19th Century

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The Matabele Wars

We know the story. Goaded into a hopeless war by an expanding colonial empire, thousands of warriors rise against their oppressors – and inadvertently spawn a legend. There is a twist: this action takes place in present-day Zimbabwe. While we are very familiar with the struggle for South Africa and the desperate encounters at Isandhlwana, Rorke’s Drift, and Ulundi during the Zulu War of 1879, this was only the beginning of a generation of brutal conflict across the ‘dark continent’.

Jane-Austen

Jane Austen: a wartime writer?

War and violence are the last things one would associate with that 19th-century doyenne of English literature, Jane Austen. Ambles in the countryside, flirtatious glances, frocks with lace and frills, and the relentless pursuit of wealthy bachelors are the more likely images conjured by her name.

Yet conventional interpretations of the novelist’s work lack reference to a crucial context – that of war. For most of Jane Austen’s life, Britain was involved in conflicts of varying existential significance across the globe.

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Chakdara: the other Rorke’s Drift?

The epic defence of Chakdara is intriguing. It lasted a week (26 July-2 August 1897), involved 240 men defending an isolated post against up to 8,000 tribal warriors, and had a big impact on the British public back home at the time. But no VCs were awarded, and the action is almost totally forgotten today. Why?

Bombardment Fort Henry 6 February 1862

American naval power: Abraham Lincoln and the Union Navy

Patrick Boniface analyses the expansion and transformation of the US Navy during the American Civil War. ‘Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I shall spend the first four sharpening the axe.’ So said Abraham Lincoln, one of America’s greatest presidents, and he might well have been speaking about the creation of the […]

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Prince Albert and reform of the Victorian Army

Queen Victoria’s husband was not a military man. But the Crimea turned him into a zealous army reformer. As an armchair strategist, Prince Albert displayed an acute insight into the basic realities of the Crimean conflict. ‘Russia is not to be conquered,’ he wrote to his brother Ernest in Germany, ‘but financially she can be […]