31 December 2007

A Crashing Rotten Structure

Over the holidays, watching an episode of The World At War being broadcast on on UKTV History, I was reminded of an incident in my publishing career from twenty years ago. I was working on what was my favorite of all my partwork projects ever, a flop called "Battlefield". Only three issues saw publication, but we got up to about eight or nine in some form of preparation.

The idea behind Battlefield was to create an alphabetical illustrated encyclopedia of photographed conflict. It was a brilliant concept in the context of partwork publishing, since there would be considerable opportunities for reusing material, and full credit for this concept should go to the man who launched my career in publishing, Ashley Brown. Issue three included a short, six-page article on Operation Barbarossa, which happened to be the same subject as my episode of The World At War.

I had a ruck with Ashley Brown over this article, which I thought was preposterous. Barbarossa was too vast a campaign for it to be covered in six pages. (We're talking about the whole shebang, from 22 June 1941 to 8 December 1941.) In the end, once the article had been assembled and gone off for repro, the editor (Reg Grant) confided in me that the article was indeed slim by comparison with our fairly extensive coverage of Second El Alamein or Amiens in 1918 or Arras in 1940.

My World at War viewing reminded me of this episode in my personal history, as well as my experience of writing Chronicle of War. I now think that coverage of Barbarossa, as understood by the "intelligent general reader" during the 1970s and 1980s, was highly misleading because it didn't focus on the individual battles during the campaign, but on the wider objectives of Hitler's daring thrusts. This sentiment is partially reflected in Chronicle of War.

Things are not as bad as they were, as the Wikipedia entry on Operation Barbarossa indicates. But I'm still not clear whether the idea that the Red Army defeated their German counterpart, fair and square, has entered into general understanding. I started drawing up a detailed chronology of Barbarossa, which I thought would help build a book or other project, while writing Chronicle of War, but the actual work of providing 150,000 words prevented me from taking this idea far enough to turn into something practical.

1 comment:

Ricardo said...

Congratulations for the Blog.
Mr Brewer is a very balanced writer. Prove of that are his writings about the Malvinas/Falkland War. He isn't bias as most British historians. Perhaps the fact that he also comes from the American continent helps him to be objective.
Happy New Year Paul!

Ricardo