The whole exchange has been a mix of amazing and challenging. The subjects I'd chosen turned out to be for the most part fascinating. The course studying European Great Power politics and diplomacy from 1871 to August 1914 with Prof. Holger Afflerbach was really interesting, and it was great to delve into the Bismarckian era and the years leading up to the Great War. I think the title of the module, 'Doomed to Failure?' sums up the approach of the course. Additionally to filling in some gaps in my understanding of European History, I was able to focus upon my proposed area of specialisation - namely the French Third Republic. I completed a paper on the Boulanger Crisis, which is a fascinating period of French history - Prof. Afflerbach went so far as to refer to General Boulanger as the Hitler who never was. It is interesting to imagine how European history would look if there had been a Weimar republic official as willing and able to suppress the Nazi party in the 1930s as French Minister of the Interior Emile Combes was the Boulangists.
The second subject I took was Catholic Europe, 1571-1648. This subject, while somewhat interesting, was much less involved with secular issues like the Dutch Revolt and the Thirty Years War and much more with Church reform. Not the most thrilling, and I'm not really looking forward to the exam for this subject. 16th century matrimonial reform is not really my thing I'm afraid. Nonetheless, I again had the chance to investigate areas which were of interest to me in an essay, and i'm now much more firmly acquainted with the French Wars of Religion, Henri IV and the early stages of the Thirty Years War.
The their subject was my favourite. It dealt with the later 'Barbarian' invasions, namely the Anglo-Saxons, Lombards, Slavs and Vikings. This course was run but the unbelievably knowledgeable - and friendly - Dr. Ian Wood. The course took a very critical approach, incorporating cutting edge archaeological and historical research, and just seemed to click for me. My only regret is that I didn't have a chance to take the first semester course dealing with the earlier groups such as Franks and Goths. It's definitely enthused me to get back into painting up Late Romans on my return, and I'm waiting with baited breath for the upcoming Lardies set Dux Britanniarum, which is aimed at the Anglo-Saxon conquest period.
Well, so much for university. Life in Leeds has been interesting, up until about a month ago my mate Steve was living in Manchester, and it was great to be able to catch up with him. It's also been sanity-saving to have Laura here with me. Our apartment is really quite small, we've been living as cheaply as possible to maximise our spending money when travelling, and it rains. A lot. I saw a t-shirt in town the other day that about sums up the weather around here, it said 'It's grim up North'. Nonetheless, the people are friendly and a couple of things, the Royal Armouries museum and Kirkstall Abbey among them, has really helped to more than make up for the less than wonderful weather. Unfortunately, the accommodation and travel costs meant that my planned trip to Salute was a no-go, but I'm heading to Triples next Saturday and am very keen to see a UK convention, and meet up with some friends to put some faces to names.
From mid-March to mid-April, Laur and I left the UK and did a bit of travelling, we went to Stockholm, the little town of Abisko in the north of Sweden, Berlin, Budapest and Paris, spending about a week in each country. It was all pretty amazing, - seeing the Northern Lights in the middle of a frozen lake 300 miles north of the Arctic circle is an experience which cannot be put into words - but perhaps of more in line with this blog are the military and other museums and site which we visited. I should probably mention here that I do happen to have to most wonderful, long suffering fiancee. Laura's happily travelled with me to pretty much every military museum in every city we've been to, and yesterday she not only spent four hours wandering around the RAF Museum at Hendon, but came with me on a 4 hour either way coach ride. I'm a very lucky man :)
So, here's what I'm planning on doing. I've taken a whole load of pictures during my visits to museums and sites, and was thinking of putting up some images / reviews / overviews of these. Let me know if there is anything that you want more pictures of, as i've probably got them here (thus far i've taken a grand total of over 7,000 photographs). I'm thinking of the following order:
Armemuseum and Historiska Museum Stockholm
Vikings, Vikings, Vikings, Gustaf II Adolf and the Thirty Years' War, Karl XII and the Great Northern War, the earliest surviving european gun and more bits and pieces. Oh, and did i mention Vikings?
Deutsches Historisches Museum and Schloß Sanssouci, Berlin (and Potsdam)
Amazing collection of 'German' historical objects, including loads of medieval armour and weaponry, a big Seven Years' War collection including Frederick the Great's uniform and personal effects, Napoleonic stuff including an Austrian Regimental Standard and some Westphalian uniforms - oh, and Napoleon's hat captured at Waterloo, as well as all manner of Bismarckian, WWI, and WWII gear.
I should say in advance that Berlin is an amazing city, and that between the DHM and a visit to Sanssouci, my 'first love' of Seven Years' War has been rekindled, and i'm planning on diving into this project on my return. I've actually already ordered a bunch of figures from Frank at Minden, including Frederick, Seydlitz and Ziethen, some Prussian grenadiers and enough dragoons to make up the 5th Bayreuth dragoon regiment - from which i derive my nom de plume, ansbachdragoner! At the moment i'm still tossing up between Black Powder and the newly released Sam Mustafa set, Maurice for my project. Either way, i'll be basing 24 figure battalions and 8 (12 for the oversize Bayreuth dragoons) for cavalry. My plan is to build up a Prussian and an Austrian divisional force to try to get the guys at club into Horse and Musket gaming. It might also be a good segue into Napoleonics :D.
Military Museum and National Museum, Budapest.
So much stuff here I'm thinking i may need to break it up into a couple of posts. Everything from Huns, Late Roman helmets - including the famous jewel encrusted number which i used for inspiration for my Late Roman commander - Avars, Seven Years war and Napoleonic Hussars and infantry, 1848-49 Revolt, First and Second world war, 1956 revolt. These places were just astonishing.
Les Invalides, Paris.
Seven Years War, SO MUCH Napoleonic stuff - uniforms, standards, weapons, even Napoleon's horse, Napoleon III and Franco Prussian war gear, French Colonial and Armee d'Afrique, as well as WWI, WWII. Amazing collections, and it's been rejigged since my last visit in 2008. Fascinating and amazing collections.
Royal Armouries, Leeds.
Quite a large and eclectic collection. Everything from Hundred Years' War armour and weapons, English Civil war stuff, Culloden artefacts, to a large part of Siborne's iconic Waterloo diorama and Napoleonic sabres and muskets of honour, WWI and WWII weapons and gear, and even a full suit of elephant armour from India.
RAF Museum, London.
So many iconic aircraft, obviously the Spitfires and Hurricances, Lancasters, and B-17Gs, but also the last surviving Typhoon, a Sunderland flying boat, Lysander, Auster, Beaufighter - and then the Stuka, P-51, Heinkel He-111, Ju-88, a bunch of Me-109s, a Focke-Wulf FW-190 and that's just the WWII stuff - there heaps, heaps more.
Just as a little bit of a taster, and so as this update isn't just one long essay, here are a few pictures from the York Castle Museum.
York Castle Museum, York.
York Castle museum is really good, but it's primary focus is not on castle related things, being more focused on social history. If you're interested in this side of the museum, check out my travel blog. Either way, it's well worth a visit, being well set out and a pleasure to wander through. There are also quite a few bits and pieces related to military history. In the replica victorian era street there is a 'Gentleman's outfitters', which has a window display of regimental uniforms. There was a collection of Naval weaponry from the 18th century, some armour and weaponry from the English Civil war, including the buff coat of the Parliamentary commander Sir Thomas Fairfax. Finally, there was a collection of WWII British uniforms and weapons - Army, Auxiliary services, Paratroop regiment and RAF. I've also included a picture of a Roman military gravestone from the York Historical Museum! This was my first museum photo taking experience, and my apologies for the sightly dodgy quality of some of the images. Believe me, I've improved and have gotten to know the camera a lot better.
Photos: 1) York Castle Museum. 2) Roman military gravestone. 3) Late Victorian era storefront 'regimentals' display. 4) Regimental cap. I think that this may be artillery - it has a cannon on the badge anyway. 5) Artistic weaponry display, mostly ECW stuff and earlier. Apparently this was a quite popular of displaying your prestige in the post ECW period. 6) A blunderbuss carbine from 1716 in the naval display. 7) Another blunderbuss, cavalry sabre and pistol from early 19th century. 8-9) English Civil war display. 10) Fairfax's buff coat. 11) WWII Auxiliary services L to R: Air raid warden, Royal observer corps, and Womens' voluntary service. 12) Airborne, Tropical and 1944 Infantry uniforms and equipment. 13) Infantry weapons. 14) RAF and 1940 infantry uniform. 15-16) 24pdr and me being an idiot!
Oh, and the picture at the top of this post is the York Castle, or what's left of it. It is Clifford's Tower, the surviving keep, located in the middle of a carpark!
Anyway, that's it for now. Let me know if you've got any suggestions or if this sounds like a good idea, and if it seems like people would be interested i'll try to get the Stockholm one up in the next week.