1. What is the central focus of the book? How does the author thread a narrative through the sequence of distinct political phases between 1866 and 1945?
Toward the middle of the 19th century Germany was witness to profound political churnings. The century that ensued is perhaps the nation’s most eventful and yet the most tormented. The author’s account is an encapsulation of a nation’s struggle in finding its political spirit. The struggle is one between the pulls of modernity and republicanism on the one hand, and the allure of tradition and convention on the other. The century in question is the grand theatre when bold new strides were taken in making Germany a model democracy in Europe. Tragically, much of this progress is undone by the rise of Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist (Nazi) party and its usurpation of power in 1933. Although, the decade under Hitler’s premiership is a well-documented chapter in 20th century . . . Read More
The Civil War is a cornerstone event in American history. Beyond its obvious political relevance, the culmination of the war influenced American society, economy and culture. This essay will argue that the rapid industrialization following the war gave rise to two major features of national identity: American capitalism and American culture.
One could identify 3 major aspects of industrialization during and after the era of Reconstruction. In terms of geography, the North-South divide that politically and culturally separated the country had ceased to exist. This is not to say, however, that there were no misgivings between the two groups of citizens under auspices of the united nation. The era also saw more frequent waves of immigration and settlement on the mid-west and eastern states of the union. This reconfigured the population distribution, which erstwhile was concentrated on New England and its environs.
The exhaustion of the war, ironically, created an . . . Read More
Dear Mother and Father,
Humanity is mad! This is the truth that my experiences at war have taught me. We attribute such noble qualities as valor, patriotism, justice and morality with motivations for war. But whatever may be the ends of war, the means through which it is accomplished is highly questionable. During combat fellow human beings are turned into mere targets to be struck down. It strikes me as absurd that I am obliged to kill my German brethren merely because they were wearing a different uniform. After all, the differences between the troops in combat are nearly all superficial.
Tell me, what is it that separates us and German soldiers? They too were nurtured, schooled and raised with civil values that we provide our children. When they grow into adults, they show the same chivalry toward women that our young men do. They embrace the institution of marriage and take up family responsibilities like our men do. But the mere fact of being born on the other side . . . Read More
The House of Joshua: Meditations on Family and Place is a testament to the power of geographic location. Although purportedly an autobiographic work, it is equally a sociological treatise on the themes of ‘rootedness’ and ‘displacement’. Author Mindy Fullilove links these concepts to the process of identity formation. She contends that, on par with culture and language, the place in which an individual grows up, leaves a mark on their identity. The readings perused for this essay also cover the topic of ethnic roots and geographic displacement. The examples we glean in the readings underscore Mindy Fullilove’s thesis of the centrality of place to human identity.
In In Retreat, Fullilove talks about how her parents resorted to living in exclusive ghettos in New Jersey. It was a time when minority communities were suffering under social censures issued by General McCarthy. The inter-communal atmosphere during the 1950s America was far from . . . Read More
Pan-European revolutions of 1830 manifested in different forms in different regions. In Netherlands and France they took a romantic hue, whereas in Poland and Switzerland the impact on the political establishment was less pronounced. In the United Kingdom of Netherlands and in France, the impact of the revolution was to establish constitutional monarchies (also called commonly as ‘popular monarchies’). This meant that the older aristocratic order was dismantled and republicanism was given a new thrust. For example, prior to the revolution, the king held dominion over his country through the mandate of God. His reference as the King of France testified this fact. But after the revolution, his title was changed to King of the French, indicating how his authority is derived from the collective will of the citizens. Likewise, in Belgium, King Leopold I took to the throne under the reconfigured political arrangement. At the same time in Congress Poland the revolt against the . . . Read More
Consciously or not, Stalin conjoins religion and politics. Why?
Religion, especially the monotheistic religions profess the idea of damnation and divine retribution for sinners. Stalin must have thought that where bullets and the baton are inadequate in suppressing dissent, the fear of God would serve as a complete deterrent. Another explanation for Stalin’s mixing of politics and religion is to develop cult followership. In religion, we find how the revealed word of God is never contested. It would suit Stalin’s totalitarian agenda quite well to have the citizens worship him as a cult figure. By encouraging religion, Stalin is promoting certain personality traits that are complementary to running a totalitarian regime.
What is the point of having numerous Stalins? (the plaster of Paris busts in the basement)
Although Stalin was a man in possession of enormous political power, deep inside he was very insecure. Some consider . . . Read More
The 19th century saw many key developments in political science. It was a period of fertile intellectual discussion about various forms of government and their merits and demerits. It was a time when many societies were coming out of agrarian economies and embracing industrialization. On the political front, imperialism still held sway as the dominant geo-political formation, even as older forms of monarchies and principalities continued to exist. In the flux created by new industrial methods of production, warfare and administration, the idea of ‘nationalism’ came to fore. With Europe as its epicentre, nationalism was mooted as the collective geo-political representation of a race (ethnicity) of people. Another feature of most modern nation-states is their capitalist orientation, although it was less pronounced in the 19th century. (Cottam & Cottam, 2001)
The modern state is defined by a few key characteristics: contiguous territory, salaried bureaucrats, common . . . Read More
It is important to remember that Regeneration is a work of fiction, even if it is based on a real historical event. Certain circumstantial settings of the novel are indeed true. For example, it is not contested that within the theatre of the First World War, many British soldiers suffered severe psychological trauma. Likewise, it is a fact that some of them were treated at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. While retaining these basic facts of the war, author Barker had taken the liberty to change chronology of events or distil the collective experiences of the soldiers onto one character, etc. These literary licenses do not majorly diminish the utility of the work as a historical record. To the contrary they condense and encapsulate British soldiers’ experiences. The book proves to be both intellectually engaging and technically satisfying, while not compromising on history. This essay will argue that while accommodating the imperatives of the novel form, . . . Read More
The hallmark of good literature is that it combines art with raising social consciousness. This is certainly true of the 3 classics perused for this essay. Falling into different genres like fiction, nonfiction and reportage, the three works treat the social consequences of war in their own unique ways. The rest of this essay will show how themes of love, loss, perception and reality are adequately addressed in these works.
The Things They Carried is an assortment of short stories penned by Tim O’Brien based on his first hand experiences in Vietnam. O’Brien was part of the platoon called Alpha Company, which was actively engaged in combat with the Vietnamese. As a result, though the stories contain fictitious additions, they are mostly based on real events witnessed by the author. Several themes recur through these stories. Chief among them are love, camaraderie and courage. Love is most pronounced in the relationship between Cross and Martha. Cross agrees to narrate his . . . Read More
Feelings of shame and honour are intrinsic to human nature. They are also universal across cultures and eras. In the three select works of medieval literature we see expression of honour and shame in different contexts. They vary in relevance and intensity in each of the classic works. But what is common is that honour is universally perceived to be a desirable and cherished value. In the same vein, shame is looked down upon and condemned. The rest of this essay will depict how shame and honour are manifest in the three chosen medieval literary works.
In the Tristan and Iseult legend, there is no definitive version of the actual turn of events in the story. Since oral tradition and anonymous/multiple authorship was common to literature of this period, many interpretations and variations have been added over the years. Yet, some strong unifying themes bind the variants together. Notwithstanding the version, we find that shame and honour are recurrent themes in the Tristan and . . . Read More