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Why are There No Indians in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk?

With respect to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, there is a fair amount of “What about-ism” these days. What about Churchill? What about the French? As One Thing after Another has pointed out in a previous post, some critics are unhappy that Nolan did not include the stories of various figures or groups in his film. Now it is the turn of those who complain that Nolan has left Indians out of his tale.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/01/indian-african-dunkirk-history-whitewash-attitudes

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/02/opinion/dunkirk-indians-world-war.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0

One Thing after Another has a two-part response to these criticism. First, Nolan’s ambition consisted of presenting the experience of Dunkirk, not relating the story of a battle in the round like, say, The Longest Day, or other such films associated with “blockbuster history.” In doing so, Nolan took British memories of Dunkirk as a plucky evacuation and recast them into a harrowing survival story (military historian Robert Citino claims this movie presents the best rendition of what helpless infantry must have felt like when attacked by Stukas). As this blog has argued earlier, many of Nolan’s critics appear to desire a semi-documentary that details the doings of everybody on the beach when that was never his ambition. In large part, they desire this treatment because they want his film to bear the large and unwieldy load of rectifying British amnesia about the contributions of others during the evacuation (and the entire war for that matter).

And that brings us to the second part of this blog’s response. In the New York Times, Yasmin Khan complains that Dunkirk allows Britons to continue ignoring the imperial dimension of World War II. Why, then, did Nolan not show Indian troops at Dunkirk or present the narrative through Indian eyes? The answer is that there were probably very few Indians at Dunkirk. When World War II broke out in September 1939, the Indian Army had just over 200,000 men on the rolls. According to Khan’s India at War: The Subcontinent and the Second World War, 53,000 Indians enlisted in the army during the first eight months of the war. In other words, when the Dunkirk evacuation occurred, the Indian Army still numbered under a quarter million men, not enough to spare many soldiers abroad, guard the volatile North-West Frontier, and maintain domestic order. Not surprisingly, then, the British Expeditionary Force’s (BEF) order of battle for 1940 reveals that there were no Indian combat units in France. Khan and others have pointed out that elements of the Royal India Army Service Corps (see photo above) were present in France and made it to the beaches for evacuation. But the RIASC only ever sent four companies to Franceabout 1,000 men. This unit would have constituted a drop in the bucket compared to the 225,000-odd British troops stranded on the beach. As for the lascars, those Indian sailors who constituted around a quarter of the British Merchant Navy’s strength, the evidence seems to indicate that they were not as numerous at Dunkirk as Sunny Singh believes. A large majority of British troops rescued from the beach were picked up by the Royal Navy’s smaller warships (destroyers, minesweepers, and so on) or vessels pressed into service by the Royal Navy (mainly ferry boats or those involved in Britain’s coastal trade). The latter, to judge from W. J. R. Gardner’s The Evacuation from Dunkirk: “Operation Dynamo”, 26 May-4 June 1940, the standard reference work on the subject, were captained by officers from the Royal Navy Reserve, and they generally appear to have been manned by British crews.

India’s enormous contribution to the British Empire’s war effort (as chronicled recently by both Khan’s excellent book and Srinath Raghavan’s India’s War: World War II and the Making of Modern South Asia) came later and elsewhere in the form of men, resources, and production. The Indian Army, which grew to just under 2.5 million men, played a very significant role in the Middle East, a commitment that spilled over into North Africa and thence to Italy and Greece. This force also proved particularly important in driving the Japanese out of Burma (now Myanmar). These missions were generally in keeping with the traditions of the Indian Army which consisted of safeguarding nearby imperial interests, including the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and southeast Asia (the one big exception came during World War I in the fall of 1914 when about one-fifth of the BEF in France consisted of Indian troops). And that is part of the reason why India’s contribution to the war has often been overlooked by both Britons and Indians; each has their reasons for ignoring the British Empire during World War II. British memories of the conflict stress how Britons heroically fought “alone” against the Germans for 18 months after France collapsed. This memory also tends to emphasize the action in Europe; there is less interest in the imperial dimension of the war because the empire is now dead and gone. At the same time, as Khan explains in her book, Indians also do not seem particularly interested in the role they played during World War II, largely because that role is difficult to incorporate in the nationalist narrative about India’s movement to independence in the 1940s. How does one tell the story of the almost 2.5 million Indian soldiers who faithfully did the British Empire’s bidding just a few short years before India’s “tryst with destiny”?

There is a movie yet to be made about Indians’ contribution to World War II that deals with the complexity of their relationship to the conflict and the British Empire. Dunkirk is not the setting for that movie. Such a film should be set in the Middle East or North Africa. Better yet, it it should take place in Burma, where eight of the thirteen infantry division that served in Bill Slim’s 14th Army were Indian. Their victories at Imphal and Kohima in the spring of 1944, which dealt Japan its greatest defeats on land during World War II, led to the recovery of Burma. It’s pretty clear that a British audience would not show much interest in such a film. But would Indians be in the mood to watch a movie that showed them in the service of an empire that they believe they are well rid of?

Furthermore, I consider that the myth of the unemployable History major must be destroyed.

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History in the Age of Trump: Immigration (Part II)

Part II

Part I of this post explored parallels between the 1924 immigration law and President Trump’s 2017 executive order restricting immigration to the United States. Links in this essay will open PDF copies of New York Times articles from the 1920s. Links should open in a new window.

While the lessons of history may be ambiguous, we can learn a lot about our own society by looking at how we understand past events. The first part of this post was inspired in part by a picture on Facebook:

italian-immigrants-didnt-wave-italian-flags

There are numerous problems with this meme, not least of which is the attempt to use the past to suggest that the ancestors of white Americans were more noble or patriotic than recent immigrants to the United States. To suggest that early 20th-century Italian-Americans were much more likely to assimilate than their modern counterparts is likely not true. In fact, Italian-Americans in the early 1900s had a reputation that was not all that different from immigrants today. Italians attempted to preserve their culture, often in the face of intense pressures to “Americanize.” Moreover, some native-born Americans questioned whether Italians’ religious faith—in this case, Catholicism—was compatible with American civic life. In other words, Italian-Americans were not that different from other immigrant groups that came to the United States, both at the time and in recent years.

There was another element of the Italian-American experience that bears interesting parallels to today. In 1919 and 1920, terrorists launched a series of deadly bombings in the United States. The culprits were American anarchists who may have been inspired by Luigi Galleani, an Italian-American radical based in Lynn, Massachusetts. The great majority of Italian-Americans were not involved in anti-government activities, let alone deadly bombings. Nevertheless, some Americans came to believe that immigrants—especially Italian ones—represented a very real and dangerous threat to the nation’s security. Galleani was deported in 1919, along with several other Italian radicals. A Justice Department crackdown on radicals included a 1920 raid in Paterson, New Jersey that led to the arrest of twenty-nine Italian anarchists.

galleani

Italian Anarchist Luigi Galleani

In this climate of anti-immigrant and anti-radical hysteria, the case of Sacco and Vanzetti gripped the nation’s attention. Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were two Italian-Americans who were accused of murdering a guard during a robbery in Braintree, Massachusetts in 1920. The two men, who were alleged to have ties to Galleani, were tried, convicted, and eventually executed in 1927. Though their culpability has been debated (and research suggests that one or both of the accused were in fact involved in terrorist activities), most historians argue that their trial was hopelessly compromised by the virulent anti-immigrant and anti-radical views of the period.

The fate of Sacco and Vanzetti brings us back to the issue of immigration that started Part I of this post. The 1924 immigration law ostensibly protected the United States from dangerous elements who wanted to destroy American society. Italian-Americans were the victims of these policies. Today, Italian-Americans who want to denounce recent immigrants for their failure to assimilate look back nostalgically to a time when, in their understanding, their great-grandparents came to the United States and admirably and enthusiastically transformed from Italians to Americans. This characterization obscures the long history of nativism in the United States and the debates about security that have often informed immigration policy. It also does a disservice to earlier generations of immigrants, who face intense prejudice and opposition–not unlike immigrants today.

Note: The Donald Trump presidency has already caused historians and other observers to look to the past for parallels and guidance. Some commentators have emphasized that Trump’s policies bear striking similarity to earlier periods in American and European history. Others have emphasized that Trump’s administration has broken with longstanding traditions in American political life. This series will attempt to place Trump’s presidency in a historical perspective in a way that contributes both to our understanding of past events and current affairs.

History in the Age of Trump: Immigration (Part I)

Part I

Note: The Donald Trump presidency has already caused historians and other observers to look to the past for parallels and guidance. Some commentators have emphasized that Trump’s policies bear striking similarity to earlier periods in American and European history. Others have emphasized that Trump’s administration has broken with longstanding traditions in American political life. This series will attempt to place Trump’s presidency in a historical perspective in a way that contributes both to our understanding of past events and current affairs.

**Links in this essay will open PDF copies of New York Times articles from the 1920s. Links should open in a new window.

The images are striking: immigrants stuck in limbo, having arrived in the New York but detained and denied entry due to new, stricter immigration regulations. Those affected include men who risked their lives fighting for the United States who now find that they are unwelcome in the country they defended. In one case, a woman from the Middle East arrives in the U.S. to be reunited with her husband, a religious cleric who had come to the country legally more than a year earlier. The woman and their young daughter are taken into custody and then ordered to return home, prompting a frantic legal battle over their future.

ellis-registry

Holding area at Ellis Island.

These stories do not describe events that took place in the past week—they describe conditions in 1924, just after Congress passed legislation that dramatically reduced the number of immigrants eligible for entry into the United States. The new law created bottlenecks at American ports, including Ellis Island. Critics of the law were dismayed to note that soldiers who had fought in World War I but later left the country found themselves stranded, uncertain of when they could return. Other opponents complained that the law unfairly targeted certain ethnic groups. Italians, who had made up a large percentage of immigrants to the United States since the early 1900s, saw their numbers slow to a trickle. Religious minorities also suffered under the new law; the family mentioned in the opening paragraph were Jews from Palestine.

immigration-cartoon

On this blog, we try not to overstate the link between past and present. Immigration restrictions in 2017 are not the same as in 1924; America now is very different from America then. Nevertheless, President Trump’s executive order has drawn attention to America’s historic position as a beacon for immigrants, along with its equally long history of trying to exclude “undesirables.” Trump’s critics are right: his executive order is un-American, a betrayal of our core principles. At the same time, it is also quintessentially American, a modern manifestation of the nativist tendencies that have always existed in this country.

Part II of this post explores the fears that immigrants in the 1920s were violent radicals who threatened the American way of life. It will also consider how that history relates to current attitudes, and provide another illustration of how past events can be misconstrued in a modern context.

After Brexit, Whither or Wither British History?

brexit

Dane Kennedy recently wrote an essay in Perspectives, the newsmagazine of the American Historical Association, in which he analyzes the impact that Brexit will exert on the study British history.

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/october-2016/does-british-history-matter-anymore-reflections-on-brexit

In his survey of the field, Kennedy reaches two main conclusions. First, Brexit may make British history obsolete. The Brexit vote exposed important national divisions within Britain; England and Wales voted to leave the European Union, while Scotland, and to a lesser extent, Northern Ireland, sought to remain. The outcome of the referendum may only exacerbate these divisions. The Scottish National Party, which committed itself to the “Remain” campaign, is already weighing the wisdom of holding another Scottish independence referendum (the last one, held in 2014, was defeated 55% to 45%). By complicating relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, Brexit paradoxically makes it more likely that the two will increasingly draw closer in an attempt to safeguard their common interests (e.g. stabilization and peace in the region). Should Britain begin to disintegrate, Kennedy asserts, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will increasingly focus on their own histories rather than a common British one.

Second, Brexit will undermine the precarious position of British history in the United States.  As Kennedy points out, up until the 1970s and 1980s, every history department in the United States believed it needed at least one British historian. This belief stemmed partly from a sense that America owed a great deal to its British inheritance, partly from a Cold War Atlanticist attitude that saw Britain as America’s closest ally, and partly from the “Eurocentric orientation of the historical profession itself.” However, starting in the 1990s, in an attempt to diversify their offerings, departments began to hire historians who studied previously neglected areas, such as Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As Kennedy puts it, “in the zero-sum game that characterized academic hiring in those financially straitened times, the number of British history positions declined.” And this number continues to decline today. As academic history in the United States became more diverse and global in outlook, the only factor that helped sustain British history was is its connection to empire. In other words, British history has remained interesting to the profession insofar as it is integrated into world history. For this reason, Kennedy argues that since Brexit “marks Britain’s retreat from the world around it,” academic historians will increasingly lose interest in that country with effects that are “detrimental to British history’s survival as a field of study in the United States.”

Much of what Kennedy writes makes a great deal of sense. For sure, as Kennedy puts it, “while Britain’s post-Brexit future may not change the facts about history, it will change how we view that history and what significance we draw from it.” Here Kennedy reminds us of the extent to which contemporary concerns and events shape our study of the past. If One Thing after Another has quibbles with Kennedy on anything, it is in the claim that Brexit is a major turning point that represents a retreat from the world. Such a statement seems like an oversimplification. Instead of representing a sudden break in the course of events, Brexit is part of a long saga in which Britain has sought to manage its relationship with the rest of the world and particularly Europe. It is worth pointing out that well before a slight majority of Britons voted to leave the EU, Britain had already opted out of a number of important EU polices: the Economic and Monetary Union, the Schengen Agreement, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and the AFSJ (Area of Freedom, Security, and Justice). In other words, Britain has long experienced reservations about political integration with the EU. Brexit was the triumph, then, of anti-EU feeling that had existed for some time. To say that Brexit represents a sudden retreat from the world, then, is only partially right. For sure, many voters and politicians who supported the “Leave” campaign felt that political integration with the EU exposed Britain to various elements of globalization that were intolerable (e.g. free movements of peoples). However, a distaste for political integration with the EU (and its consequences) is not necessarily tantamount to shutting oneself off from the world; there is more than one way to to engage with the global economy. Even the most obtuse of the Brexiteers understand that a country with the world’s fifth-largest economy (now possibly sixth-largest with the falling of the pound) simply cannot embrace some type of autarky, especially when exports account for almost 30% of GDP. Enthusiasm for a soft Brexit and bilateral agreements with other nations, unrealistic as these prospects might be, indicate that Britons still wish to relate to the rest of the world—but on their own terms. One Thing after Another does not claim that Brexit was a good idea, that the leaders of the Brexit campaign were models of prudence, or that those who voted “Leave” acted from the best of motives. Rather, this blog argues that Brexit is perhaps not the turning point it has been made out to be. If such is the case, then its impact on British history might be somewhat muted.

Toward the end of his essay, Kennedy expresses skepticism that Britain’s significance at the height of empire will sustain the interest of historians in future years. After all, he points out, the Mongols exerted enormous influence in the past, but there is no great demand for historians of this people. One Thing after Another begs to differ. As Christopher Bayly (a leading scholar of imperial and world history) argued in The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914, Britain was an “exemplar and controller” of modernity. In other words, starting in the late 18th century and continuing well into the next, Britain played a crucial role in propagating the globalization on which it has ostensibly turned its back. We no longer live in a British century, but we live in a world that Britain helped make. That achievement will help ensure its continued historical relevance for some time to come.

CFP Jimmy Carter and the “Year of the Evangelicals” Reconsidered

CFP  Jimmy Carter and the ‘Year of the Evangelicals’ Reconsidered
April 6-8, 2017
New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Saint Anselm College
Manchester, New Hampshire

In 1976 Newsweek magazine borrowed a phrase from pollster George Gallup and proclaimed that year the “Year of the Evangelicals.”  Both presidential candidates – Republican Gerald Ford and Democrat Jimmy Carter – claimed to be “born again” Christians, a claim made by one third of all Americans; and significant proportions of Protestants and Catholics told Gallup’s pollsters that the Bible should be taken literally, a marker of conservative evangelical Christianity.  This phenomenon caught journalists by surprise, and they struggled to understand this new segment of the electorate, beginning at the top with the candidacy of Jimmy Carter. The election of 1976 brought evangelicals back into the political arena. While many of these people supported Carter’s candidacy and made the difference in his election, the ways in which they influenced public life quickly extended beyond Carter and the Democratic Party.  It also marked evangelicals’ movement from the margins of intellectual and cultural life into the mainstream. Indeed, they soon became a political and cultural force.

Some forty years later, with financial support from the Henry Luce Foundation, Saint Anselm College and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester, New Hampshire, will host a conference in honor of that Newsweek cover story and presidential election. The conference, “Jimmy Carter and ‘The Year of the Evangelicals’ Reconsidered” aims to assess both the scholarly and popular significance of the return to public life of American evangelicals.  While the Newsweek cover story provides the initial starting point, this conference aims to explore the phenomenon of evangelicals and politics more broadly.

Conference organizers seek individual paper proposals or proposals for an entire panel that analyze evangelicalism in light of its contributions to public life both in and since 1976.  In many ways, scholarship on late twentieth-century evangelicalism and the rise of the Religious Right has matured.  But there are still questions to be answered and new interpretations to be offered.  The following research questions point to potential areas for proposals, but this list is not exhaustive and proposals that address other questions or re-imagine conventional interpretations will be welcomed.

First, with the rise of the Religious Right in the late 1970s and 1980s, the progressive evangelicalism in the Newsweek article was relegated to minority status in the political world.  Why is that and what happened to its political influence in the late 20th century?

Second, in the Newsweek story, Foy Valentine, leader of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission, called the label “evangelical” a “Yankee” word.  What made southern Protestant Christianity different from the rest of the nation (and why was it not necessarily “evangelical”)?

Third, African Americans are not often included in the category “evangelical” – especially in the political sense that characterized Newsweek’s story. What about African-American evangelicals?  Where do they fit in evangelicalism’s conventional historical narrative?

Fourth, what has been evangelicals’ influence on popular culture and intellectual life since their return to public life in the 1970s?

Fifth, where are we now?  Has evangelicalism’s influence on American politics diminished in the twenty-first century?

Sixth, what about the mainstream press’s treatment of evangelicals and politics?  What impact did the Newsweek cover story and the election of 1976 have on journalists?

Finally, what was the relationship between Catholics and evangelicals during this period?

Individual paper proposals should include a 250-word abstract, a brief (1-page) CV, and contact information (including email address).  Panel proposals should include a 500-word abstract, with brief (1-page) CVs for all participants and contact information for the panel organizer.

Direct proposals and any questions to Andrew Moore (amoore@anselm.edu).

Deadline for submissions is November 15, 2016.

The SAC History Department Blog Celebrates 101 Posts

101 Dalmatians

Last week, One Thing after Another, the Saint Anselm College History Department blog, published its 101st post. “Why celebrate 101 posts?” you might ask. “Why not 100”? First, 101 has a certain symmetry that 100 does not. Second, 101 has been a “thing” since 101 Dalmatians. Third, we forgot to write something after the 100th post was published. We cover up our mistakes with specious rationalizations (see the first two reasons); that is the way we roll.

In any event, we at One Thing after Another thought that you might like to see the stats behind the blog in the same manner that, say, Toto exposed the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz. How many people read the blog, who are they, and what are they interested in?

Our very first post, which announced the launching the blog, was published on March 21, 2014. It featured an old newsreel that showed the launching of the battleship USS Missouri back in 1944 (as an analogy to the launching of our blog, you see). That video, which we found on YouTube, has since been taken down, so we suppose a little maintenance is required there.

https://saintanselmhistory.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/launching-one-thing-after-another/

That post obtained all of 20 views. At the time of writing (August 28, 2016), the blog has been viewed 16,628 times by 11,098 distinct visitors. That’s roughly 160 views and 110 viewers per post, on average.

These averages conceal wild fluctuations from post to post. The “Very Short Reviews” series is, apparently, not widely read. The record for the least popular post is shared by a review of Andrew Roberts’ Napoleon: A Life and one of Geoffrey Wawro’s A Mad Catastrophe (both with a paltry 6 views).

https://saintanselmhistory.wordpress.com/2015/08/15/very-short-reviews-andrew-thorntons-_napoleon-a-life_/

https://saintanselmhistory.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/very-short-reviews-geoffrey-wawros-_a-mad-catastrophe_/

We’re sorry to say, however, that Very Short Reviews will remain with us because Professor Dubrulle finds that writing them is the only way he can remember what he read over the summer.

Fortunately for Professor Dubrulle, he is also the author of the most popular post on the blog as well. “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: Slavery and the 1.6%” has been viewed 1,811 times since it was published on February 5, 2016. That day witnessed the heaviest traffic on the blog ever, with 509 views.

https://saintanselmhistory.wordpress.com/2016/02/05/lies-damn-lies-and-statistics-slavery-and-the-1-6/

One Thing after Another’s most popular post about a person was published back in May 2014, and featured Justin Eckilson ’14, who had just graduated and won the History Department Award, the Fr. Stephen E. Parent, OSB Award, Delta Epsilon Sigma, Tau Chapter, and the Chancellor’s Medal for highest GPA in the graduating class. That post earned 815 views.

https://saintanselmhistory.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/eckilson-wins-chancellors-award-off-to-teach-for-pact/

Who reads One Thing after Another? The short answer is Americans. They account for 13,963 of the 16,628 views. Not surprisingly, English speaking -nations are well represented among the countries with the most views on the blog: the United Kingdom (633), Canada (252), Brazil (143), Germany (179), Australia (163), and France (163). We don’t know why New Zealand is not more fascinated with One Thing after Another.

We do know who is not fascinated with the blog—at least in 2016. In South America, no one from Paraguay, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana has visited. Nobody from any Central American country between Mexico and Costa Rica has visited. Somebody from every European country has looked at least at one page on One Thing or Another—except for Belarus and Macedonia. In East Asia, only the Cambodians, Laotians, and Mongolians have refused to visit. In Micronesia, it’s the folks from Papua New Guinea who are missing out. The blog does not have a good track record in the Middle East and Central Asia: Georgia, Armenia, Azerbajian, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen are all missing from the visit column. Africa is very underrepresented—in this case, it is easier to list the countries that had visitors than to single out countries where one has visited: Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Nigeria, and Ghana.

But who is reading what on the blog? The statistics are not as helpful here, but we think we can make some educated guesses. Alumni, students, parents, and friends of the college tend to read our pieces about professors, students, and alums. It is probably for this reason that posts on people are not as popular as our essays on history. The Britons, Canadians, Brazilians, Germans, Australians, and French (as well as most Americans for that matter) who read our blog do not have any connection to the college and can’t be expected to show much interest in the people there, illustrious as they may be. But we are happy to see that this large audience is interested in the historical questions that this blog takes on from week to week.

What One Thing after Another finds most exciting and intriguing is that the blog has a substantial amount of traffic day in and day out, even when it has not published anything new for some time. For example, on August 28, 2016, 20 people from 3 countries (the United States, Australia, and, yes, New Zealand) visited the blog and notched 25 views. These visitors looked at 7 different pages. As long as people keeping coming, we’ll keep publishing.

Very Short Reviews: Mitter’s Forgotten Ally

Forgotten Ally

Rana Mitter is currently a Fellow of St. Cross College at Oxford and a member of the faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University. He has written extensively on modern Chinese history with a special focus on the period before, during, and after World War II. His latest work, Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945, was named a book of the year by the Economist, Financial Times, Observers, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, and New Statesman.

Rana Mitter, Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945 (Boston: Mariner Books, 2013).

  1. Mitter argues that the true story of the war, never well understood in the West (partly due to the influence of subsequent Cold War politics) and largely obscured until recently in China by the ruling Communist Party, played an enormously significant role in shaping Chinese attitudes and making China what it is today.
  2. An extremely important theme running throughout this book is the way the experience intersected with the modernization of China.
  3. The conflict interrupted an earnest Kuomintang initiative to bring China into the 20th century China, halting modernization in some areas (e.g. economic development), pushing it forward in desultory fashion in others (e.g. social welfare provisions), and accelerating it dramatically in still others (e.g. political mobilization).
  4. As Mitter points out, the war helped determine who among the following would guide China’s modernization and therefore how it would unfold: Chiang Kai-Shek (leader of the Kuomintang government), Mao Zedong (who seized the opportunity presented by the war to become the unquestioned leader of the Communists), and Wang Jingwei (a member of the Kuomintang who advocated cooperation with the Japanese and eventually defected to them to found a collaborationist government in Nanjing).
  5. China’s future course, however, would not be determined exclusively by these leaders or even the Chinese people; it was contingent on the events of the war and the Japanese, the Soviets, the British, and the Americans who helped influence those events.
  6. Mitter recognizes Chiang’s weaknesses as well as those of the Kuomintang government (some readers, however, may think that he does not lay enough stress on these weaknesses, including widespread corruption and incompetence), but he also emphasizes the enormously difficult position in which this government found itself throughout the war.
  7. Much of that difficulty had to do with the Western imperialist powers: for over four years, until December 1941, they left the Chinese to their own devices in dealing with a militarily superior Japan; although China did enormous service to the Allied cause by refusing to surrender and holding down 500,000 Japanese troops, the Allies never made a priority of assisting Chiang; and when assistance did come, it was accompanied by very difficult conditions (e.g. General Joseph Stilwell was imposed on Chiang as chief of staff and commander of the China Burma India Theater which gave the American control of all Lend-Lease supplies to China, an unfortunate situation, for as Stilwell exercised enormous leverage over Chiang, the two grew to hate each other).
  8. Of course, the Nationalists discredited themselves with repeated defeats in 1937 and 1938 (that led to widespread loss of territory), the breaching of the Yellow River dikes to halt the Japanese advance in 1938 (that caused the deaths of 500,000 Chinese civilians), the failure of the campaign in Burma in 1942 (yet another disaster for Chinese arms), the Henan famine of 1942 and 1943 (which killed some 3 million more civilians), catastrophic losses during Japan’s Ichi-Go campaign in 1944, as well as the unraveling of the Chinese government and economy.
  9. Although they also faced a number of difficulties, the Communists emerged from the war with a better reputation at home and even abroad—in part because they did not have to bear the logistical and administrative burden of supporting a conventional army the way the Nationalists did.
  10. This book is not a military history, and Mitter does not seem particularly comfortable discussing military subjects in any kind of detail; this story is  cetered on Chiang, Mao, and Wang with occasionally forays into the lives of everyday people or a bird’s eye view of great events.