My Thesis and Three Points of Argument

My thesis for my research paper is that the relationship between German soldiers and French and Belgian civilians was a coercive one, with German soldiers coercing the civilians.

Three points I will argue in my research paper are as follows:

  1. Civilian-soldier interactions with food represent the coercive relationship, because the civilians had so little supplies but fed the soldiers anyway.
  2. Property requisition and destruction represent how the coercive nature of the relationship was exemplified and perpetuated, because not only were those actions means in which soldiers could get what they want, but they were also used to strike fear.
  3. Threats, punishments, and sexual violence also represent how the coercive nature of the relationship was exemplified and perpetuated, because the sexual violence would be how soldiers got what they wanted, and the threats and punishments would be how soldiers maintained authority to get what they wanted.

Image Relating to my Research






This picture is related to my research project because I hope to examine the experience of French civilians and their interactions with German soldiers during World War I. This image depicts French civilians shortly after the war returning to their homes or neighborhood. While it is not an image taken during the war, the photo helps to show the importance of French civilians returning to their homes.

  1. Henry Armytage Sanders, Returned French civilians outside their homes in Beauvois, France, World War I. 1918. National Library of New Zealand, Wellington. Available from: Flickr Commons, (accessed April 10, 2018).

Important Sources to the Research

The following sources and their respective authors are the most important to my research into my research topic.

Darrow, Margaret H. French Women and the First World War: War Stories of the Home Front. Oxford, England: Berg, 2000.

Margaret H. Darrow is a professor as Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. She received her PhD from Rutgers University, and focuses on women and war, particularly French women and the Franco-Prussian War and the First World War.

McPhail, Helen. The Long Silence: Civilian Life Under the German Occupation of Northern France, 1914-1918. London, England: I.B. Tauris, 1999.

Helen McPhail is a French to English translator, scholar, and Francophile. She has translated many French scholarly works and sources, many of which are used by World War I and French scholars. Her work focuses on history and literature from World War I.

Zuckerman, Larry. The Rape of Belgium: The Untold Story of World War I. New York, NY: New York University Press, 2004.

Larry Zuckerman was a former freelance writer and editor at the time of publication of this book. Despite his apparent lack of scholarly expertise, his work has gained the attention of the New York University Press. His other works include The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World.


Primary Source Transcription

Jünger, Ernst. The Storm of Steel. Translated by Basil Creighton. 1929. Reprint, New York:   Howard Fertig, 1975.

The following is a transcription of an excerpt from Ernst Jünger’s book The Storm of Steel.

We detrained at Bohain again and went into quarters in the village of Brancourt, near by. This was a neighbourhood we often touched upon in later days. It was agricultural, and yet there was a loom in nearly every house. The inhabitants did not appeal to me. They were dirty and of a very low moral development. I was billeted on a cottage where lived a man and his wife and their daughter. I must own that in return for my money they made me most excellent dishes of eggs. The daughter told me over the first cup of coffee that she was going ‘to drink a good coffee with Poincaré after his return,’ by which she meant, give him a piece of her mind. I have never heard any one so fluent in abuse as this filia hospitalis, particularly on the topic of a neighbor whom she accused of having lived in a certain street of St. Quentin. ‘Ah cette p’lure, cette pomme de terre pourrie, jetée sur un fumier. C’est la crème de la crème,’ she spluttered while she raged round the room stretching out her hands like claws in the vain search for an object on which to vent her wrath.

In the morning, when this rose of Brancourt was busied making butter or some other domestic matter, she looked unbelievably uninviting. Yet in the afternoon, when it came to parading the village street with pride or visiting her friends, the ugly grub had turned into the splendid butterfly.

This excerpt was taken from the 1975 reprinting of a 1929 English translation of The Storm of Steel (the German name of the book is In Stahlgewittern). I have been unable to determine where the first publication (which is in German) is that was published in 1920. However, both the Library of Congress and the German National Archive (the Bundesarchiv) hold other editions of the book from the 1920’s.

The translator of this edition was Basil Creighton, who translated other German literature such as Steppenwolf from Hermann Hesse. While Creighton’s work is extensive, his translation is not perfect. According to Michael Hoffman, the translator for the 2004 edition of The Storm of Steel has criticized Creighton’s translation, calling his knowledge of German “patchy” (Hoffman, xiv).

The publisher of the 1975 reprint was a New York based company, Howard Fertig. The publisher of the 1929 English translation that the 1975 reprints was a London based company, Chatto & Windus.

Each new publication of the book most likely saw editions from various editors, but Jünger himself did play a role in editing new publications.

There were several textual interventions in the making of the book and each publication. The most obvious one is translation. The Storm of Steel is Jünger’s diary from World War I, in which he wrote in German. This led to the necessity of a translator for an English version of the book to exist. As noted previously, the translations could be inaccurate.

Other textual interventions include Jünger’s own editions, concerning what he believed should be in the book and what should not be. Ultimately, due to the various editions now available, it is likely that many instances of textual intervention took place.

Works Consulted

Jünger, Ernst. The Storm of Steel. Translated by Michael Hoffman. New                         York: Penguin Group, 2004.


Fall 2017 History Symposium

I observed three presentations during the Fall 2017 History Symposium: one discussing the image of Napoleon Bonaparte as either a revolutionary or a traitor to his country, one discussing the Treaty of Versailles and why it was a poor treaty, and another discussing the Soviet Union’s role in influencing other country’s elections and politics – namely Georgia’s between 1989 and 1991.

Overall, I believe these presentations were strong and well presented. One thing that made these presentations especially strong was the use of images. The images in each of the presentations captivated my attention, were related to the talking points of the presenter, and helped me focus on the subject at hand. For instance, when discussing how Napoleon became emperor of France, the presenter had several images of Napoleon in royal clothing and being crowned.

Another strong aspect of the presentations were the presenters’ knowledge. When it came time for questions, the presenters had considerable knowledge of their presentations. Granted this is likely because they researched the subject during the semester and wrote a 40 page paper, that aspect is still something I wish to emulate when I present in a 485.

There were some aspects that were not so strong, however. They were mainly the mannerisms of the presenters. Vocal filler (“um” for instance) was present in all the presentations, and eye contact to the audience was limited. I still believe this is something to learn from. When I provide my research in 485, I want to try to make eye contact with the audience very frequently, if not constantly, during the presentation. I also want to try to limit vocal filler as much as possible to give an air of confidence and professionalism.

There was much to emulate from the presentations. The knowledge of the presenters and effective image use are the two primary aspects I hope to emulate when I present. There were also, however, things to avoid. Vocal filler and lack of eye contact were the two most notable aspects I hope to improve upon and limit as much as possible when I present when I take HIST 485.

Academic Databases

Academic databases are extremely helpful when writing historical or historiographical papers and essays. Personally, I have greatly benefited from UMW’s database (Quest). I believe it is very simple to use, and the lay out is also very simple and easy to pick up. I can also digitally examine some sources that I search up, so I can save time and frustration by quickly skimming through a text rather than checking out a book outright and then examining it. Though it is vastly smaller scale than other databases, as it is limited to UMW’s library with some interlibrary loan options available. WorldCat is also helpful. It is extremely extensive, though the lay out is cluttered and confusing to the novice WorldCat user. JStor, however, is better in that regard. Its lay out is very simple and clear, and can be understood very quickly.

The most challenging thing about databases for me is trying to achieve the right balance of specificity and generality. I need a specific topic (i.e. Chinese medicine), but I need it to be broad enough to encompass the entire subject and not just a sub-field (i.e. Chinese medicine dealing with only spirituality or the spirit). I have trouble with this because either I’m not being specific enough, or what I’m searching for has key words that exist in a broader variety of things than I need. I suppose that’s more trouble with my technique than with the databases, but it would be nice for databases to be more specific.

I believe I need to explore WorldCat much more. As I mentioned before, its lay out seems very complicated and cluttered. But I also believe that if I explore it further and use it more, it will make more and more sense to me. It’s not cluttered to the point of being useless, but it definitely requires more experience and practice than I have or have put into it.

Historical Questions of the Last Chapters of Cohen

Cohen, Paul A. History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth. Chichester,                                        New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

The last chapters of Cohen were not only insightful, but they answered markedly different historical questions than the chapters in Part 1 and Part 2. Because the question is different, Cohen’s method for answering it is also different. The last chapters (hereby known as Part 3) did not answer a conventional “historical question” such as who or what influenced who or what and how or why. It answers the question of how mythologizations of the Boxers (and the Red Lanterns) were used.

This is similar to Part 2 because Part 2 explores what “grassroots” factors (social, cultural, and religious factors to name a few of what I mean) influenced the Boxers. It also explores how people (including non-Boxers) saw and interpreted the Boxer Uprising. The difference between Cohen’s focus and question in Parts 2 and 3 however is that in Part 2, the individuals examined by Cohen were not trying to pursue a greater goal other than perhaps their own understanding and interpretation of the Uprising. In Part 3 however, the people examined by Cohen were largely pursuing some sort of contemporary political goal, with explanations of the past changing with different political climates.

This is also the difference between Parts 1 and 3. Part 1 is a standard history written in the usual way. Examination and interpretation of primary and secondary sources with the intent to understand the past dominates Part 1. In Part 3, the actors were largely not seeking understanding of the past (at least not until the 1980’s) but rather to give a certain interpretation of the past to serve a specific goal.

The final chapters (Part 3) also reveal something about how history is constructed. In an interesting way, by showing the process of the mythologizers, Cohen highlights the process of the historians. The mythologizers worked backwards, in a sense. They had a conclusion in mind and tried to interpret the actions and intentions of the Boxers and Red Lanterns to fit that conclusion. They tried to keep each other’s narratives within their realm of political correctness with little variation or new findings or interpretations. Historians, in contrast, should first examine the sources and evidence and then arrive at a conclusion. They should promote diversity in interpretations, so long as those findings are made in conjunction with the standards of historians and with good sources.

The final chapters also raise questions about our own process of writing history. While there were people, mentioned in the final chapters, who wrote history for a political purpose and were well aware of their intentions, I must ask if there were people who really believed what they were doing was history. That then leads to the question: how can we be sure that we are writing history to the best of our abilities? How can we be sure we are not engaged in mythologization? It seems so clear now that the historians mentioned by Cohen in the final chapters that they were engaging in mythologization. Will it be too late before we realize we were engaging in mythologization? And, if we are certain somehow that we are not engaged in such a task, how can we ensure we never (or at least very rarely) slide into the realm of myths? And for that matter, are we writing good histories that are nevertheless being used as myths? These questions tantalized my mind while reading through Cohen’s work again, and they are definitely questions to examine thoroughly by not just individual historians, but by the whole profession.

Cohen’s Main Points (211-222; 239-266)

Cohen, Paul A. History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth. Chichester,                                New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

First Main Point: Mythologization is heavily dependent on the present situation of the speaker(s).

  • Cohen frequently says this outright. For example when he explained how people mythologized the Boxers, he argued that how they did “depended very much on what was going on in China at the time.” (260)
  • Beyond merely saying it, he provides examples. One such is the observation that Chen Duxiu had thought, in 1918, that the behavior of the Boxers was “repugnant.” By 1924 however, he “found new ways to legitimize [the behavior and actions of the Boxers].” (243)
  • Chinese writers in the 1980’s found themselves “with growing temerity to disidentify with the Boxers.” (217) One such writer, Liu Xinwu, wrote a work in which the main character, Hua Zhiming “emphatically distances himself” from the Boxers. (217)
  • Cohen argued that the image of the Boxers changed, especially as moods and desires changed. He also observed that when China’s “animosity toward the foreign powers” grew, some of those who had the animosity “discovered new and far more positive meanings in the Boxer experience.” (239)

Second Main Point: Myths are complex and can be used by many people for many purposes.

  • Cohen argues that there are many different kinds of ways mythologization happens, including “local boosterism” (which consisted mainly of local monuments or heroes or commemorations) (219), anniversaries (219) (which could then be used for “educational” purposes (220), to help people “reexperience a past” they felt was positive (220), or to create a “revised understanding of the past.” (221), and mythologization carried out by “newspapers, periodical, and books” (221) among several other forms he mentions.
  • One particularly interesting example Cohen provided was how the negative myth of Boxers was used by different parties for different purposes. The media of the West used it to dismiss the “new nationalism” of China in the 1920’s, frequently calling upon the myth of Boxers in warning that continued nationalism in China could result in a “Boxer-type outbreak.” (252) As more anti-foreign and anti-imperialist sentiment arose, especially after the May Thirtieth movement began “explicit Boxer comparisons in the foreign press became more and more frequent.” (252)
  • Cohen connects this type of multiple usage of myths to more recent examples, namely in World War II France. The French resistance saw Joan of Arc as a “selfless fighter against foreign occupiers,” while Vichy France saw her as “a heroine in the German struggle against the English.” (260)


Interests in Historical Fields

Hello readers! I have been thinking to myself what themes of history I would like to read more and write more about. Would it be diplomatic history and learning relationships between states? Perhaps social history, and delving deep into popular cultures and beliefs and demographics of a certain place and time. While those kinds of history are important and interesting, I believe economic and environmental history would be my favorite themes.

I believe those themes have dominated the political climate of states across time and space in history, and has determined the stability of those states. While I do not have evidence to support that idea, I believe examining the distribution and availability of wealth and resources (the economy) and the types of environments that, in part, contributed to the distribution and availability of wealth and resources (the environment) will provide key insights into why certain rebellions or trends started, and how they grew and impacted the communities and states those events influenced.