A Coalition of Rivals

May 14, 2012, 1:43 am

51rSlusxgLL SL500 AA300I gave a conference paper on Saturday (May 12) at the annual Society for Military History conference, on a topic from my recent book that I wanted to explore further. The panel was:

Politics and War: Thought and Practice in the Early Twentieth Century

Chair: Richard H. Kohn, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Natural Clausewitzians: U.S. Army Theory and Education, 1865-1941,
Thomas Bruscino, Jr., U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

The Regular and the Radical: Emory Upton, Leonard Wood, and the Role of the U.S. Army, J.P. Clark, U.S. Army

A Coalition of Rivals: The Western Powers and the Boxer Rebellion, 1900, David Silbey, Cornell University

Commentator: Edgar F. Raines, Jr., U.S. Army Center of Military History

As an experiment, I tried recording my presentation, using my iPhone’s Voice Memos application. It came out reasonably well, and (in the spirit of Eric’s Bretton Woods talk), I post it for you now, as both an AAC and an MP3 file.

This is the abstract:

During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, the western powers found themselves awkwardly thrust together in an coalition of necessity. The revolt in China trapped the embassy populations of each power in Beijing and required their rescue by whatever forces were available or could be gathered. The so-called “Eight Nation Alliance” was the result, comprising Britain, Germany, Russia, France, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Japan, and the United States, and it was an uncomfortable one. These were not really allies, but rivals, and they only came together in the face of a larger and more immediate threat. This paper will look at how this coalition of the involuntary worked, or didn’t work, and analyze the politics of this particular war to suggest the ways in which imperial rivalries and friendships worked their way down even to the lowliest of soldiers, affected the command structure and actions, influenced the tactics and strategies of the fighting, and led to dangerous risks on the part of the allied forces. The coalition was not so much fighting a war as it was negotiating one.


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