British colonialism in South Africa.


The Zulu kingdom emerged early in the nineteenth century along the eastern seaboard of southern Africa under its legendary ruler Shaka Zulu (1787–1828). The background to the war must be located in contestations over land between the Zulu, the Boers, and the British. British adventurers were attracted to Zululand in search of trade and by the 1840s the British colony of Natal ...

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Late British Empire

by Mitch on January 12, 2011 0 Comments

Between the late eighteenth century and the era of ‘‘new imperialism’’ starting in the 1870s, Britain did not experience serious competition from other European powers in its empire-building efforts. However, France started to recover from its internal problems in the middle of the nineteenth century. And the German unification of 1871 created another global player longing for colonial expansion. Italy developed similar ambitions. Internal rivalries between these powers made them overambitious colonizers and heralded the period of ‘‘new imperialism.’’


But the more accessible and economically attractive parts of the world had already been colonized (or even decolonized)—only most of Africa and large parts of the Pacific had been spared as yet. Thus began what has been aptly described as the ‘‘Scramble for Africa.’’ The major European powers started to occupy territories in Africa. Britain secured control over the Suez Canal by occupying Egypt in 1882. Most of southern Africa ...

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British Post WWI Policy in the Middle-East II

by Mitch on January 4, 2011 0 Comments

As the scale of their victory began to unfold, the ministers of the Eastern Committee seized their chance to build a permanent barrier between their old European rivals and the approaches to what Milner’s protégé, Leo Amery (a keen student of geopolitics), had called the ‘Southern British World’ in India, Africa and Oceania. The French were brutally told that their claims under the Sykes–Picot agreement were no longer valid. The ministers invoked instead the new ideals of self-determination, set out in Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points in January 1918, to propose a wide degree of self-government in the Arab provinces (with the significant exception of Palestine), on the understanding that Britain would enjoy a complete monopoly of external influence. ‘We will have a Protectorate but not declare it’, remarked the Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour. Further east, they sanctioned Curzon’s project of turning Persia – where ‘the British stake ...

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