Quotulatiousness

April 15, 2017

Charles Joseph Minard

Filed under: Europe, France, History, Russia — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I first encountered Charles Joseph Minard’s best-known work in Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information in the late 1980s:

The map’s French caption reads:

Figurative Map of the successive losses in men of the French Army in the Russian campaign 1812-1813.

Drawn up by M. Minard, Inspector General of Bridges and Roads in retirement. Paris, November 20, 1869.

The numbers of men present are represented by the widths of the colored zones at a rate of one millimeter for every ten-thousand men; they are further written across the zones. The red [now brown] designates the men who enter into Russia, the black those who leave it. —— The information which has served to draw up the map has been extracted from the works of M. M. Thiers, of Segur, of Fezensac, of Chambray, and the unpublished diary of Jacob, pharmacist of the army since October 28th. In order to better judge with the eye the diminution of the army, I have assumed that the troops of prince Jerome and of Marshal Davoush who had been detached at Minsk and Moghilev and have rejoined around Orcha and Vitebsk, had always marched with the army.

The scale is shown on the center-right, in “lieues communes de France” (common French league) which is 4,444m (2.75 miles).

The lower portion of the graph is to be read from right to left. It shows the temperature on the army’s return from Russia, in degrees below freezing on the Réaumur scale. (Multiply Réaumur temperatures by 1¼ to get Celsius, e.g. −30°R = −37.5 °C) At Smolensk, the temperature was −21° Réaumur on November 14th.
(Image and translation from Wikimedia)

In National Geographic, Betsy Mason reveals more about the man who created the “best graphic ever produced”:

Charles Joseph Minard’s name is synonymous with an outstanding 1869 graphic depicting the horrific loss of life that Napoleon’s army suffered in 1812 and 1813, during its invasion of Russia and subsequent retreat. The graphic (below), which is often referred to simply as “Napoleon’s March” or “the Minard graphic,” rose to its prominent position in the pantheon of data visualizations largely thanks to praise from one of the field’s modern giants, Edward Tufte. In his 1983 classic text, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Tufte declared that Napoleon’s March “may well be the best statistical graphic ever produced.”

Today Minard is revered in the data-visualization world, commonly mentioned alongside other greats such as John Snow, Florence Nightingale, and William Playfair. But Minard’s legacy has been almost completely dominated by his best-known work. In fact, it may be more accurate to say that Napoleon’s March is his only widely known work. Many fans of the March have likely never even seen the graphic that Minard originally paired it with: a visualization of Hannibal’s famous military campaign in 218 BC, as seen in the image below.

Graphic information of the men losses in the raid of the troops of Hannibal from Spain to Italy (Wikimedia)

On its face, it may not seem remarkable that Minard is remembered for this one piece of work; after all, many people owe their fame to a single great achievement, and the Napoleon graphic is certainly worthy of its reputation. But Minard was most definitely not a one-hit wonder.

April 11, 2017

What is NATO?

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 25 Sep 2014

April 4, 2017

Tank Chats #4 Vickers Armstrongs Type E

Filed under: Britain, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 15 Apr 2015

The fourth in a series of short films about some of the vehicles in our collection presented by The Tank Museum’s historian David Fletcher MBE.

Alongside their work for the British armed forces Vickers-Armstrongs produced military equipment for foreign buyers. Their earliest commercial tank designs failed to sell but in 1928 they produced a masterpiece. Known as the 6-ton or ‘six-tonner’, it was a remarkable design, with a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine driving to a gearbox and track sprockets at the front of the tank. There were two main variants; some tanks were supplied with two machine-gun turrets (Type A) while others carried a larger single turret (Type B) like our exhibit.

Following trials the British Army turned it down but the tank was a major export success. It sold all around the world, from South America to Japan and was even studied by the United States Army. It was built under licence in Russia (see our T-26 exhibit) and influenced tank design in many other countries. Our exhibit is displayed in the fancy camouflage style adopted by Vickers for their commercial offerings; it is seen at a mythical army equipment exhibition some time in the thirties.

Shortly before World War II Vickers built a new version, powered by a Rolls-Royce engine (the Mark F) but this failed to sell. Subsequent to this the government of Siam (Thailand) placed a repeat order but specified the original Armstrong-Siddeley engine. These were completed closer to the Mark F design but few, if any, reached their destination. With the outbreak of war the British Government impounded all commercial tanks still in the factories and the remaining stock of six-tonners, of which this is one, were used by British forces for training.

April 1, 2017

Catherine the Great – Lies – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, History, Russia — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 11 Mar 2017

Catherine the Great ruled for many years – too many for a six episode show to cover completely. James talks about the mistakes we made and the stories we left out!

March 31, 2017

Lenin Takes The Train – First Battle of Gaza I THE GREAT WAR Week 140

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 30 Mar 2017

When the Russian government promises to continue the war and support the Entente with another offensive, the Germans are allowing Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov aka Lenin to board a train from his exile in Switzerland to Russia. The British Army once again underestimates the Ottoman Empire at the 1st Battle of Gaza and the Toplica Uprising ends.

March 27, 2017

Catherine the Great – VI: Succession – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Russia — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 4 Mar 2017

The optimism that marked Catherine the Great’s early years turned on its head. She oversaw the partition and final dissolution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. She also alienated her son in the same way her own mother once did, leaving him ill-equipped to succeed her.

March 24, 2017

Kaiser Karl Wants Peace – The Sixtus Affair I THE GREAT WAR Week 139

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 23 Mar 2017

The First World War & The Death of the Habsburg Empire: http://www.boehlau-verlag.com/download/163983/978-3-205-79588-9_1_OpenAccess.pdf

Since Kaiser Karl I ascended the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire he was not happy with the progression of the war. He felt that his empire was tied to their German ally more than necessary and this week 100 years ago he was starting a process of secret negotiations for a separate peace with the Entente. At the same time the British had increasing problems at the home front and the chaos in Russia continued.

March 21, 2017

Catherine the Great – V: Potemkin, Catherine’s General, Advisor, and Lover – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, History, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 25 Feb 2017

Catherine had many lovers during her life, but perhaps none meant so much to her as Grigory Potemkin. Although their romance did not last a lifetime, it did form the basis of a working relationship that would change the face (and future) of Europe.

March 18, 2017

Catherine the Great – IV: Reforms, Rebellion, and Greatness – Extra History

Filed under: Europe, Government, History, Law, Russia — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 18 Feb 2017

Catherine had great ambitions to reform Russia according to her own highest ideals, but she soon found that the reality of governance made those ideals difficult to achieve. She also found herself tangled in war, rebellion, and (scandalously) smallpox.

March 17, 2017

The Tsar Abdicates – Baghdad Falls I THE GREAT WAR Week 138

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 16 Mar 2017

The protests that emerged in Russia this week are growing stronger and the Tsar is increasingly isolated until even his generals are pushing for his abdication. And after 300 years of Romanov rule, Tsar Nicholai II abdicates and when his brother refuses to take up the throne, the dynasty is no more. Meanwhile in the Middle East, the British are taking Baghdad effectively seizing control over a large area.

March 11, 2017

Catherine the Great – III: Empress Catherine at Last – Extra History

Filed under: History, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Feb 11, 2017

When the conspiracy to seat Catherine on the throne of Russia was exposed, she had to move quickly. While Peter III blundered through a day of miscommunications, Catherine swiftly seized power, secured the loyalty of the army, and demanded his abdication.

March 10, 2017

The Russian February Revolution 1917 I THE GREAT WAR Week 137

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 9 Mar 2017

Food shortages, an overall desolate supply situation and great political turmoil make Russia ripe for revolution and this week 100 years ago, the people take to the streets. The US adopts a policy of armed neutrality.

March 8, 2017

History Of The Cossacks Until World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 7 Mar 2017

The Cossacks are surrounded my myths and legends. For some they were the “Tsar’s dogs” for others they were more comparable to the cowboys of the Wild West. In any case, their history and culture is unique and is deeply intertwined with the rise and end of the Romanov dynasty. And that’s why we are taking a look further back than usual to introduce to the Cossacks.

March 7, 2017

Russia Before the 1917 Revolution I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 6 Mar 2017

Russia’s history in the decades leading up to World War 1 where a time of great turmoil and social changes. The Romanov tsars held a tight grip on the country which remained an autocracy even though the people requested change. And by 1917, three years into World War 1, the people demanded change again.

March 2, 2017

Possible end-game for the British nuclear deterrent

Filed under: Britain, Military, Russia, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Charles Stross speculates on a few ways that Il Donalduce could trigger the end of Britain’s nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines:

Working hypothesis #1: Donald Trump is an agent of influence of Moscow. Less alarmingly: Putin’s people have got blackmail material on the current President and this explains his willingness to pursue policies favourable to the Kremlin. Russian foreign policy is no longer ideologically dominated by communism, but focusses on narrow Russian interests as a regional hegemonic power and primary oil and gas exporter.

Clearly, it is not in Russia’s geopolitical interest to allow a small, belligerent neighbor to point strategic nuclear missiles at Moscow. But this neighbor’s nuclear capability has a single point of failure in the shape of the resupply arrangements under the 1958 UK-USA Agreement. Donald Trump has made no bones about his willingness to renegotiate existing treaties in the USA’s favor, and has indicated that he wants to modernise and expand the US strategic nuclear capability. Existing nuclear weapons modernization programs make the first goal pointless (thanks, Obama!) but he might plausibly try to withdraw British access to Trident D-5 in order to justify commissioning four new US Navy SSBNs to carry the same missiles and warheads.

(Yes, this would break the “special relationship” between the USA and the UK for good — but remember, this is Donald Trump we’re talking about: the original diplomatic bull in a china shop who decapitated the state department in his first month in office.)

Trump could present this as delivering on his promise to expand the US nuclear capability, while handing his buddy a gift-wrapped geopolitical easter egg.

Working hypothesis #2: Let us suppose that Donald Trump isn’t a Russian agent of influence. He might still withdraw, or threaten, British access to Trident as a negotiation lever in search of a better trade deal with the UK, when Theresa May or her successor comes cap-in-hand to Washington DC in the wake of Brexit. It’s a clear negative sum game for the British negotiating side — you can have a nuclear deterrent, or a slightly less unpalatable trade deal, but not both.

In this scenario, Trump wouldn’t be following any geopolitical agenda; he’d just be using the British Trident renewal program as a handy stick to beat an opponent with, because Trump doesn’t understand allies: he only understands supporters and enemies.

As for how fast the British Trident force might go away …

Missiles don’t have an indefinite shelf-life: they need regular servicing and maintenance. By abrogating the 1958 agreement, or banning Royal Navy warships from retrieving or delivering UGM-133s from the common stockpile at King’s Bay, POTUS could rely on the currently-loaded missiles becoming unreliable or unsafe to launch within a relatively short period of time — enough for trade negotiations, perhaps, but too short to design and procure even a temporary replacement. It’s unlikely that French M51 missiles could be carried aboard Dreadnought-class SSBNs without major design changes to the submarines, even if they were a politically viable replacement (which, in the wake of Brexit, they might well not be).

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