Monday, January 7, 2008

Annotated Bibliography: Source Material

My prof for History 491, a class that was basically a semester-long research paper to get out of the history undergrad program, had us write papers on subjects somehow related to Alexander the Great. For the first half of the semester he had us basically write practice research papers every week that were focused on some smaller aspect of the overall experience in order to make sure we actually understood what we were doing and how to do it. The very first paper was an evaluation of two essays, one written by W.W. Tarn and the other by Ernst Badian. A good eighty years ago Tarn was the top name in Alexander studies. According to him, A the G was basically the world's first and greatest Eagle Scout. He was a perfect gentleman who was trying to take over the world in order to bring peace, joy, understanding, and, I think, fuzzy wuzzy puppies to all the peoples of the planet. Badian was the first modern historian to really challenge Tarn's opinion. According to him, Alexander was the ur-Hitler, combined with a bit of Pol Pot and doing his level-headed best to make Satan look like a good guy. It was a good object lesson with which to begin the research paper. Namely: consider the source. I was reminded of this lesson as I wandered my local library muttering curses and invective against the Dewey and his thrice-damned decimals under my breath. The word "fascism" is so loaded that it's difficult to find balanced source material on the subject. This, I suppose, shouldn't have come as a surprise. At the very least it should have been the second biggest surprise behind the part where I noticed they filed Ann Coulter books under non-fiction... Anyway, I set out a two-fold plan to look at the roots of fascism. First, I picked up some actual history stuff. Second, I grabbed a few books on the actual topic, specifically looking for intellectual interpretation and searching for interesting perspectives if neutral ones weren't to be found. What follows is a quick and dirty annotated bibliography of my initial set of sources. It's been, like, two months since I used Turabian for anything, so, y'know, I'm pretty prepped. (Also, as I write this I'm watching the new American Gladiators. So if I suddenly get dumber you'll know why brother.) Brendon, Piers. The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. The subtitle of this one is pretty self-explanatory. It looks at the world of the 1930s, tracing the various threads of political and national changes throughout the 1930s and how they ultimately led to World War II. As Fascism was a huge part of the univers of the 1930s, it comes up a time or two. De Felice, Renzo. Interpretations of Fascism. Translated by Brenda Huff Everett. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1977. De Felice's book looks mostly to Italian fascism. His general theory seems to be something Jonah Goldberg would agree with, that fascism as a generic movement is a product of the Enlightenment and progressive politics, but that Nazism and and Mussolini's variety of the movement hijacked classical fascism and turned it in to a right-wing, ultra nationalistic ideology. Although that part where he says that Nazism is a hijack of fascism would probably take him right back out of the Jonah Goldberg club... Hamilton, Alastair. The Appeal of Fascism: A Study of Intellectuals and Fascism, 1919-1945. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1971. Hamilton's book looks at the phenomenon of artists and authors choosing and defending a fascist ideology. It looks at four regions: Germany, Italy, England, and France and tries to explain how some intellectuals could run counter to the generally anti-fascism mentality of their peers. Kedward, Harry Roderick. Fascism in Western Europe, 1900-1945. New York: New York University Press, 1971. Fascism is Western Europe is the closest to a straight history of fascism I could find. It looks at the common roots of fascism throughout the various nations and how it developed or was stifled, depending. At the end, Kedward attempts to offer a usable definition of the ideology, much like I intend to do. Keegan, John. The Second World War. New York: Penguin Books, 1989. Keegan is one of the pre-eminent historians of the Second World War. This particular book is mostly focused on the actual execution of the war itself, but it begins with a couple chapters on the nature of the populations of the nations, from which I expect to glean some amount of insight Overy, Richard, and Andrew Wheatcroft. The Road to War: The Origins of World War II. London: MacMillan London Limited, 1989. I wanted to find a couple actual book on the origins of World War II as an outgrowth of World War I. This one breaks everything down according to the interwar history of the main combatant nations. Shirer, William. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. New York: Fawcett Crest, 1983. This is the big one. Shirer first published The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich in 1950 and it has been in print in various incarnations pretty much ever since. Why? Because William Shirer has incriminating photographs of some of the most important people in the publishing business. Wait, no, that's not it. It's the gold standard of histories of Nazi Germany against which pretty much every other history of World War II must be measured against, kind of like any history of the fall of the Roman Empire must be measured against Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I'm only mentioning that because my copies of both are approximately the same size: a heart-pounding 1500 pages. Sontag, Raymond J. A Broken World 1919-1939. New York: Harper & Row, 1971. A Broken World functions as a compantion to The Road to War but it breaks the interwar period down by topic instead instead of nation. I'm not entirely sure what else there is to say about that. So there you have it. I haven't even gotten to the part where I read books that accuse anyone and everyone who disagrees with the author of being Nazis and there are eight books in my bibliography. I hope you all appreciate the sacrifices I make in the name of historical understanding. But, hey, birds gotta sing, bees gotta buzz and historians gotta, um, do history stuff. Editorial note: On a real bibliographic entry the top line is flush left and each subsequent line is indented a tab set. Blogspot doesn't seem to want to let me do that. So for anyone out there who is attempting to use me as an example of research paper writing, bear in mind that this is the case. Otherwise, remain calm. I know what I'm doing. I'm an unpaid internet historian...

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