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Part III - Warfare, Colonialism and Empire in the Modern World

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 March 2020

Louise Edwards
University of New South Wales, Sydney
Nigel Penn
University of Cape Town
Jay Winter
Yale University, Connecticut
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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Bibliographical Essay

Frontier violence has only recently become a recognised structuring theme of histories of British imperialism. Levine, Philippa ’s excellent overview of the rise and fall of British imperialism, The British Empire: Sunrise to Sunset (London: Routledge, 2013), deals with frontier violence and Indigenous dispossession as an inevitable consequence of colonial conquest. Other recent works that give more targeted attention to the nature of the British Empire as a site of contested power struggle and Indigenous resistance are Burton’s, Antoinette The Trouble with Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) and Gott’s, Richard Britain’s Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt (London: Verso, 2011). However, although frontier violence is relatively new as a trans-imperial subject of study, it has flourished as one of the most important themes structuring regionally specific histories of the British Empire.

A wide field of scholarship draws out the specific histories of imperial conquest, Indigenous resistance and the violent culture of the frontier in Britain’s colonial possessions. For Africa, these include Mostert’s, Noel Frontiers: The Epic of South Africa’s Creation and the Tragedy of the Xhosa People (New York: Knopf, 1992), Penn’s, Nigel The Forgotten Frontier: Colonist & Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005), Price’s, Richard Making Empire: Colonial Encounters and the Creation of Imperial Rule in Nineteenth-Century Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008) and Jon Abbink, M. E. de Bruijn and van Walraven, K. ’s anthology Rethinking Resistance: Revolt and Violence in African History (Leiden: Brill, 2003). On India, recent important works include Kolsky’s, Elizabeth Colonial Justice in British India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Sherman’s, Taylor State Violence and Punishment in India (London: Routledge, 2010). For Australasia and the Pacific, key scholarship includes Henry Reynolds’s large body of work ranging from The Other Side of the Frontier (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1981; rpt. Penguin, 1982) to Forgotten War (Sydney: NewSouth Books, 2013), Attwood, Bain and Foster’s, S. anthology Frontier Conflict: The Australian Experience (Canberra: National Museum of Australia, 2003), Belich’s, James The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1986) and Mar, Tracey Banivanua ’s Violence and Colonial Dialogue: The Australian-Pacific Indentured Labour Trade (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007).

Frontier violence has been valuably theorised through a number of particular frames. One of the most controversial of these is the question of whether the violence of colonial conquest in Britain’s settler colonies constituted genocide. Key works exploring this question are Adhikari, Mohamed ’s anthology Genocide on Settler Frontiers (New York: Berghahn, 2014) and Woolf’s, Patrick Traces of History: Elementary Structures of Race (London: Verso, 2016), both of which focus on the concept and comparison of genocide across settler frontiers, Palmer, Alison ’s comparative study Colonial Genocide (Adelaide: Crawford House, 2000), and two anthologies edited by Moses, Dirk: Genocide and Settler Society (New York: Berghahn, 2004) and Empire, Colony, Genocide: Conquest, Occupation and Subaltern Resistance in World History (New York: Berghahn, 2008). For a critique of this approach see Dwyer, Philip and Ryan, Lyndall, ‘Reflections on Genocide and Settler-Colonial Violence’, History Australia 13.3 (2016), 335–50. As a counterpoint to this question, scholars have explored the significance of the legal frameworks through which frontier violence took place across Britain’s Empire, and the ways in which it was justified as legitimate action by the state. Lisa Ford addresses this problem in terms of the role of legal violence in securing sovereignty in her comparative study Settler Sovereignty: Jurisdiction and Indigenous People in America and Australia, 1788–1836 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010). Other important works examining the exercise of legal violence in various colonial sites include Hussain’s, Nasser The Jurisprudence of Emergency: Colonialism and the Rule of Law (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003), Hill, Richard ’s Policing the Colonial Frontier, 2 vols. (Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs, 1986; 1989), Dyzenhaus’s, DavidThe Puzzle of Martial Law’, University of Toronto Law Journal 59 (2009), 164, and Evans’s, Julie ‘Where Lawlessness Is Law: The Settler Colonial Frontier as a Legal Space of Violence’, Australian Feminist Law Journal 30.1 (2009), 322. Frontier violence has also been importantly theorised in terms of gender. Examples of such work include Elbourne, Elizabeth ’sThe Sin of the Settler’, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 4.3 (2003), 1–49, McCulloch, Jock ’s chapter ‘Empire and Violence, 1900–1939’, in Levine, Philippa (ed.), Gender and Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), ch. 10, and Woollacott’s, Angela ‘Frontier Violence and Settler Manhood’, History Australia 6.1 (2009), 11.111.15.

Bibliographical Essay

Arendt, Hannah (1906–75) wrote The Origins of Totalitarianism in English, and the original title was The Burden of Our Time (London: Secker & Warburg, 1951). She later rewrote the book in her native German (Arendt, Hannah, Elemente und Ursprünge totaler Herrschaft, [Elements and Origins of Total Rule] (Munich: Piper, 2013 [1955]). Her other major works include The Human Condition (1958), Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963), On Revolution (1963) and On Violence (1970). The standard biography is Young-Bruehl, Elisabeth, Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982).

A large field of scholarship surrounds Arendt. The following sources are useful for reading Origins. Canovan, Margaret, The Political Thought of Hannah Arendt (New York: Harcourt, 1974) remains a good introduction to Origins. Canovan, ’s Hannah Arendt: A Reinterpretation of Her Political Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) offers a valuable rereading of Arendt based on unpublished papers. See also the useful chapters in Villa, Dana (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) and Richard, H. King and Stone, Dan (eds.), Hannah Arendt and the Uses of History: Imperialism, Nation, Race, and Genocide (New York: Berghahn, 2007). One of the best review essays is Stone, Dan, ‘Defending the Plural: Hannah Arendt and Genocide Studies’, New Formations 71 (2011), 4657. Those seeing Walter Benjamin’s influence on Arendt include Moruzzi, Norma Claire, Speaking through the Mask: Hannah Arendt and the Politics of Social Identity (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000). Mantena, Karuna offers postcolonial reflections on Origins in ‘Genealogies of Catastrophe’, in Benhabib, Seyla (ed.), Politics in Dark Times: Encounters with Hannah Arendt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp. 83112. Rothberg’s, Michael Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in an Age of Decolonization (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009) provides an astute reading of Origins, which puts it into dialogue with négritude writer Aimé Césaire.

Scholars critical of Arendt on questions of race and prejudice include: Klausen, Jimmy Casas, ‘Hannah Arendt’s Antiprimitivism’, Political Theory 38.3 (2010), 394423; Norton, Anne, ‘Heart of Darkness: Africa and African Americans in the Writings of Hannah Arendt’, in Honig, Bonnie (ed.), Feminist Interpretations of Hannah Arendt (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), pp. 247–61; Dossa, Shiraz, ‘Human Status and Politics: Hannah Arendt on the Holocaust’, Canadian Journal of Political Science 13.2 (1980), 309–23. Presbey, Gail takes up Arendt’s understanding of Africa in ‘Critic of Boers or Africans? Arendt’s Treatment of South Africa in The Origins of Totalitarianism’, in Postcolonial African Philosophy: A Critical Reader (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1997), pp. 162–80. Finally, Kateb, George, Hannah Arendt: Politics, Conscience, Evil (Oxford: Robertson, 1983) defends Arendt’s treatment of Africans and Boers.

Those using Arendt to understand postcolonial questions include Mamdani, Mahmood, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001). Achille Mbembe reads colonial violence through the perspectives offered by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, who is himself a close if controversial reader of Arendt; see Mbembe, , ‘Necropolitics’, Public Culture 15.1 (2003), 1140.

Among those whom Arendt inspired to read Nazism through imperialism, Traverso’s, Enzo Origins of Nazi Violence, trans. Janet Lloyd (New York: New Press, 2003) nicely negotiates away from a diffusionist ‘boomerang thesis’. The cultural links between Nazism and imperialism are explored in Poley, Jared, Decolonization in Germany: Weimar Narratives of Colonial Loss and Foreign Occupation (Berne: Lang, 2005). Nearly all of the other major works in this field are noted in chapter 5 of Stone’s, Dan Histories of the Holocaust (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), with the exception of Olivier Le Cour Grandmaison. The field of comparative genocide studies refers to Arendt, even if the nuances of her ‘crystallisation’ method are often ignored. A useful introduction to questions of colonialism and genocide is Dirk Moses, A., ‘Colonialism’, in Hayes, Peter and Roth, John K. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 6880. Moses’s Hannah Arendt, Imperialisms, and the Holocaust’, in Langbehn, Volker and Salama, Mohammad (eds.), German Colonialism: Race, the Holocaust, and Postwar Germany (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), offers an assessment of Origins that departs from the consensus. The Journal of Genocide Research maintains an important presence in this field.

Within African studies, recent studies of colonialism and imperialism stressing its mutually transformative effects include Michelle, R. Moyd, Violent Intermediaries: African Soldiers, Conquest, and Everyday Colonialism in German East Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2014) and Hall, Bruce S., Race in Muslim West Africa, 1600–1960 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). A previous generation looking at accommodation between Africans and Europeans is represented by Robinson, David, Paths of Accommodation: Muslim Societies and French Colonial Authorities in Senegal and Mauritania, 1880–1920 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2000) and Clancy-Smith, Julia A., Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Populist Protest, Colonial Encounters (Algeria and Tunisia, 1800–1904) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994). A rereading of British indirect rule is provided in Moses, E. Ochonu, Colonialism by Proxy: Hausa Imperial Agents and Middle Belt Consciousness in Nigeria (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014). Violence in the colonial era is typically dealt with by military historians of Africa such as Reid, Richard J., Warfare in African History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012) and Stapleton, Timothy J., A Military History of Africa, vol. ii, The Colonial Period: From the Scramble for Africa to the Algerian Independence War (ca. 1870–1963) (Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2013). A fine reading of the sources, attentive to Africa’s diverse and historically varying economy, geography and society, will necessarily advance scholarship concerning the question of genocide. For example, Nigel Penn’s research on the San people of the Cape suggests that the European violence that decimated this hunter-gather people in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries served not only to break their armed resistance but also as part of British reformers’ efforts to transform them into pastoralists and Dutch settlers’ nakedly instrumental strategies to use the labour of surviving San women and children. Penn, Nigel, ‘The British and the “Bushmen”: The Massacre of the Cape San, 1795 to 1828’, Journal of Genocide Research 15.2 (2013), 183200. See also Adhikari, Mohamed, The Anatomy of a South African Genocide: The Extermination of the Cape San Peoples (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2011).

Bibliographical Essay

On violence in the modern Middle East see Bozarslan, Hamit ’s studies, including Une histoire de la violence au Moyen-Orient: de la fin de l’Empire ottoman à Al-Qaida (Paris: La Découverte, 2008). On urban violence, and the question of sectarian violence, see Freitag, Ulrike et al. (eds.), Urban Violence in the Middle East: Changing Cityscapes in the Transition from Empire to Nation-State (New York: Berghahn, 2015) and Ussama, S. Makdisi, The Culture of Sectarianism: Community, History, and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). Taking into account sacrifice and killing in human history as interpreted by René Girard, and including the Armenian genocide, see Sémelin, Jacques, Purify and Destroy: The Political Uses of Massacre and Genocide (London: Hurst, 2013; French original, 2005). On ‘tragic mind’ and suicidal readiness to kill see Bozarslan, Hamit, Violence in the Middle East: From Political Struggle to Self-Sacrifice (Princeton: Markus Wiener, 2004).

A general approach to religion and violence can be found in Juergensmeyer, Mark et al. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); instructive for the Cold War period is Paul, T. Chamberlin, The Cold War’s Killing Fields: Rethinking the Long Peace (New York: HarperCollins, 2018). A pioneering synopsis of religious aspects in the Armenian genocide and the Shoah is Bartov, Omer et al. (eds.), In God’s Name: Genocide and Religion in the Twentieth Century (New York: Berghahn, 2001). New insights into jihad in World War I are given in Zürcher, Erik-Jan (ed.), Jihad and Islam in World War I: Studies on the Ottoman Jihad on the Centenary of Snouck Hurgronje’s ‘Holy War Made in Germany’ (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2016).

Studies on modern Levant-centred eschatology include Kieser, Hans-Lukas, The Nearest East: American Millennialism and Mission to the Middle East (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010) and Shapira, Anita, ‘Ben-Gurion and the Bible: The Forging of an Historical Narrative?’, Middle Eastern Studies 33.4 (1997), 645–74. On Levant-centred Muslim eschatology see Cook, David, Contemporary Muslim Apocalyptic Literature (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), Filiu, Jean-Pierre, Apocalypse in Islam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011) and Filiu, , ‘The Return of Political Mahdism’, Current Trends in Islamist Ideology 8 (2009), 2638.

Studies on the 1894–6 and 1909 massacres, including forced conversions, are Verhej, Jelle, ‘Diyarbekir and the Armenian Crisis of 1895’, in Jongerden, Joost and Verheij, Jelle (eds.), Social Relations in Ottoman Diyarbekir 1870–1915 (Leiden: Brill, 2012), pp. 85146), Owen Robert Miller, ‘Sasun 1894: Mountains, Missionaries and Massacres at the end of the Ottoman Empire’, unpublished PhD thesis, Columbia University New York, 2015, and Etudes arméniennes contemporaines 2017, a thematic issue on ‘The Massacres of the Hamidian Period’. On forced conversion see Deringil, Selim, Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Literature on the Young Turk genocide of 1915–16 includes the comprehensive Kévorkian, Raymond, The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History (London: I. B. Tauris, 2011) (the 1909 Adana massacres are covered on pp. 71–117). For a list of literature, see Ronald Grigor Suny, ‘Armenian Genocide’, in 1914–1918-online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War (Berlin, 2015). On fatal acceptance, in the Lausanne Treaty, of domestic mass violence, and the role model of Turkish nationalism for interwar Germany, see Kieser, Hans-Lukas and Schaller, Dominik (eds.), The Armenian Genocide and the Shoah (Zurich: Chronos, 2002), Ihrig, Stefan, Atatürk in the Nazi Imagination (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014) and Ihrig, , Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016).

On the Great War as part of a larger cataclysm (1912–22) see Kieser, Hans-Lukas, Öktem, Kerem and Reinkowski, Maurus (eds.), World War I and the End of the Ottomans: From the Balkan Wars to the Armenian Genocide (London: I. B. Tauris, 2015). On Ziya Gökalp’s ideology and Talaat Pasha’s politics in that era see Kieser, Hans-Lukas, Talaat Pasha: Father of Modern Turkey, Architect of Genocide (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018). On the Balkan background see Yosmaoğlu, İpek, Religion, Violence, and the Politics of Nationhood in Ottoman Macedonia, 1878–1908 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014). On the Balkan Wars as a matrix of fear, revenge and violence see Ginio, Eyal, The Ottoman Culture of Defeat: The Balkan Wars and their Aftermath (London, Hurst, 2016). An analysis of denial and justification of violence by Turkish leaders is Göçek, Fatma M., Denial of Violence: Ottoman Past, Turkish Present, and Collective Violence against the Armenians, 1789–2009 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

Bibliographical Essay

It is somewhat surprising that the study of war violence is relatively new in research on the First World War. It was not until the 1970s and the publication of John Keegan’s groundbreaking volume The Face of Battle (New York: Penguin, 1976) that military historians began to describe the battlefield from the point of view of combatants and the effects of the new weapons of war – artillery, machine guns, flamethrowers, etc. – on soldiers’ bodies. According to Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker, in 14–18: Understanding the Great War (New York: Hill & Wang, 2003), this delay can be explained by historians’ reluctance to work on extreme violence and their inability to understand the concrete reality of combat. In a recent book – Combattre: une anthropologie historique de la guerre moderne (Paris: Seuil, 2008) – Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau also observes how difficult it was for social scientists (historians, sociologists) who had participated in the First World War to reflect on their own experience.

For a long time, it was the immense body of war literature, produced both during and after the war, that bore witness to the extreme violence of the First World War. Photographs, documentary films, artifacts and the material culture of the conflict also led historians – more accustomed to work on written sources than on images – to change their approach; see Rouzeau, Stéphane Audoin, Les armes et la chair: trois objets de mort en 1914–1918 (Paris: Armand Colin, 2009). With these newly rediscovered sources, the violence of war is now at the centre of historical research. Historians of the First World War have used several approaches to study the violence of war. Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane et al. (eds.), La violence de guerre, 1914–1945 (Paris: Editions Complexe, 2002) and Kassimeris, George (ed.), The Barbarization of Warfare (New York: New York University Press, 2006) compare the violence of war in the First and Second World Wars. Other books examine specific years in the Great War, identifying them as turning points in the escalation of war violence. See, for example, Horne, John (ed.), Vers la guerre totale: le tournant de 1914–1915 (Paris: Tallandier, 2010). Other historians have chosen to study specific battles, staying as close as possible to the experience of combatants. See Steg, Jean-Michel, Le jour le plus meurtrier de l’histoire de France, 22 août 1914 (Paris: Fayard, 2014) and Baldin, Damien and Saint-Fuscien, Emmanuel, Charleroi, 21–23 août 1914 (Paris: Tallandier, 2012) for the Battle of the Frontiers; also see Keegan, , The Face of Battle, for the Battle of the Somme, and Antoine Prost and Gerd Krumeich, Verdun 1916 (Paris: Tallandier, 2015).

On combat as a bodily experience, the groundbreaking book is Bourke, Joanna, An Intimate History of Killing: Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth-Century Warfare (London: Granta, 1999). On the medical history of the Great War, the literature has been deeply revitalised since the 2000s: see, for example, Delaporte, Sophie, Gueules cassées: les blessés de la face pendant la Grande Guerre (Paris: Noésis, 2001), and Harrison, Mark, The Medical War: British Military Medicine in the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010). On the violence of war and shell-shock, see the Journal of Contemporary History 35.1 (2000), special issue: ‘Shell-Shock’.

The history of war violence includes the histories of the representation of the enemy, the mobilisation of societies at war, and the motivations of combatants. The concept of ‘war culture’, introduced by Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau and Annette Becker in ‘Violence et consentement: la “culture de guerre” du premier conflit mondial’, in Jean-Pierre Rioux and Jean-François Sirinelli (eds.), Pour une histoire culturelle (Paris: Seuil, 1997), is at the core of this cultural approach. Also see Audoin-Rouzeau and Becker, 14–18:Understanding the Great War, and Alan Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Recent research has led to a re-evaluation of the impact of war violence on civilians during the First World War. These studies may focus on the violence of the invasion period in the summer of 1914 (Horne, John and Kramer, Alan, German Atrocities, 1914: A History of Denial (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001)), on sexual violence (Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane, L’enfant de l’ennemi (Paris: Aubier, 1995)), on violence in occupied countries (Becker, Annette, Oubliés de la Grande Guerre (Paris: Hachette, 2003)), on the Allied blockade of Germany, on violence committed against prisoners of war (Jones, Heather, Violence against Prisoners of War in the First World War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011)), or on the question of refugees.

There are a great number of books dedicated to the Armenian genocide, its origins, its specificity in the history of twentieth-century genocidal violence, the reactions of contemporaries, and the memory of genocide: see especially Bloxham, Donald, The Great Game of Genocide: Imperialism, Nationalism and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), Ihrig, Stefan, Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016), and Winter, Jay (ed.), America and the Armenian Genocide of 1915 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Finally, the idea of sortie de guerre which was introduced in France explores the processes and rhythms in which societies transition from war to peace. For a general approach, see Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane and Prochasson, Christophe (eds.), Sortir de la Grande Guerre: le monde et l’après-1918 (Paris: Tallandier, 2008). On the brutalisation of postwar societies, the standard book is Mosse, George, Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990). The question of demobilisation in France is discussed in Cabanes, Bruno, La victoire endeuillée: la sortie de guerre des soldats français, 1918–1920 (Paris: Seuil, 2004). On violence in postwar Germany, see Jones, Mark, Founding Weimar: Violence and the German Revolution of 1918–1919 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017). On the question of ‘war after the war’ in central Europe and in Russia, see Gerwarth, Robert and Horne, John (eds.), War in Peace: Paramilitary Violence after the Great War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Bibliographical Essay

While the Eastern Front now commonly figures as the epicentre of violence during World War II, scholars disagree on the nature and cause of this violence. In Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books, 2010), Timothy Snyder casts the German and the Soviet dictator as rival evils, jointly responsible for the suffering of millions. Michael Burleigh refers to the USSR and Nazi Germany as ‘brotherly enemies’, each the common foe of decent humankind (Moral Combat: A History of World War II [London: Harper, 2010], p. 76). Mark Edele and Michael Geyer’s co-authored piece oscillates between such neo-totalitarian framings and an insistence on the singularity of Nazi violence – a reflection perhaps of disagreements among the two contributing authors: Edele, Mark and Geyer, Michael, ‘States of Exception: The Nazi–Soviet War as a System of Violence, 1939–1945’, in Geyer, Michael and Fitzpatrick, Sheila (eds.), Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 345–95. On the other edge of the spectrum, Streit, Christian, in ‘Keine Kameraden’: Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen 1941–1945 (Paderborn: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1978), and the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, in Heer, Hannes and Naumann, Klaus (eds.), War of Extermination: The German Military in World War II (New York: Berghahn, 2000), have spearheaded research that explains Germany’s war of annihilation in terms of colonial imperialism, anti-Semitism and anti-communism. For an excellent synthesis, see Browning, Christopher, The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939–March 1942 (New York: HarperCollins, 2007). Hanebrink’s, Paul A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018) makes a more pointed contribution by showing how in the wake of World War I anti-communist fears became fused with a longstanding history of anti-Semitism to spark a new, genocidal war. Klaus-Michael Mallmann makes the important point that Soviet Jews in the Nazi imagination, as instigators and carriers of a ‘Jewish Bolshevik terror regime’, differed from Jews elsewhere in Europe. The war against the Soviet Union, he points out, began with designs for a ‘final solution of Bolshevism’. ‘Only with the conflation of two central images of the enemy – Jews and communism – and their mutual imbrication and reinforcement did a genocidal dynamic arise.’ Mallmann, Klaus-Michael, ‘Die Türöffner der “Endlösung”. Zur Genesis des Genozids’, in Paul, Gerhard and Mallmann, Klaus-Michael (eds.), Die Gestapo im Zweiten Weltkrieg: Die ‘Heimatfront’ und besetztes Europa (Darmstadt: Primus, 2000), pp. 437–63, at 443–4.

Earlier histories of the Holocaust insisted on a rigid distinction between war and genocide and imagined the Holocaust apart from other horrors perpetrated during World War II. By contrast, recent studies are sensitive to the intricate dynamic between ethnic prejudice and war, and they embed the mass murder of Jews into the history of the Second World War; see, for instance, Bartov’s, Omer locally grounded study, Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018). Several recent studies have called attention to the Soviet victims of the Holocaust; see Arad, Yitzhak, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009); and Yad Vashem’s online platform, ‘The Untold Stories: The Murder Sites of the Jews in the Occupied Territories of the Former USSR’,

Nazi violence rested in good measure on the elaboration of a distinct Nazi morality – one sanctifying German culture, and necessitating the eradication of ‘Jewish’ universality; see Koonz, Claudia, The Nazi Conscience (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), Michaud, Eric, The Cult of Art in Nazi Germany (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004) and Gross, Raphael, Anständig geblieben: Nationalsozialistische Moral (Frankfurt: Fischer Verlag, 2010). For the Soviet side, historians have barely begun to historicise Stalinist wartime morality. Many studies favour liberal projection over historical understanding: Overy, Richard, author of Why the Allies Won (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996), writes that the Anti-Hitler Alliance functioned as a moral coalition ‘only to the extent that the West was able to suppress or at least lighten their [Soviet] ally’s dark image’ (p. 296). In line with this view, scholars understand Soviet wartime documentations of Nazi violence predominantly as politically motivated atrocity propaganda; see Marina, I. Sorokina, ‘People and Procedures: Toward a History of the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in the USSR’, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 6.4 (2005), 797831, and Berkhoff, Karel, Motherland in Danger: Soviet Propaganda during World War II (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012). However, when placed into the wider context of wartime documentation across Nazi-occupied Europe, Soviet documentary efforts no longer appear unique. Everywhere in Europe, Nazi violence prompted initiatives among occupied populations to record acts of violence in order to solicit support in the struggle against Nazism. Everywhere records of German violence were created for the purposes of mobilising readers into action. See Jockusch, Laura, Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) and Farmer, Sarah Bennett, Martyred Village: Commemorating the 1944 Massacre at Oradour-sur-Glane (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

By May 1943, 80 per cent of the Red Army’s personnel had reportedly participated in at least one of more than a thousand ritualised Meetings of Vengeance, held on sites where Germans had tortured and killed Soviet civilians (Brandon Schechter, The Stuff of Soldiers: A History of the Red Army in World War II through Objects (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2019), p. 112). Mark Edele makes a strong case for the revenge thesis, by pointing out that all Allied soldiers were more likely to rape German women than those of other nationalities, and that the Red Army was particularly fierce among the occupiers of Germany. Edele, Mark, ‘Soviet Liberations and Occupations, 1939–1949’, in Richard, J. B. Bosworth and Maiolo, Joseph A. (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Second World War, vol. ii (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp. 487508, at 492–4. Even those historians who support the revenge thesis do so mostly on political grounds; they portray the soldiers as stirred up by a propaganda of hatred and skirt the issue of personal experience. Oleg Budnitskii tries to discount the revenge thesis by arguing that some Jewish Soviet officers whose families had been killed by Nazis practised restraint, while many soldiers who did not suffer personal losses raped German women; see Budnitskii, Oleg, ‘The Intelligentsia Meets the Enemy: Educated Soviet Officers in Defeated Germany, 1945’, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 10.3 (2009), 629–82. And yet his study reads as a sustained demonstration of the workings of a Soviet morality shaped by the experience of Nazi violence and summed up in the dictum, ‘We’re not Germans.’

Bibliographical Essay

Studies of violence and the Japanese empire are rich in Japan. Particularly since the early 1980s too many monographs to be listed have tackled this topic, inspired by the dispute over the textbook description of Japan’s wartime aggression. These studies examine such topics as the Nanjing Massacre, Japan’s chemical and biological warfare, slave labour of Chinese and Koreans in Japan, Japanese colonial exploitations in East and South Asia, mistreatment of Allied prisoners of war, violence against women, and indiscriminate bombing of cities. Takashi Yoshida’s ‘Historiography of the Asia-Pacific War in Japan’, Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, published in June 2008 ( summarises the study of Japan’s war crimes in Japan. For those who are able to read Japanese, Kikan sensô sekinin kenkyû [Study on Japan’s War Responsibility], currently published twice a year, gives up-to-date scholarly articles on violence and the Japanese empire. Scholars in Japan continue to discover new materials that enable us to expand our knowledge on the topic.

While a few books on violence and the Japanese empire were published in English, such as Saburô’s, Ienaga The Pacific War, 1931–45 (New York: Pantheon, 1978) prior to the 1980s, studies in English language on this topic has been growing since the mid 1990s. Harris’s, Sheldon Factories of Death: Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932–45, and the American Cover-Up (New York: Routledge, 1994) examines Japan’s biological warfare during the war, and is primarily based on English-language sources such as the American archival documents at the National Archives. Brian Victoria analysed the role of the Sôtô school of Buddhism during the war and its priests’ war responsibility in his Zen at War (New York: Whetherhill, 1997). Joshua Fogel edited the first scholarly book on the study of the Nanjing Massacre in history and historiography: The Nanjing Massacre in History and Historiography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). Suzanne O’Brien translated Yoshimi Yoshiaki’s Jûgun ianfu, which was published as Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military during World War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002). In 2007, Wakabayashi, Bob published The Nanking Atrocity, 1937–38: Complicating the Picture (New York: Berghahn, 2007), providing scholarship on what happened in Nanjing and challenging the problematic narrative set forth in Iris Chang’s best-selling The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (New York: Basic Books, 1997).

Despite the fact that the publications on Japan’s war crimes and atrocities have been growing, far more scholarly books have been published on World War II and memory in postwar Japan. They include Yoneyama, Lisa, Hiroshima Traces: Time, Space, and the Dialectics of Memory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); Orr, James, The Victim as Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001); Fujitani, T., White, G. and Yoneyama, L., Perilous Memories: The Asia Pacific War(s) (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001); Yoshida’s, Takashi The Making of the ‘Rape of Nanking’: History and Memory in Japan, China, and the United States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); Gluck, Carol, ‘Operations of Memory: “Comfort Women” and the World’, in Miyoshi, S. and Mitter, R. (eds.), Ruptured Histories: War, Memory, and the Post-Cold War in Asia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), pp. 4777; and Seraphim, Franziska ’s War Memory and Social Politics in Japan, 1945–2005 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2007).

Compared with scholarly accounts, non-scholarly accounts and websites on violence and the Japanese empire are already abundant and widely available. These non-scholarly accounts, whether written in Chinese, English, Japanese or Korean, tend to provide simple dichotomous narratives between good and evil. While the scholarly books listed above certainly have strengths and weaknesses, many of these books try to go beyond this nation-state oriented analysis.

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