Book Review: Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire 1682-1719 by Robert Nisbet Bain

Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire 1682-1719 (Illustrated)Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire 1682-1719 by Robert Nisbet Bain

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I became very interested in Charles XII, Sweden, and the Great Northern War while reading Robert Massie’s biography of Peter the Great. A search for books on the subject yielded Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire 1682-1719 by Robert Nisbet Bain. It isn’t a biography of Charles XII, it is more a book about his wars and how they and his actions brought about the collapse of the Swedish Empire. I found it very informative and learned a lot about both the Swedish Empire and Charles himself. Nonetheless, I found it very difficult to rate the book. It was originally published in 1895, so you have to consider that research and scholarship might have changed things since the book’s publication and you have to adjust to a different style of writing and vocabulary. That wasn’t the problem. The problem with this book is that the E-book version isn’t just poorly edited, it apparently was edited at all. It seems that the conversion was done and immediately published; it is full of spelling errors that make you have to go back and re-read passages to understand them. There are numerical figures that are incomprehensible. If I were rating the book purely on content, I’d easily give it a 4, but because the errors made it so difficult to read, I have to give it a four. That said, it’s well worth reading, but I’d suggest trying to find a print version because the conversion errors are more than simply irritating.

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History Related Amateur Radio Special Event Stations for September 2018

The month of September has a number of History related amateur radio special event stations, but four stood out to me. The first is N0HWJ, which is commemorating the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The second is a set of special event stations, K3B, N3B, and W3B, which commemorate the Battle of Brandywine during the American Revolution. The third, K7T, commemorates the final surrender of Geronimo. The last, W0CXX, commemorates the 85th anniversary of the Collins Radio Company, undoubtedly one of the United States’ most important radio equipment companies.

The N0HWJ Lewis and Clark 1804 Expedition special event station will be ending its multi-month run on 15 September. Beginning at Camp Dubois near Wood River IL in May 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, also known as the Corps of Discovery was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Lead by Captain Merriwether Lewis and 2nd Lieutenant William Clark, the expedition was tasked with exploring the newly acquired territory and the Pacific Northwest as well as mapping both territories and staking claim to the Pacific Northwest before European countries could. Additionally, they were to do scientific studies of the plant and animal life and establish relations with the native peoples of the territories. The expedition lasted over two years, ending in September 1806 and traveled over 8,000 miles Despite difficult terrain and conditions and contact with both friendly and unfriendly tribes, there was little violence and they lost only one man. Even though it didn’t find the fabled Northwest Passage, they weren’t the first ones to explore the area, and they set the stage for the treatment of Native Americans in the future, the expedition was a success. They greatly contributed to the United States’ knowledge of its new territory and established a claim to the Pacific Northwest. Look for N0HWJ on or around 14.275,  14.250, 3.982, and 3.975. QSL via Don Lallier, N0HWJ, PO Box 303, Orchard, NE 68764.

Special Event Stations K3B, N3B, and W3B, operated by the Christiana Amateur Radio Emergency Service in Chadds Ford, PA will be commemorating the Battle of Brandywine, fought during the American Revolution, from 6 to 16 September. It was both the longest single-day battle (11 hours) of the American Revolution and was fought by the largest number of troops in any battle of the American Revolution (14,000 plus Americans versus 15,000  plus British)Fought around Chadds Ford and Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania, the Battle of Brandywine was a significant defeat for the American forces led by George Washington. Poor scouting on the American’s part resulted in a lack of knowledge of where the British were and what they were doing, so the British forces under General William Howe were able to flank the Americans. A combination of delaying and rear guard actions and a British lack of cavalry allowed the Americans to escape and fight another day, but the loss at Brandywine led to the fall of Philadelphia, the home of the Continental Congress. K3B, N3B, and W3B will be operating on or near 21.280 14.280 7.180 3.860. QSL via Battle of Brandywine Special Event, P.O. Box 1324, 1620 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA 19317

On 15 September, The Oro Valley Amateur Radio Club in Tucson, AZ will commemorate the 132nd Anniversary of Geronimo’s surrender at Skeleton Canyon with special event station K7T. Many assume Geronimo was a Chief of the Apache tribe, but he wasn’t – he as a leader and medicine man, but not a Chief. He was a skilled leader in raids and warfare and frequently led large numbers of Apaches during the fights with both the United States and Mexico. He and the Apaches following him surrendered and moved on to reservations, breaking out on three occasions due to disease, lack of rations, and the desire to return to their traditional lives: 1878, 1881, and 1885. K7T  commemorates the capture of Geronimo after the 1885 breakout. After the 1885 breakout, Geronimo and his followers were pursued by B Troop, 4th Cavalry under Captain Henry Lawton and 1st Lieutenant Charles Gatewood; the Troopers eventually wore down Geronimo’s group in Mexico and returned them to the United States on 4 September 1886, where they surrendered to General George Crook for the final time at Skeleton Canyon near Douglas, AZ. K7T will be operating SSB on 7.200 and 14.250, CW on 7.040 and 14.040, PSK on 7.070 and 14.070, and FT-8 on 7.074 and 14.074. QSL via email to qsl@tucsonhamradio.org.

The Rockwell Collins Amateur Radio Club, W0CXX, will be operating a special event station on 22/23 September in commemoration of the 85th Anniversary of the Collins Radio Company. Founded in 1933 by Arthur Collins, Initially, Collins manufactured Shortwave and AM equipment, but after providing communications equipment for the Byrd South Pole expedition, the company quickly became the preferred radio manufacturer of the US Military before and during World War II. After World War II, Collins expanded its horizons, moving into satellite and space communications and provided for programs such as Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. Collins also played a key role in amateur radio, perhaps most notably the S-Line receivers, transmitters, and accessories. Considered some of the best equipment available, Collins and then Rockwell Collins continued to manufacture the S-Line from 1958-1978. Bought by Rockwell in 1973, Rockwell Collins continues to manufacture communications equipment, primarily for commercial, government, and defense users. While they still produce mechanical filters that are available to the public, they no longer produce radios for amateur radio or general public use. Look for W0CXX on or around 14.245, 14.045, 7.195, and 7.045. QSL via W0CXX, 1157 Highway 965 NW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404. 

Book Review: Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie

Peter the Great: His Life and WorldPeter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie at the same time I bought his biography of Catherine the Great, Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Catherine the Great and expected no less from Peter the Great given my previous experiences with books by Massie. I wasn’t disappointed; in fact, I enjoyed reading Peter the Great more than I did reading Catherine the Great.

Part of my enjoyment stemmed from Massie’s magnificent writing; he really does breathe life into the personalities in his books, not just the primary personalities but others as well. He doesn’t just tell you what they did, he tells you what made them tick and why they made the decisions and why they acted in certain ways.

The other reason I enjoyed the book so much is that Peter is such a fascinating historical figure. I knew of Peter and knew that he worked to modernize Russia, but I didn’t know his personality and I didn’t have a good understanding of what he did to modernize Russia. Peter was a complex personality; he reinforces my belief that all historical figures are flawed in some way but that in some, their positive characteristics outshine their negative characteristics. Peter had a violent temper and was capable of great brutality (perhaps not surprising given what he experienced in his childhood), but he also was aware of his temper and could be capable of mercy. He lacked a good education but knew and regretted that he did and lived with curiosity, pursuing knowledge throughout his lifetime. He put a great strain on the people of his country through taxation and forced change on them, but at the same time, he dragged Russia kicking and screaming out of its feudal age.

Peter the Great is easily one of the best books I’ve read recently and just as Massie’s biography of Catherine the Great did, expanded my knowledge of Russian and Eastern European History. It’s a long book, almost 1000 pages, but I often found it hard to put down because it was such compelling reading. Once again, Massie has proven that history books don’t have to be dull and boring, Peter the Great: His Life and World is a brilliant and interesting five-star book.

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Book Review: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder

 “It is thus a primary American tradition to consider history when our political order seems imperiled. If we worry today that the American experiment is threatened by tyranny, we can follow the example of the Founding Fathers and contemplate the history of other democracies and republics. The good news is that we can draw upon more recent and relevant examples than ancient Greece and Rome. The bad news is that the history of modern democracy is also one of decline and fall.”

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth CenturyOn Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Among the opening passages in Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century is “History does not repeat, but it does instruct.” This book does just that, it instructs us on how to evaluate and navigate the political currents that we face in the United States today. Dr. Snyder, a professor of European and Political History, shows how the rise of Candidate and President Trump has similarities with the rise of modern tyrannical leaders. He takes the History of political movements and the falls of democratic governments in the periods after World War I and before World War II, after World War II, and after the end of the Cold War and uses them to show us how to identify and resist the rise of tyranny here at home. Written because of what the author observed happening around him, On Tyranny reminds me of the political pamphlets and treatises written around the American Revolution. Just as those writings were important in bringing the United States its freedom, this book can be important in keeping our freedom. On Tyranny, though short, is engaging and thought-provoking. Whether you believe that the United States could be slipping toward tyranny or not, it would be in your best interest to read it with an open mind, be vigilant of what it warns of, and heed the lessons it presents.

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I would also recommend Dan Snow’s History Hit Podcast episode about On Tyranny with Dr. Snyder, in which he and host Dan Snow discuss the book and current events. An important takeaway is Dr. Snyder’s advice not to panic.

Book Review: Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948 by James Barr

A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948 by James Barr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

James Barr’s A Line in the Sand: The Anglo-French Struggle for the Middle East, 1914-1948 is great book for those who are interested in how we came to where we are today in the Middle East. A Line in the Sand is a tale of the competition between Great Britain and France to control the Middle East, from World War I to the birth of Israel. It’s a story of deviousness, betrayal, and violence on all sides and one that neither Britain or France comes away from favorably. Barr’s writing is captivating and objective; while one could develop the idea that he’s sympathetic toward Britain, by the end I didn’t feel sympathy for either. Furthermore, after reading this book you understand why there is no trust in the Middle East; there’s no reason for trust. This is a must read book for understanding the current state of affairs all over the Middle East and the predicament that we in the West have gotten ourselves into.

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