1864 by Tom Buk-Swienty, about the war between Prussia and Denmark in 1864, which I'd barely heard of before reading. Tom Buk-Swienty makes a moderately convincing case that the war was significant as a prefiguring of World War One and a vital step on the way to German unification; but there are a lot of fascinating details regardless of the significance.
Background. Bismarck at the time was minister in Prussia, ambitious for German unification, but not in particular favour. Denmark held two provinces, Schleswig and Holstein, with substantial German populations, under a complicated treaty agreement cobbled together after the Napoleonic Wars. Denmark's rulers passed a new constitution giving them greater and more direct control of the provinces. (This is the notoriously complicated Schleswig-Holstein Question).
Spying his chance, Bismarck first indicated that Prussia would not object to the new constitution, then once it passed assembled a Prussian army, with Austrian allies to invade the provinces. This would serve several goals: increasing his political capital, boosting German nationalism, and by annexing part of the provinces give the state access to the sea via a canal.
The Danish army had several disadvantages. They still used muzzle-loading rifles, more accurate than the Prussian breech-loaders, but much slower to fire; and fatally in a trench war, only loadable if you were standing. Captivated by national myths, The Danish government meddled in strategy. First they insisted the army occupy the ancient Danevirke defensive line which was far too long to defend, and in winter hopelessly outflanked by frozen water. Eventually the capable but eccentric Danish commander Julius de Meza disobeyed orders and ordered a retreat to the somewhat better defenses at Dybbøl just before the Prussian attack. This prevented a catastrophe and frustrated the enemy, but the outraged government fired him and ordered his pliant successor to defend Dybbøl at all costs. At this point they could have made peace and kept most of the provinces (Bismarck didn't want the complications of non-German populations in his empire), but did not pursue a deal.
The Prussians painstakingly dug a network of trenches up close to the fortifications while engaging in devastating artillery warfare. Eventually they went over the top and successfully stormed the fortifications. The crushed Danish authorities eventually surrendered both provinces in peace negotiations, shrinking Denmark back to a tiny state.
It's the details that make it interesting though. War was still seen as romantic at this time: the German commander had a 300-piece orchestra installed in a trench so the assault could be accompanied by music composed for the occasion ("Duppler Schanzen-Marsch" by Gottfried Piefke). Danish commander de Meza was obsessed with "cold air" and forbade all draughts in his headquarters. German commander Friedrich von Wrang hated pens and insisted that everyone memorize his orders, leading his subordinates to hastily scribble notes when he wasn't looking. Queen Victoria had a political influence, her sympathy for her German family discouraging the British government from siding with Denmark.
However it was still a brutal war and there are lots of accounts of the injuries and suffering. Not convinced that it was really a warning of WW1 though. There's no mention of barbed wire and after the trenches were complete the final assault was swift and decisive. If anything the influence might have been the other way, raising false promises of a resolution.
Overall, an interesting account of an overlooked war. Worth reading if you are interested in history or warfare.
Politics: EU referendum
Brexit and the Globalization Trilemma. Too many facts and not enough theories: the rhetoric of the referendum campaign. Vote Leave versus Stronger In: How the referendum campaigns' ground operations measure up, EU design displays the best and the worst of doing things by scrupulous consensus. Out – and into the world: why The Spectator is for Leave. If you want a genuine leftwing government, you need to vote Leave. Do polls show swing back towards Remain? Can the United Kingdom government legally disregard a vote for Brexit?
I think I'm voting an unenthusiastic Leave. I think it will be a small benefit to democracy, and a small amount of economic harm mostly concentrated in the short term. Might force the EU to be more accountable too, especially in its treatment of small countries like Greece and Cyprus.
Also a lot of the more plausible threats from project fear seem to be of things we actually need to do but no-one will face up to doing: make houses more affordable, weaken the pound, loosen the stranglehold the City has on us, and end the triple lock on pensions. (Pensioners already have higher incomes than working-age people, it's insane to give them more real-terms money every year).
Socioeconomics. Globalisation is fraying. Look under the Elephant Trunk. Insecurity: the missing piece of the labour market puzzle 11 Platform Cooperatives Creating a Real Sharing Economy. How did bathrooms get to be separated by gender in the first place? Citations in economics bear out freshwater/saltwater divide.
Politics. Racism and politics in punk music. Jo Cox murder suspect Tommy Mair repeatedly hurled racist abuse at Asian cab drivers, was longtime supporter of the neo-Nazi National Alliance.
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