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History in Focus

the guide to historical resources • Issue 4: War •


Imperial War Museum North
view across the river

War on the Web

History is densely populated by wars; they pepper every century and all cultures, and offer a seemingly inexhaustible area of investigation. In fact, it is virtually impossible to study any history without being confronted by man’s predilection for conflict, and its role in shaping nations and international relations. Traditionally the study of war has been concentrated at the top level of conflicts, detailing diplomatic relations, economic conditions, the leadership of governments and military men, and important battles, military tactics and strategy. This focus still remains, but over the past few decades there has been a shift, and research has expanded to include the wider experience of war and its social and cultural effects. With such developments, there is seemingly limitless potential in studying the history of war, particularly when considering conflict on a global scale, as there are so many possible avenues of research. The abundance of research and popularity of the history of war is amply illustrated by the large amount of related material available on the Internet. There are many web sites which approach wars from more traditional positions, such as the De Re Militari site, which provides a wide range of resources on medieval warfare, including material on battles, weaponry, tactics and leaders, and the site The Gulf War , which features interviews with political and military leaders, and a section on tactics and weaponry. The experiences of individuals and communities during war also have extensive coverage on the Internet, and one of the finest examples of this is The Valley of the Shadow project, . This project charts the history of two communities during the American Civil War, using a range of primary documentation to create a picture of civilian life during war. On a more sobering note the history of war also inevitably highlights man’s great capacity for atrocity, and the testimonies of survivors of the Holocaust that can be read at Voices of the Holocaust, serve as a powerful reminder of the true horror of war. The interviews that appear on this site highlight one of the real values of the Internet for those studying and researching history, which is the unprecedented access it provides to primary source material. The National Security Archive site illustrates the rich resources the Internet has to offer, with its large collection of digitised declassified documents charting America’s foreign relations during the Cold War.

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