On this day, a few years ago:

Not that we’re still angry about it, or anything — or else Toyota wouldn’t still be the top-selling automotive brand in the United States.

Reading Matters

For some reason, I’ve recently been reading French History, because why not?  I don’t know how it got started, but it did: and once started, I couldn’t stop.  Here’s the bibliography, so far.

The Collapse of the Third Republic — William Shirer

The Franco-Prussian War — Michael Howard

Dawn of the Belle Epoque — Mary McAuliffe

The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914 — Philipp Blom (re-read, because it’s brilliant)

The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World — Holger H. Herwig (told from the German side)

The French Army and the First World War — Elizabeth Greenhalgh

France and the Après Guerre, 1918–1924 — Benjamin F. Martin

La Belle France: A Short History — Alistair Horne (I’m still busy with this one;  I’m only up to the succession of Henry II in 1547, so still a way to go.)

On deck:  France On The Brink — Jonathan Fenby

Yeah, that’s what’s been keeping me busy over the past three weeks.  All are well recommended except the last one (because I haven’t read it yet).

One last note:  I cannot recommend The Vertigo Years highly enough.  When people talk about the social- and psychological dislocation of the Information Age, you have to know that we’ve experienced it before:  when the Age of Speed dawned, in around 1900.  If you read no other book from the above list, this is the one.

From The Archives

Seen SOTI, this intriguing little question:

Note too the reference to Cuba.  Then this:

Someone tell James Cameron… and speaking of getting it wrong:

Still asleep, apparently.


Given the newspaper, I’m amazed they didn’t lead with “Connally Shot” and only then in the sub-head: “Kennedy Caught In Cross-Fire”.

Good times, good times.

Highly Recommended

I just finished reading Lynne Olson’s Citizens Of London, and all I can say is I wish I’d read it before Tony Judt’s Postwar (which I recommended earlier).

Of course, as a keen student of 20th-century European history, I’m very familiar with the WWII period — or at least, I thought I was.  In fact, I’ve always been more interested in the military history thereof rather than the diplomatic side… and Citizens Of London  took care of that for me, in spades.

Oh, good grief:  how could I have been so ignorant?  Of course I knew about Edward R. Murrow (“the voice of the Blitz”), and Averill Harriman (more so for his post-war career).  But Gilbert Winant?  All I knew about him was that he was successor to the horrible-in-every-way-imaginable Joe Kennedy as U.S. Ambassador to Britain, and I vaguely remember him as one-time governor of New Hampshire.

Olson’s book has set me straight on that, and if you are similarly ignorant about this period and these characters, it will do the same for you.  Run, don’t walk, to your favorite bookstore or to Amazon, and buy this book because it will change your perspective on WWII completely.

I should point out in passing that in this history, Franklin D. Roosevelt does not come out well (not that this is a Bad Thing, of course), and nor does his successor Harry S Truman.  And I have never read so personal and compelling a story about not just Winston Churchill, but also the entire Churchill family during this period.

It is clear that but for Murrow, Harriman and Winant — with an excellent assist from Dwight D. Eisenhower — there may well have been a completely different outcome to the events of 1939-45.

And if that doesn’t get you to read Citizens Of London, we can’t be friends.

Worthwhile Read

…and quite possibly one of the best Modern European History books I’ve ever read.  It should be the foundational text for all college courses of European history  of the post-WWII period.

I speak of Tony Judt’s excellent work: Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

You don’t have to be interested in European history, or a history buff at all to enjoy this.  But if you ever look around at the total screaming insanity that has become a feature of our modern political and social era, read Postwar  and you’ll see exactly where it all came from.

And as one critic wrote, it reads with the pacing of a whodunnit, but contains all the detail and dispassionate analysis necessary for an outstanding study.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.

I wish I’d read it eighteen years ago, when it was first released.  I am most certainly going to re-read it within the next year.

Mae’s Top 10

Some while back, I linked to C&Rsenal’s wonderful series on WWI guns, but then I spotted a little addendum, namely Mae’s Top 10 Rifles.

Now, as the lady in question has fired almost all WWI-era rifles — and certainly more of them than I’ve fired — I think it behooves us all to pay the show a visit.  Here are her top ten WWI rifles, in no specific order (so as not to spoil the surprise at the end):

Mauser K98 TZ (8x57mm)


SMLE No.1 MkIII* (.303 Enfield)


Mannlicher-Schoenauer 1903 Carbine (6.5x54mm)


Ross Rifle MkIII (.303 Enfield)


Arisaka Type 38 Carbine (6.5x50mm)


Ottoman Mauser 1903 (7.65x53mm)


Springfield ’03 (.30-06 Spfld)


Serbian Mauser 1908 Carbine (7x57mm)


Carcano Moschetto 91 (6.5x52mm Mannlicher)


Enfield 1917 (.303 Enfield / .30-06 Spfld)

Some of Mae’s choices are seriously, shall we say, eclectic nay even controversial, but all of them are very well supported (and Othias’s reactions to them are alone worth the price of admission).  Have fun as you pick your way through her arguments.

For the record, I have absolutely no quibble about the composition of her list — I’d shoot any of them without a qualm, and carry any of them off to war.

And by the way:  I actually agree wholeheartedly with her #1.  It is unquestionably one of the rifles I most regret having to sell during Great Poverty Era I.

For those who haven’t seen my own (and I think vastly inferior) take on the topic, see Great War Rifles.