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SeanF

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  1. SeanF

    History in Books

    The big inaccuracy is that the Spanish regular army was useless, and fell apart on contact with the French. That’s thanks to historians like Napier and Southey, and really started with Wellington’s denunciations of them. Wellington’s biographers tend to portray the Anglo-Portuguese field army as winning the war single-handed ( with aid from the partidas). Bear in mind, Wellington complained about virtually everything, including the British officers, cavalry, and foot soldiers. Most Spanish historians give little credit to their regular army, because they’re mostly left wing, and view the army through the prism of Franco’s government. The partidas tend to be given more credit than they deserve, and overlooked is that the best partida units were regular soldiers fighting in irregular fashion, like the Boers, after 1900. Spanish historians praise the partidas as a popular uprising. In fact, the Spanish army’s performance, with two exceptions, was quite creditable. It was heavily outnumbered, underfunded, many of its commanders were keen but incompetent, and at the outset of the war, in 1808, it entirely resembled the British Army of 1794/5. Yet, by 1813-14, hardened by battle, funded by British money, it was pretty much on a par with the Anglo-Portuguese. Overall, about 55% of casualties suffered by the French were inflicted by the Spanish army, 33% by Anglo-Portuguese, 12% by Partidas. The two big problems with the Spanish army were a terrible cavalry arm, and an awful commissariat, riddled with corruption.
  2. SeanF

    History in Books

    For sure. Doing my MA on the Peninsular War has made me realise how wrong some of the historiography is.
  3. SeanF

    History in Books

    Most novelists would not have the time to study unpublished primary sources in the way that a professional historian does. They can read published primary sources, but those are often filled with bias, even when they purport to be impartial, such as Procopius, or Napier’s history of the Peninsular War. Mostly, the historical novelist is dependent on good secondary sources. There’s no doubt that someone like Bernard Cornwall is well-versed in the historiography of the periods he sets his novels in, but sometimes the historiography is wrong.
  4. You're right about the joylessness. This is a tale about royal and aristocratic folks, in a quasi-medieval world set at war. Of course, the world outlook of every one of these characters is going to be very different to that of middle class folks in a prosperous modern liberal democracy. Martin has created a pastiche of medieval Europe, but even had he depicted it with perfect accuracy (and how could one tell?), these people would have very different values to our own. Condemning people for being "entitled", for using violence to settle political disputes, for believing men are superior to women, that the aristocracy is born to rule, just seems plain silly to me, given that in this world, pretty well everyone believes such things. Either it's simply a device to bash characters that the poster doesn't like, instead of just saying "I don't like X", while giving a pass to characters they do like, or else one can only wonder what pleasure they could actually derive from reading this tale. One can argue that there are characters who are more enlightened than the norm, or less enlightened, but one has to cut them a good deal of slack for the circumstances of their world being very different to the circumstances of our own (at least, in the West). What do people believe? That men are superior to women (even powerful women can't entirely shake off what they've been brought up to believe. Even in as relatively enlightened a place as Dorne, Arianne thinks any man she marries will be co-ruler, not just consort); that one's bloodline guarantees one the right to rule ("there must always be a Stark in Winterfell", does not depend on that Stark being a good person); that the lives of the Smallfolk are not as important as those of the highborn (some characters like Arya, Dany, Ned, Edmure, Catelyn would disagree, but most would not); opinions on slavery do vary between and within societies, and crucially, whether one is a slave or a master; in war, cities that offer resistance will be sacked , and the smallfolk of the enemy are fair game for pillage (a humane commander will try to prevent murder and rape, but pillage still causes starvation); hostage-taking, the use of torture, and employing child soldiers may be crimes under the Geneva Conventions, but are entirely normative in this world; traitors face execution. If reading about such things is "problematic" then this is probably not a series that such a reader will derive any enjoyment from.
  5. The App confirms Mirri Maz Duur killed Rhaego for revenge.
  6. Either it means pre-pubescent boys, which would be gross, or else ephebes. Given that LF supplies him with boys, of whatever age, I suspect there is pretty dubious consent.
  7. His advice is certainly shrewd and pragmatic, but also horribly callous (eg selling children into brothels, driving away non-combatant freedmen, sailing away and leaving freedmen to sink or swim).
  8. Daenerys hasn't even shaken off that mentality as of ADWD. She refers to Hizdahr as her "Lord Husband", as if she's the lesser in the relationship. I do think Drogo came to love her in his way, but she was in no sense an equal, or anything more than his trophy wife.
  9. I think it largely was. I believe Illyrio when he describes Daenerys as "frightened and furtive" when she arrived at his manse. Viserys had been hitting her, belittling her, groping her, for quite some time. Later, she learns to mask her fears. Daenerys is good at pretending confidence outwardly, when in reality, she's riddled with worry and self-doubt.
  10. Allegations of abuse of power cover a very wide spectrum, from rape at one end, to genuinely affectionate relationships at the other, but where one person is more powerful than the other. I think that branding all such relationships as disgraceful really does no justice to the range of human sexual experience. What jars with Dany/Drogo to me is not so much the marriage per se, or the wedding night, as the fact she was nearly driven to suicide by his behaviour, and later, can only persuade him to give Viserys his horse back by performing bed tricks for him. I can’t see such things as romantic, even though the author sees their relationship as a genuine romance. By way of comparison, if we learned that Sansa was able to secure better treatment for a prominent Stark prisoner only by giving head to her husband, I think we’d be disgusted with Tyrion. What it seems *to me* is that life with Viserys was so bad, that Daenerys hugely romanticised her time with Drogo, by comparison.
  11. There’s values dissonance on just about everything. I think most readers can bring themselves to accept that same-sex marriage is not a thing in this tale, but a surprising number seem to think that the Geneva Conventions ought to apply in this world. I’m afraid every leader (not just Tywin), including Ned Stark, would be branded a war criminal, by the standards of a modern Western country, fighting limited wars. And of course, such standards are completely anachronistic to people in a medieval world at war. As to children, I assume that 12 in this world is basically 16/17 in ours. Teenage soldiers are common, and Jon, Joffrey, Robb, and Dany are considered legitimate targets by their enemies.
  12. Once they appealed for aid to every claimant to the Iron Throne; welcomed, fed, and provisioned Stannis and his men; elected Jon Snow in place of Janos Slynt, they had become enemies to the government in Kings Landing, in the eyes of that government. Neutrality was over and done. Tywin was willing to see Mance invade the North, and Cersei planned to assassinate Jon. The battle lines were already drawn, at the point that Jon became Lord Commander. You can’t remain neutral when you are already seen as an enemy.
  13. Sure, but that’s not in the wording of the Oath. Nights Watch neutrality is a tradition, and traditions change.
  14. A silly contrivance was not wearing armour so that Jon could stab her. Of course a dragon rider woukd have armour.
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