The revolutions of 1848 were a truly European event. We’ve seen how the spark from Paris also set Germany ablaze. Part of that Germany was Austria, the German-speaking part of the Habsburg monarchy. Yet the Habsburgs also ruled over vast non-German territories: Their rich holdings in northern Italy provided a third of the total tax income. Hungary had been essential for Habsburg power projections into the Balkans for centuries. Both the Italians and the Hungarians – and also Czechs and Galicians – yearned to shake off Habsburg domination and chart their own national destinies.Continue reading
Category Archives: History in board games
Black-Red-Gold (1848, #2)
When news of the February Revolution in Paris reached Germany, the liberals, nationalists, and radicals which had chafed under the post-Napoleonic restauration of the old order were ecstatic. They quickly set out to make their own revolutions. Soon, they reached complicated and interlocking questions of statehood and nationhood which needed answers – and, as the military interventions in Baden, Denmark, and Poland showed, the defenders of the old order still had an ace up their sleeves.Continue reading
The Spark of Revolution (1848, #1)
Popular protest is a classic tool to bring about political change. Sometimes the protests are successful – like the revolutions against Communist rule in Eastern Europe in 1989. Sometimes they are put down (like the Prague Spring had been in 1968). Sometimes, the result is mixed – the Euromaidan protests in Kiev during the winter of 2013/14 strengthened democracy in the country by removing its autocratic president Viktor Yanukovych, but the Ukrainians paid a steep price for their freedoms as Vladimir Putin took the removal of his vassal Yanukovych unkindly and has been attempting to dismantle Ukraine since then. And sometimes, the success of revolution is still in the air – like in Iran, where large crowds have been protesting for the last months against their fundamentalist government’s meddling in private affairs.
As these examples show, success and failure are sometimes not so easy to assess. They also demonstrate that protest is often limited to a few cities or one country. Only rarely does revolution leap from one place to another. The closest Europe has ever come to a revolutionary conflagration was 175 years ago, in 1848. This post traces the roots of these revolutions to the French Revolution, takes a look at the restaurationist interlude and the mounting political pressures before 1848, and then looks at the outbreak of revolution in the Paris of February 1848. With that, the stage is set for the 1848 series of posts on this blog!Continue reading
The Expansion (Early Islam, #3)
Welcome back to the third and last part of our exploration of early Islam in history and (this time, more) board games! We’ve already seen the power of Muhammad’s revelation and his shrewd statecraft. Now, at Muhammad’s death, we find Arabia united under the banner of Islam. Today, we’ll look at the succession of Muhammad in Arabia, the campaigns for Syria and Iraq, and finally, Islamic expansion into the wider world.Continue reading
A “Third-Rate Burglary Attempt” (Watergate, #1)
Watergate. The most famous of all political scandals. A salacious mix of illicit surveillance, dubious finance, and open felonies. And the president of the United States embroiled in it. Of course, the topic is not only fascinating to politicos, journalists, gossips, and everyone out for a quick buck – but also to the designers and players of board games. Thus, here’s the first half of a two-part piece on Watergate in history and board games – from the mood at the Nixon White House in the early 1970s over the break-in at the Watergate complex itself to Nixon’s irregular campaign finance.Continue reading
Harry S. Truman (Presidential Ratings, #2)
Last year, I have inaugurated a new irregular series on my blog assessing the merits of UK prime ministers (illustrated through the lens of a single board game each). The rating system seemed robust enough to apply it to other countries/leaders (at least if they are more or less democratic). Thus, we branched out to an American president and a German chancellor. Today’s subject is another US president – Harry S. Truman, the first Cold Warrior in the White House. And which game could be more appropriate for him than Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games)?Continue reading
The Statesman (Early Islam, #2)
A few weeks ago, you’ve read the tale of the birth of Islam – Muhammad’s revelation, his initial teachings, and the flight to Medina. That’s where we continue the story of early Islam today. As Muhammad, the protagonist of this story, juggled with several balls at any given time, this account will not be entirely chronological. Instead, we’ll look at his early clashes with the Quraysh from Mecca, his ascendancy in Medina as well as his political and social reforms there, and finally his unification of Arabia under the banner of Islam.Continue reading
Adventurers, Excavators, Scholars: Archaeologists in Board Games
Board gamers dig archaeology. Board Game Geek lists over 140 games with an archaeology or paleontology theme, and seven of them have 10,000 or more ratings. That’s even more impressive if we consider that archaeology is not exactly a ubiquitous human activity (unlike other popular themes like commerce, construction, or warfare). Why is archaeology so popular? – I think the main draw is that it’s perceived as an exciting activity which combines physical and mental challenges. Let’s have a look at the three main roles archaeologists fulfil in board games – that of an adventurer, of an excavator, and of a scholar.Continue reading
The Revelation (Early Islam, #1)
What can be said to have lasted long in history? As I post this article, Liz Truss has been Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for only twelve days. Queen Elizabeth II has just died after a reign of 70 years. The United Kingdom itself has been in existence for 201 years.
What can be said to have left its mark on history? – Liz Truss certainly hasn’t (yet). Elizabeth II has, a delicate fingerprint of ceremonial monarchy. And the United Kingdom has left indelible traces almost everywhere in the world.
Yet all of them pale in longevity and importance to the story you’re going to read today. It begins almost one and a half millennia ago. It has swept the world from Spain to Indonesia. And almost two billion people follow its teachings today. I’m talking about Islam, of course (you read the headline, didn’t you?).
The story of early Islam is a story of a remarkable land – Arabia. It is the story of a remarkable experience – revelation. And it is the story of upheaval which was not only religious, but also social and political.Continue reading
Brazil’s Long Way to Independence
Brazil is many things. One of the largest and most populous countries in the world. Home to an unrivalled biodiversity. A melting-pot of indigenous, European, and African culture. All of these aspects have shaped the history of this fascinating place, and it is almost criminal that in five years of blogging I have never written about Brazilian history before. I will make amends for that amidst the preparations for the bicentenary of Brazilian independence. This article aims to shed light on this atypical, and, in many ways incomplete decolonization process. As I assume most of my readership is unfamiliar with Brazilian history, I’ll give a quick rundown of Brazil’s colonial history and the dramatic events of the Napoleonic period which acted as catalyst for Brazil’s independence before going into the independence process itself. As you rightly expect, board games will feature on the way – yet I have to warn you that there are way too few which are published so far.Continue reading