Digital War History

Nina Janz's picture

Dear colleagues,

I am looking for an exchange about digital content on war history and your experiences with different tools, software, platforms, websites etc. for any time period and region. 


I am interested in a wide range of projects: from the digitisation of military records to (online) biographies and battle mapping. 


I would like to build a network with experts specifically working on war history and its digital implementation in research, education and the public sector. 

Best regards from Luxembourg,

Nina Janz
 

 

Nina,

The use of digital history has not been a strong area of mine in recent years, I am still very book bound and only very rarely visit the online material if nothing else is available. That is largely a product of being a Gen-Xer and raised on books and gathering as many of them as possible. Also, I have found a lot of gaps and bad information online so it is taking me a long time to trust digital history sources.

The only time I really broke that pattern was as I have been involved in a study on Ugarit. Ugarit has a very war-centric, violent history and plays a role in the military history of the region, almost wholly within the Bronze Age. So, it relates to your topic in that, it is a gap that should be filled and I hope to be a part of that. I was using for a while a website devoted to Ugarit provided by the Mission de Ras Shamra but I was disappointed because it was all in French and extracting information was a very long and hard process as I could only use the English language material or run it through Google Translate which was not an ideal solution. I had thought of creating my own English language platform on Ugarit as a history project and I may still do so once I have gathered together a lot more resources, material, and in a more ideal living situation.

As for modern Middle East conflicts the quality of websites is hit and miss. I am not aware of definitive websites that deal with single conflicts. Many of the websites are very bifurcated, covering conflicts because they fall within a larger context of that particular country or time period. There are two that exist on the topic of the Iran-Iraq War and one on the 2003 Iraq War but the only site that covers the Kuwait War (also known as the Gulf War) is a single page. When dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Lebanon political and social interests greatly cloud and objectivity is virtually non-existent. This limits the value of these sites to a great degree. Not that this is to any less degree not reflected in the book sources but, there is less accountability and less ability to determine where the information has been sourced from or from what group. Sites are either jingoistic Israeli sites or Shia and Sunni sites pushing a hardline agenda.

Another source[s] for war history and the 20th Century can be found in 5 Presidential Libraries. Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, Presidential Libraries all have online sources available. Have briefly looked at some without getting to their complete collections and details.

Thank you all for your answers! I will look into this in detail. 

Dear James,

Yes, it is challenging to find reliable material. Many websites and forums move in a grey area; facts are twisted, sources are not indicated. But fortunately, many websites make research easier for me.
Many institutions (archives and other authorities) make their holdings available online; research literature and journals can be read online or are freely accessible.
Educational platforms offer diverse material on war history, etc.
I am particularly interested in platforms that are concerned with war/military history. I should have better called this call "digital war storytelling", i.e. the exploitation of historical material on war history in digital form.

Nina,

I am guessing that you are looking for narrative based websites that layout the conflict in narrative terms rather than curated or document hosting sites? Sites that present a beginning, middle, and end of the conflict in a form resembling that of a book? If that is so, I am very unfamiliar with such a site and presentation.

Most of the websites that present war material will present battles and engagements, documents, and profiles on separate pages and where learning is cellular and disconnected from the greater narrative context. I have been at history conferences and spoken with people who are designing digital history websites and it is all geared towards classroom instruction and thus the disconnected presentation format. The designers are creating with the view to enhance what they view as teachers who are wanting to highlight a particular battle or document but cannot self-create that presentation or cannot find one on youtube.com that is reliable or good. Very few people will take the time or discipline to read through pages of internet documents in one sitting or multiple sittings. In the classes that I taught I also used those websites and tools but we also used them in conjunction with book sources to provide the contextualization.

I read your profile and what you are doing and the project for which you may be asking these questions. I would submit that, there are a lot of conflicts in Europe, Africa, America, and Asia that already have websites and tools that perform the function. It really is the Middle East that continues to be the most underserved or worst served area for digital war storytelling.

Dear Nina,

Regarding digital websites for the Second World War, I've found that CARL - The Combined Arms Research Library (Ike Skelton Combined Arms Research Library) is a good resource, as is HyperWar. The National Archives UK has many digitalized records and can also copy and send documents to you. I also have had excellent support from the Eisenhower Library and US Army Heritage and Education Center - it depends on what one is searching for.

www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/
https://ahec.armywarcollege.edu
https//carlcgsc.libguides.com (look for historical documents online)
www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

The Churchill Archives may also be of interest - but they charge an rather expensive annual fee and are best accessed through your local library or academic institution.

Best wishes,