Tuesday, April 15, 2014

How Do Europeans Remember the Crimean War?

How Do Europeans Remember the Crimean War?: As the first war in history to be officially photographed, the Crimean War from 1853 to 1856 happened under complex circumstances. Like the War of 1812, status quo ante bellum can be considered the war's outcome, as no major boundary changes occurred. But for the Allies (Britain, France, etc.), the war is remembered as a victory, especially since they thwarted Russia's expansion into the Middle East. The primary issue at stake was the Ottoman Empire (present-day Turkey, Bulgaria, etc.), which had been dissolving due to rising nationalism amid various ethnic groups, including Turks, Serbs, Jews, and Arabs. In effect, Russia sought to seize upon Ottoman vulnerability by going to war over the rights of Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land. Russians today recall such a venture as legitimate, mostly because Arab-Muslim control of that territory would have complicated matters too much. And France essentially intervened in the Russian-Ottoman conflict on behalf of Catholic Europe. Yet as Russia quickly decimated Ottoman forces around the Black Sea in late 1853, the Crimean War became more about geopolitical acquisitions than religious rights. After the war's popularity had declined precipitously in Britain by 1855, the government commissioned Roger Fenton to document the war in photographs, which would later be sold to newspapers and private collectors. The British government also looked to its poet laureate at the time, Lord Tennyson, to immortalize the war in "The Charge of the Light Brigade," which recalled the ill-fated advance of British cavalry against Russian artillery at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Do Americans Remember the Civil War?

How Do Americans Remember the Civil War?: Pictured above is the Pennsylvania Monument at the Gettysburg Battlefield. Dedicated at a cost of about $250,000 in 1910, it commemorates the 35,000 Pennsylvania soldiers who fought in the battle. Constructed of iron, concrete, bronze, and granite, it's one of the most elaborate state monuments at Gettysburg. If a monument such as this can be viewed as signifying a kind of collective memory toward the Civil War, then how do individuals approach the subject? According to historian David Blight, there are three main visions for how people generally remember the war. First, and perhaps the most obvious, is the Reconciliationist vision. Embodied initially by Abraham Lincoln and his Second Inaugural Address, the Reconciliationist vision encourages Americans to recognize that faults existed on both sides (North and South) during the war. Next is the Emancipationist vision, which was popular among anti-slavery activists like Frederick Douglass. With this vision, the rights and privileges of citizenship were to be extended to all Americans, especially freed slaves. And lastly, there's the White Supremacist vision, which trumpets the "Lost Cause" mythology and emphasizes the roles of Confederate heroes such as Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee.