Book and Sword
felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas

Book and Sword

Forecasting Future Wars is Hard

the title page of a book printed in black and red with a little print with the publisher's logo
The book that launched a thousand raids and burned the topless towers of Minas Tirith! H.G. Wells’ “Little Wars” the first modern wargame for civilians. Image care of

Since 1805, combat between well-equipped air and naval forces has become rarer and rarer. This is because states which can produce such forces have little to gain from fighting one another, and because it has become harder and harder to sustain such forces at all. In the 19th century, the Royal Navy was usually overwhelmingly superior to everyone else (although the French and the United States sometimes gave it a run for its money). Since the 1950s, the US air force has had a similar advantage over everyone else’s. Small states look at these navies and air forces, decide they can never defeat them, and either stop bothering with their own navies and air forces, or side with one of the big powers, or hide in harbour or in neutral countries when war approaches (the fleet-in-being strategy). Big states do some spectacularly stupid and thoughtless things, but rarely something as stupid as getting into a war with their allies or a nuclear power, and pretty much all the states with sophisticated air forces and navies are either each other’s allies or nuclear powers.

This means that stories about how a future naval or air war would go are fantasies based on speculation and imagination and peacetime tests, not observation and experience of actual warfare.

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Cross-Post: SASA Virtual Conference, Christian Cameron Patreon

The Save Ancient Studies Alliance will have a virtual conference on Representations of the Past in Ancient and Modern Times on 21 and 22 July 2024. The call for papers is open until 16 April.

Novelist, reenactor, Plataia 2024 organizer, and veteran Christian Cameron has launched a patreon I am told that one of the corporate social media services he uses is stopping him from reaching followers just like corporate social media services do whenever they want more money. The Oatmeal has a comic about this.

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Too Many Maiden Castles

a ruined stone castle on a rocky hilltop silhouetted against the sky
Dokhtar castle alias Firuzabad in Iran. Photo by Hadi Karimi from Wikimedia Commons under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. I miss Iran.

Fans of classic Nintento games know that sometimes the princess is in another castle. People researching sites called Maiden Castle have to figure out which of the sites called that in Farsi, Arabic, or English they mean.

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Coiled Shields and Helmets

a coiled grass bowl wrapped with light brown and off-white fibres on a vanished wooden tabletop lit by a candle and an electric lamp
A little bowl like this was all my budget could afford, but its still handy for holding my sewing things!

One weekend in May 2023 I did two things on a weekend which involved spending several hours away from home doing things with people I did not know in 2013 other than the day job (!). When I was passing through downtown Victoria I stopped at a stall run by Journey House Actions, a Rwandan charity. They sell bowls, baskets, and jars of coiled grass ropes laced with dyed sisal fibres. As I worked my way through them, I was struck how much they were like the Turkish shields in Schloss Ambras.

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Antioch was a Great City

a colour painting in Late Roman style with cities, marked by small drawings, interconnected with lines with points and distances marked
The city of Antioch on the Peutinger Table as reproduced by M. Weber on

On the late Roman map called the Peutinger Tables, three cities are represented by a man with a crown on a throne: Rome, Constantinople, and Antioch. To a cartographer in the fourth or fifth century CE, these were the three seats of imperial power.

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Just Another Grunt

a plain linestone statue of a god with a tall hat on his head, a club or axe in his right hand, and a tombstone-shaped shield in his left hand
A Statue of the Egyptian god Reshef from the Third Intermediate Period in the Metropolitan Museum of Art care of

Early on, the Indy Neidell World War Two documentary split off a series War Against Humanity from its narrative of the ground and surface naval wars. Their story presents the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ in December 1944 as a trivial thing, because the allies quickly put forces in place so that German forces could never break through to anywhere really dangerous, and because by the standards of winter 1944/1945 the forces involved were not huge. They even spend lots of time talking about how specific Anglo generals tried to take credit or shift the blame. I feel like that is the wrong story to tell, because the real story is all the ordinary people who ended up dead, or crippled, or frostbitten when they had started to think they would survive the war more or less intact. Here is one of those stories by the late Fred Pohl:

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Cross-Post: International Conference on Alexander the Great: Alexander and Macedon (Sioux Falls SD, 4-7 Sept 2024)

From h-antiquity:

International Conference on Alexander the Great: Alexander and Macedon

South Dakota State University – Sioux Falls, SD – September 4-7, 2024

Announcing the next instalment of the series of international conferences on Alexander the Great.

Alexander and Macedon, held at South Dakota State University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, September 4-7, 2024

2024 heralds the 2,350th anniversary of Alexander’s final major battle of the Hydaspes as well as the so-called Hyphasis mutiny, the death of his famed horse Bukephalos, Alexander’s journey down the Indus River, the start of the Mallian campaign, and the creation of Nearchos’ exploratory naval expedition.

Papers are welcome on any aspect of Alexander the Great and his era, or on the history of Macedon. A particular focus is on Alexander’s influence on Macedon and vice versa.

Papers from any relevant discipline are particularly encouraged to facilitate a multi-disciplinary discussion.

The conference is aimed equally at postgraduate students, early career researchers and established academics.

The keynote session on Thursday September 5th, will be delivered by Edward Anson, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock,and Waldemar Heckel, Research Fellow in the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary.

There will also be a public afternoon workshop involving experimental history in recreating a sarissa phalanx using replica weapons.

Please send an abstract of 300 words and a brief bio to the organizer, Graham Wrightson ( ) BEFORE March 30th 2024.

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Were Hessians Really Mercenaries?

grassy pastures separated by woods on a cool cloudy day
On these plains above Jena in 1806, the Prussian army was having a really bad day. Photo by Sean Manning, October 2016

In my first book, I talked about how ‘mercenary’ is more a moral and political term than a neutral category. People use different names like allies, volunteers, professionals, Private Military Companies, and mercenaries depending on their moral and political stance on those soldiers (in ancient Greece or Sir Charles Oman’s England, this was deeply tied up in aristocratic suspicion of anyone who had to work for a living). A year or two ago, military historian Alex Burns made a similar point about Hessian soldiers in the American Revolutionary War.

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Cross-Post: Zerjadtke on Linen Armour

Professor Michael Zerjadtke of has dealt with the problems with publishing by self-publishing a book on his and his students’ experiments reproducing ancient linen armour. It is available on Amazon for EUR 14,99 which is much more affordable than a book from a German academic press!

Der griechische Leinenpanzer im experimentalarchäologischen Versuch: Eine Zwischenbilanz des Hamburger Projektes mit Ausblick zum Hoplitenschild (Books on Demand, 2024) ISBN 978-3758315619 (Publisher’s Webpage) (

the cover of "Der griechische Leinenpanzer" with two replica shield boards and two replica armours against a white wall
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How Much Did a Garment Cost in the Bronze Age?

a colour photo of the stone remains of the temple of Dendur in a glass-roofed space at the Metropolitan museum of art.  The temple consists of a stone gateway, the stone foundation of the front wall, and a one-chamber sanctuary with a two-column porch
Egypt gave the US a temple from the reign of Augustus and it is glorious There is now a video about the Temple of Dendur (have not seen it)

I have posted about the cost of a shirt in fifteenth-century England, and the price of a tunic in the time of emperor Constantine. That is not the earliest date which we can explore! Writing on scraps of stone from Egypt and clay tablets from Ugarit tell us how much a garment cost in the Late Bronze Age around 1500 to 1100 BCE.

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