Wednesday, March 28, 2007

# Posted 5:21 PM by Patrick Porter  

STUFF: Its been a while since I've posted. I've been marking papers, trying to get some stuff published, and scraping away down at the archives. The glamorous life of the academic...

Flying over to New York tomorrow night for the Easter Break. For our readers who like soccer, I'll be dropping in to Nevada Smiths (74th, between 11 & 12th) to watch the Reds play Roma on the 4th and 10th of April. Glasses, black jumper, receding hairline, rippling physique. Find me I'll buy you a beer. Might see you, Randy!

In the meantime, open thread: history's most decisive battles?

Two criteria: they have to have macro-historical importance; and they should independently have their own impact (ie. battles that you think in themselves were decisive rather than simply being symptoms of underlying trends that were basically already going to happen).

Here are some candidates I can muster while falling asleep at the keyboard. They may not be correct, but they're worth considering: Trafalgar, Midway, Salamis, Gaugemela, Vienna (ie. in 1683), Tours (although this is v. controversial), Valmy, Hakata Bay. Just a few.


PS: And happy birthday, Dave Dyer!
(12) opinions -- Add your opinion


Alas I'll have to work, but if I can make it, I'll be wearing the Francesco Totti jersey.
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Lepanto. FWIW, Cervantes was wounded there.
1. The Battle of Gravelines, or, more properly, the fate of the Spanish Armada. If the troops had landed, all bets are off in terms of the fate of the Dutch revolt, etc. etc.

Counterpoint: would a Spanish victory have led to even more headaches and faster overextension?

2. Battle of the Chesapeake. French fleet fails, war drags on... would there have been an Articles of Confederation, a US constitution, or a United States of America?

Counterpoint: could the British have won an even longer counter-insurgency campaign?

3. Battle of Alesia. The Romans lose at least significant portions of Gaul. Caeser loses, he probably dies. Now *that* would have changed the course of history.

Counterpoint: perhaps the Republic was doomed anyway? Would the Romans have retaken Gaul eventually?
Kursk? Sealed the fate of Nazi Germany onn the Eastern Front.
Midway. The combination of decisive command, taking chances, and sheer good luck, plus the strategic importance of the battle.
Two battles from the Middle Ages that significantly changed the "political" dynamics of history:

Manzikert, 1071 (Turks v. Byzantines)

Ain Jalut, 1260 (Moslems v. Mongols)
Milvian Bridge: consequently Pagan Rome was destroyed, and Christian Europe followed.

Stalingrad: consequently the encirclement and destruction of substantial Nazi forces, and only bad news for Hitler in the East from there to Berlin.

Orleans (or possibly Patay): consequently the failure of the Double Kingdom of England and France, and England and later Britain as not a continental land power.

Though of course, a successful Double Kingdom might have afforded itself an even bigger navy and a greater empire. But I think European history would have looked different without a state that could give refuge to relatively free thinkers and wall itself up behind the English Channel.

Which reminds me:

Battle of Sluys: made the English Channel English not French. (Which meant the Hundred Years War was fought in France not in England.)

I would strongly support Ail Jalut and Actium as great decisive battles. It's hard even to guess what might have happened if Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII had won, and Octavian instead of constructing the Roman world had exited history as a loser.
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