Quirky History: Kick-Ass Women Throughout History

On August 18, 2016, I published the following post on Quirk Books.

Quirky History: Kick-Ass Women Throughout History

Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797)

August 18 marks the anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. What’s the big deal with the Nineteenth Amendment? It gives American women the right to vote! To celebrate this victory we here at Quirk Books would like to introduce you to some kick-ass women throughout history whose legacy lives on long after they passed away.

If you would like to read the entire post, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Writing the Second Draft

GetInline

First Draft

On June 7, 2016, I wrote a post here on The Boomerang where I announced that I had finished the first draft of the third version of an adult fantasy novel that I started writing in 2001.

Now I can make a second announcement:

I have finished the second draft of the third version of the adult fantasy novel that I started writing in 2001.

I started revising on June 14.

I worked on the novel six days a week. Some days for only a couple of hours. Other days the whole eight hours. It all depended on the amount of changes that needed to be made as well as my own state of mind on that particular day.

I write in long-hand in a lined Barnes & Noble refill journal, using a Ballograf mechanical pencil and 0.5 HB leads.

I type my long-hand manuscript in a Word document using Courier 12 points double-spaced. This way, my digital copy also becomes yet another opportunity for revisions.

I backup all my files on a physical external hard drive .

The first draft was approximately 131,000 words long.

The second draft is approximately 98,000 words long.

I made no adjustments to the narrative. I only cut out scenes that didn’t drive the story forward.

I added a new beginning to the novel’s second part.

It took me approximately six weeks to finish the second draft. I clicked on Save for the final time on July 29.

So what am I doing right now?

I have started the querying process and I’m trying to master the art of the synopsis.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Early Modern Infantry and History as Continuity and Change

It started with a tweet.

As an historian with a background in medieval history and who is currently researching the development of the European military-fiscal state of the seventeenth century, this tweet caught my attention for several reasons.

First, the question about the “specific moment” in history when everything shifted and a new world was ushered in is a commonly occurring query. I have been asked questions of this kind several times and never have I been able to give a straight answer, as in “this is the moment when everything changed.” The reason for this inability is simple: history is not a series of isolated events. It is a process. And as a process, changes and developments interlock and feed off each other. This is why the phrase “continuity and change” is a commonly occurring phrase in historical research. Because that is what history is. Continuity and change. At the same time.

Second, as is stated in this tweet, medieval warfare and early modern warfare are different from each other. The images used to illustrate the tweet is focused on weapons technology, which indeed did change during this period.

The early modern era sees the increased use of weaponry that are powered by gunpowder. This development led to changes in engineering, such as how to build fortifications. A medieval castle wall could withstand a siege where swords, ladders, crossbows, and even trebuchets, were used. However, a medieval castle wall is helpless against the firing power of a canon and so early modern fortifications needed to be built differently to withstand this kind of assault.

Third, the tweet mentions the differences between a medieval army and an early modern army regarding its infantry. If you ask me, this is where it gets interesting.

As I have stated previously here on The Boomerang, fighting a war is much more than just soldiers, guns, and ammo. War is a way of organizing a society. This is why we speak of societies being in a state of war. And no other time period in European history displays this more clearly than the early modern period.

The early modern period was a time of more or less constant war, the epitome of which would be the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) which caused major devastation to the European continent, the likes of which would not be seen again until World War II.

Early-modern warfare became the result of the economic system of the time—mercantilism. Mercantilism preached a positive trade balance which would be maintained through territorial expansion and government monopolies. Territorial expansion was achieved through colonization in other parts of the world and through war.

To be able to maintain a society more or less in a constant state of war, the state itself needed to be reformed. War during the early modern era differed from war during the Middle Ages in that it affected society as a whole on a larger scale.

Medieval warfare resembled armed gangs more than actual armies. The Battle of Hastings in 1066, which ushered in what is now called the Norman Conquest of England, is estimated to have involved no more than 17,000 men. This number includes all fighters on both sides of the battle.

During the early modern era, armies grew in size. The two armies that fought each other at the Battle of Lützen in 1632 involved more than 40,000 men, most of them infantry. Not only did this battle involve more than twice as many people as the Battle of Hastings; it was one of several battles of this size fought over a period of thirty years. The Battle of Hastings was a one-time event.

To sustain such a massive war effort, all society resources needed to be geared towards the military. And by resources I mean taxes, agricultural output, and manpower.

And by manpower I mean the infantry. Instead of having an army that consisted of men who all had a personal relationship to one another, the early modern army consisted of men who were conscripted without a personal connection to their commanding officer.

An example of how the early-modern infantry shaped society is Sweden during Charles XI (Swedish: Karl XI, r. 1660-1697). Charles XI created a system of infantry conscription (Indelningsverket) that remained in effect until 1901, permeating Swedish society on all levels. The purpose of Indelningsverket was for each village to provide the state with an infantry soldier, providing this man and his family with a tenant farm (soldattorp).

This solution is similar to how the tax-exempt nobility developed during the Middle Ages. But instead of a noble man providing his knightly services to a king, a farming village provides an infantry soldier to the state. Which leads us back to what I talked about at the beginning of this post—continuity and change.

To conclude, I would like to say the following.

History is a process where continuity and change work simultaneously. Yes, there are events that can be referred to as “historical,” when the development of society took a turn. However, an historical event is only historical when placed within its context. In other words, a specific moment when something changes can only be identified in relation to the over-arching process of which this event is a minor part.

If you’re curious about Myke Cole, check out his novels of military fantasy. I have read two of them so far and really enjoyed them. Also, even though I have dissected his tweet to a near-atomic level, I have the greatest respect for Cole and his work.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

 

 

 

10 Things You Should Know about the Gutenberg Bible

On July 13, 2016, I published the following post on Book Riot.

10 Things You Should Know about the Gutenberg Bible

Gutenberg_Bible,_Lenox_Copy,_New_York_Public_Library,_2009._Pic_01

The invention of the internet has ushered in the digital age and revolutionized how we access and share information. But this change in how we distribute information is not the first of its kind to have taken place.

Five hundred and sixty-one years ago a man in Germany invented a new kind of printing press.

This printing press sparked a revolution in the distribution of information in medieval Europe.

If you wish to read the entire post, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Quirky History: The American Revolution According to William Blake

This year I celebrated Independence Day with Quirk Books and William Blake.

Enjoy!

Quirky History: The American Revolution According to William Blake

The American Revolution was all about a bunch of freedom-loving guys with names like George, Benjamin, Alexander, and Thomas kicking out the British and declaring independence on July 4. Right?

Not if you ask English poet William Blake (1757–1827).

America a Prophecy front page

If you would like to read the entire post, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

Quirky History: Rabbits Doing Weird Things in the Margins of Medieval Manuscripts

On June 27, 2016, I published the following post on Quirk Books.

Quirky History: Rabbits Doing Weird Things in the Margins of Medieval Manuscripts

‘The Smithfield Decretals’ (Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria), Tolouse ca. 1300, illuminations added in London ca. 1340 (British Library, Royal 10 E IV, fol. 61v)

Here at Quirk Books we are of the opinion that medieval manuscripts are among the most amazing works of book art there are. We especially like the manuscripts where weird things happen in the margins. And especially when sweet, innocent animals, such as rabbits, turn into lean, mean killing machines. Who knew that Thumper could be so vicious?

If you would like to read the rest of the post, please click here.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.

There Is Fog in the Channel. My Thoughts on #Brexit

I am a firm believer in the European Union. That is why #Brexit is breaking my heart.

At the same time, as a citizen of the European Union member state Sweden I recognize the behavior and the thought process among those who voted for Great Britain to leave the EU. Because Sweden, too, has dipped its toe into the anti-EU referendum pond.

EY-502041

The foundation for the European Union was laid in 1957 with the signing of the Treaty of Rome between Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. This treaty expanded on the coal and steel union from 1952 by creating a customs union. Since then, the original customs union has morphed and expanded into the behemoth that today has Brussels as its capital and includes most countries in what used to be Western and Eastern Europe.

Great Britain joined what was then called the EEC in 1973.

Sweden joined in 1995. By this time, the EEC had become the EU.

The era of the European Union has been the longest period of unbroken peace between Germany, France, and England. This is important because when these three countries go to war–which they have done repeatedly throughout the past millennium and a half, the last time being between 1939 and 1945–all of Europe suffers. The integration of these three countries with each other through the Four Freedoms of the European Common Market–the free movement of people, capital, services, and goods–has enabled a peaceful collaboration unheard of in history before the middle of the 20th century.

And even though Brexit might come as a shock, looking at history the undercurrent of an anti-EU movement has been there from the start. Only after much debate did Great Britain join the EEC in 1973, after having been a member of EFTA since its inception in 1960.

The first referendum on whether or not Great Britain should remain in the EEC was held already in 1975. 66% voted in favor of remaining.

However, Great Britain continued to run its own race within the EU.

Great Britain is not part of the Schengen Area, first signed into law in 1985 and since then expanded upon to create an area of free movement across national borders between EU members states.

Great Britain is not part of the European Monetary Union, i.e. Great Britain has opted to keep the pound (£) as its currency instead of switching to the common currency of the euro (€).

And this is where I, as a Swedish citizen, recognize some of the reasoning behind the Brexit vote.

In 2003, Sweden held a referendum whether or not the country should give up its currency, the krona (SEK), and switch to the euro. The result of the referendum was 52% against the euro and 42% in favor. The Swedish government at the time, led by Social Democratic Prime Minister Göran Persson, was in favor of switching currencies and of course considered the result of the referendum a major disappointment.

In the post-referendum political analysis it was however revealed that the Swedish euro referendum was not so much a vote for or against the euro but rather a vote for or against the general policies of the Swedish government.

In other words, the Swedish voting population used this referendum as an opportunity to express their discontent with their government.

Based on the initial post-referendum analysis of Brexit, it would seem that this kind of reasoning has played a part in the decision making of some of those who decided to vote in favor of Great Britain leaving the EU. The fact that regions of Great Britain that are the most dependent on EU financial aid voted against an EU membership points towards this conclusion.

Of course, the issue is not as clear cut as that. Blended with the domestic political situation of Great Britain of the past number of years and the skepticism towards the European Common market which has been present ever since 1973 is the idea of Great Britain as an island nation that goes its own way.

Great Britain was once the center of the largest empire the world has ever seen. When the British Empire was at its height it controlled 25% of the world’s landmass. London was, without exaggeration, the capital of the world. Since then the Empire has become the Commonwealth, consisting of now-independent nations some of which still have the British monarch as their head of state. The way I see it, the Commonwealth is an ingenious strategy to keep the thought of Empire alive without having to deal with the controversies caused by actual imperialism.

During World War II,  before the United States joined the war after Pearl Harbor and before Nazi-Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Great Britain was the only country that stood against Nazi-Germany’s complete domination of Europe. The heroics of the British general population during the Blitz is still talked of today, as are the energizing speeches delivered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the sacrifices made by the RAF.

The result of the British referendum shows that older voters were more inclined to vote for Brexit while younger voters were more inclined to vote Bremain. This generation gap could be an expression of the changes that Europe and the global economy has gone through during the age of the EU, which also coincides with the age of decolonization and the dismantling of the British Empire.

There is an old saying that goes, “There is fog in the Channel. The Continent is isolated.” This worldview was perhaps a feasible way of looking at the world while India was still the jewel in the British crown.

Today, it is Great Britain that is isolated. And less than twenty-four hours after the referendum result was announced, the British population is already suffering the consequences.

In the words of my friend, the Australian, I shall return.