Monday, May 9, 2011

Wayne E. Lee's "Barbarians and Brothers"

Wayne E. Lee is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He served in the U.S. Army from 1987 to 1992. Lee is the author of Crowds and Soldiers in Revolutionary North Carolina: The Culture of Violence in Riot and War and the general editor of the Warfare and Culture series.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Barbarians and Brothers: Anglo-American Warfare, 1500-1865, and reported the following:
From page 99:
This is not to enter into the debate over whether social or class discontent itself led to revolution, but rather to emphasize the undeniable latent power of public opinion to shape events. It always threatened to become active, and political and military leaders had to take it into account.

That potential power was made abundantly clear at the very outset of the fighting. As soon as both sides had managed to raise sufficient troops and equipment to wage war, they clashed at the Battle of Edgehill on October 23, 1642. The battle was initially inconclusive. Charles’s army recovered more quickly, and he pushed on toward London with great hopes of forcing his way back into the City and ending the rebellion. Reports of enthusiastic royalist plundering, and especially the violent sack of Brentford, however, stiffened the resolve of the initially downcast London populace. The London trained bands turned out in unheard-of numbers, eventually increasing parliamentary forces to over 27,000 men in the immediate vicinity of London. The bulk of that army mustered at Turnham Green and there confronted Charles on November 13. With no hope of defeating this startlingly large army, the king turned away, losing his first and best chance to retake London.

Turnham Green demonstrated that this civil war, like other brothers’ wars in this book, depended to some extent on the energy and motivation of the wider public, not just at the outbreak of violence, but also in the long hard fight that followed. Frequently, that energy failed. The decline in public enthusiasm limited state capacity, producing fewer troops and less money. Sometimes the public not only lost its enthusiasm but also reacted violently to the presence of troops at all, especially troops out of control. Here the latent power of the populace became active, and that power in turn reinforced thoughtful commanders’ desires to control their troops. But even the best intentioned of commanders, men like Sir William Waller, must have occasionally felt that their efforts at control were dwarfed by the problems of capacity and the culture of the soldiers.
This proved to be an interesting place to drop into the middle of the story! This page is from near the beginning of Chapter 4, entitled “The Clubmen, 1645” in which I explore the problem of public support and public resistance to war, and, in turn, what that means for violence in war. This page frames several analytical issues, while also keeping the reader in touch with the main characters whose stories provide a narrative framework. In this case the character is Sir William Waller, whose personality and operational decisions carried much of the previous chapter, and whose troops provide the introductory story for this chapter. This page says a lot about how the book is structured. On one hand, I rely on narratives of specific campaigns to provide examples for the larger analytical framework. On the other hand, the framework that carries over from chapter to chapter is based on the “Four C’s”: capacity, calculation, control, and culture. I try not to weary the reader with those words, but occasionally, as here, I refer to them explicitly. The book as a whole explores the processes through which violence is both restrained and unleashed in war, and I argue that understanding those processes requires us to consider each of those “C’s.” In terms of the “capacity” referred to on this page, we need to understand what financial, technological, and demographic resources a society committed to war. This chapter explores what happens when public resistance to the state’s impositions limited state capacity, which in turn had various ripple effects on the nature of violence. One ripple effect, hinted at on this page, was the failure to pay the army, leading the soldiers to develop their own libertine subculture rationalizing and justifying plunder as a substitute. The more they did so, the more society around them resented it, leading eventually to the civilian “Clubmen” movement, a kind of localist organization that opposed itself to marauding soldiers. Although this chapter is about the English Civil War, part of my argument is that American ideas about war were strongly influenced by this experience. It’s not too far wrong to say that the Clubmen of 1645 were the forerunners of the volunteer militias in the American Revolutionary south!
Learn more about Barbarians and Brothers at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue