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Osprey Publishing examines the Forts of the Frontier

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on October 26, 2015

Originally posted at Frontier Battles

Chartrand, Rene. The Forts of New France: The Great Lakes, the Plains and the Gulf Coast, 1600-1763. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2010. Illustrations, Maps, Photographs, Index. 64 pp. $10.42.

Chartrand, Rene. The Forts of Colonial North America: British, Dutch, and Swedish colonies. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2011. Illustrations, Maps, Photographs, Index. 64 pp. $10.42.

Many of you may be familiar with Osprey Publishing, which produces hundreds of titles related to military history on a variety of subjects. Those interested in the forts of the British colonies and New France will enjoy two titles that Osprey released a few years ago. Forts were important to the history of the colonial frontier, as some of the pivotal battles of the wars that occurred in North America between Britain and France were fought for control over fortifications (ex. Forts Duquesne, Carillon, and the fortress of Louisbourg). Therefore, understanding them and how they were constructed is important to understanding the broader competition for empire in North America.

In 2010, Osprey released The Forts of New France: The Great Lakes, the Plains and the Gulf Coast 1600–1763 by Rene Chartrand. The book is a wonderful introduction to the various levels of fortifications and change over time of them across France’s far-flung colonial empire in North America. Several would be fought over during the series of wars between France and Britain (King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, King George’s War, and the French and Indian War).

The book is beautifully illustrated, as is customary for Osprey products, with several plates devoted to different forts in New France. The book follows a chronological and geographical flow, examining the forts of each region of New France (Gulf Coast, Plains, and Great Lakes region) from the earliest period of French colonial activity to the conclusion of the French and Indian War, when France was expelled and the territory transferred to British control.

The garrison sizes were discussed, as most forts in the regions were smaller affairs, served by only a couple dozen troops. In addition to establishing French claim over the area, the forts served as centers of trade and establishments of relations with Native Americans. Many of the early forts were established specifically to facilitate trade with Native American groups, especially those in the Great Lakes area (the Pays d’en Haut). Most forts were simple wooden construction and relatively small, but some grew into very large stone fortifications by the eighteenth century.

The forts covered allowed France to maintain its authority over such a vast swath of North America and make its claims over areas. They also served as scenes for the struggle for empire between Britain and France, and with Native Americans in North America. One fort that I was delighted to see included was Fort de Chartres in southern Illinois. I have visited this restored post several times, as it is only a couple hours from my hometown. The book discussed to two distinct fortifications at the site, first wooden, later replaced by stone, both under constant threat from the Mississippi River.

Like the French, the English (later British), Dutch, and Swedes established forts in their colonies to serve as places to claim territory, establish trade with Native Americans, and protect their imperial frontier from French and Native incursion. In The Forts of Colonial North America: British, Dutch and Swedish colonies (2011), Chartrand examined the history of fortifications built by the English, Dutch, and Swedes during the 17th century and the conquest of the latter by the English. Later, these sites became the backbone of British control over its North American colonies and the front line of defense when war with France raged. Like the French, these forts also started as smaller, simple wood-constructed stockades, with some growing into larger wooden fortifications, or taking on stone facades.

This book provides a wonderful general introduction to early colonial history along the American coast and traces the history inland, as Britain begins to establish inland forts. Several forts are illustrated in beautiful color plates that attempt to show readers what they may have looked like in their day. One fort that is featured is Fort William Henry, site of a major siege during the French and Indian War that was later novelized and dramatized in James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans and its film adaptations.

Rene Chartrand was an excellent choice to write these works, as his background is fitting for writing such works for a broad audience seeking a general informative overview. He served as curator for over three decades for Canada’s National Historic Sites before venturing into freelance writing. This allows him to write the works for the casual reader that is seeking knowledge on the broad subject as opposed to a deep academic analysis.

Both books provide wonderful information about the subjects they cover, including detailed maps, chronological tables of key events, as well as glossaries of terms related to the subjects, allowing readers who do not have the background to better appreciate the subject covered. Though geared towards general readers and non-academic audiences, these two books are great for those seeking to get an introduction to the forts of colonial America and some basic factual information surrounding them. They serve as a springboard for diving into other literature on the subjects of fortifications, New France, British America, relations with Native Americans, colonial military history, and a bit of engineering.

Well-researched and illustrated, these two books are worth having on your shelf if remotely interested in colonial era fortifications. While they focus on the sites of empire, Osprey also suggests other related titles that deal with the troops of the various imperial powers fighting for control of North America. At less than $15, these books are a great deal to begin building a library on colonial history and can be enjoyed by readers both young and old, though I would say a good minimum age for these works would be around 12-14 given the subject matter and terms used.

If a fan of Osprey books, or just a casual interested person looking for something different, certainly give these two works a try.

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Book Review of Dynasty and Piety: Archduke Albert (1598-1621) and Habsburg Political Culture in an Age of Religious Wars

Posted by William Young on June 28, 2013

An examination of Archduke Albert and the Habsburg Netherlands in an age of religious wars.

International History

Luc Duerloo. Dynasty and Piety: Archduke Albert (1598-1621) and Habsburg Political Culture in an Age of Religious Wars. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2012. ISBN 9780754669043. Notes. Figures. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xvii, 592. $154.95 (Hardcover)

DUERLOO JKT(240x159)The rule of the Archdukes Albert and Isabella over the Habsburg Netherlands lies in the midst of international relations dealing with the Eighty Years War (1568-1648), Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604, War of the Jülich Succession (1609-14), and outbreak of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Dr Luc Duerloo, Professor of Early Modern Political History at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, focuses this study on Archduke Albert VII of Austria (1559-1621) and his control over the Spanish Netherlands from 1598 to 1621. The study is the winner of the Filips von Marnix van Sint-Aldegonde Prize for 2011.  Duerloo is co-editor (with Werner Thomas) of Albert and Isabella, 1598-1621: Essays (1998).

Duerloo explores the life of Albert of Austria, the fifth and youngest son of Maximilian II, the Holy Roman Emperor (r.1554-76), and…

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What’s the matter with the Marlborough historiography?

Posted by William Young on June 24, 2013

Skulking in Holes and Corners

Given recent events, I decided it was time to explicitly take on the dominant Marlborough historiography. To be honest, I don’t particularly want to – at least not this particular aspect – since I’d thought we were well beyond this. But I guess I was wrong.

A series of posts will follow, so I’ll talk in broad generalities here. Specific details about particular authors and works and arguments will follow in successive posts. Feel free to comment or ask questions; in fact, I’d encourage it.

To start, historiography is the history of historians’ interpretations of a particular historical event, in our case, how English historians over the years have viewed Marlborough and his role in the War of the Spanish Succession (WSS). So here’s my brief rundown of how Marlborough has been interpreted throughout the past three centuries.

Talking it back to the war itself, Englishmen were divided into Tory…

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Book Review of Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797: War, State, and Society in the Habsburg Monarchy

Posted by William Young on June 14, 2013

Great study of the Austrian Habsburg Monachy in the late seventeenth and eighteenth century focusing on war and diplomacy.

International History

Michael Hochedlinger. Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797: War, State, and Society in the Habsburg Monarchy. Modern Wars in Perspective series. London: Longman, 2003. ISBN 9780582290846. Tables. Maps. Bibliographical notes. Index. Pp. xviii, 466.

HochedlingerThere are many surveys of Austria and the Habsburg monarchy covering the early modern period. However, few of these studies contain detailed discussions of Austria’s war efforts. Dr Michael Hochedlinger, Senior Archivist at the Austrian State Archives, fills this gap in historiography with an outstanding study of the Habsburg Monarchy’s government and society stressing the military and wars in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Hochedlinger was formerly the Head of the Early Modern Section at the Research Department of the Army Museum in Vienna.

This study covers domestic and foreign policy issues, including administrative institutions, state finances, home defense, the standing army, geopolitics, war, and the modernization of the Habsburg Monarchy. Hochedlinger stresses that “Austria rose to European great-power status almost by accident:…

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Book Review of Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933-1941: The Road to Global War

Posted by William Young on May 31, 2013

An outstanding concise look at Hitler’s foreign policy that led to World War II.

International History

Christian Leitz. Nazi Foreign Policy, 1933-1941: The Road to Global War. The Third Reich Series. London: Routledge, 2004. ISBN 0-415-17423-6. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 192. $136.00.

LeitzThe study of German foreign policy leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe has continued to interest and fascinate students and scholars.  Even so, the last decade has seen fewer studies available to an English reading audience.  One such study, due to be published in a paperback edition this year, is Dr Christian Leitz’s study of Nazi foreign policy from 1933 to 1941.  Leitz, formerly an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, is currently Head of Corporate Responsibility Management and Historical Archives at UBS AG in Switzerland.  He is known for his studies Economic Relations Between Nazi Germany and Franco’s Spain, 1936-1945 (1996) and Sympathy for the Devil: Neutral Europe and Nazi Germany in World War II

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