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Military History

Warfare has a long and fascinating history. As military technology has changed, strategy and tactics have changed to take advantage of, or defend against, new weapons or defensive fortifications, as shown in historical pictures. The introduction of artillery, for instance, changed historical battle images from showing hand-to-hand combat to images of distant mechanized assault. Siege warfare has a long history, based on cutting off supplies to an enemy's fortified position.

The Trojan War may have been fought over revenge, lust, and pride, but a more common motive for wars is control of territory. Some historical examples pictured are the Hundred Years' War during the Middle Ages, the French and Indian War, or the Napoleonic Wars expanding the French Empire across Europe and into North Africa. Another reason for warfare is economic gain, like protection of trade routes or trading posts, or to conduct pirate raids. Wars have also been fought over religious beliefs, as seen in historical pictures of the Crusades.

In addition to formal wars, uprisings and rebellions have been armed and bloody, such as the French Revolution overthrowing the French monarchy, or the Sepoy Revolt of natives against the British Empire in India, shown in historical pictures. Some historical conflicts have been civil wars within a political unit, usually from factional or regional disagreement. The prime example is the US Civil War, resulting from opposing views on slavery as well as economic disparities between regions. Other conflicts have involved attempts to throw off foreign domination, like expansion by a neighboring country or oppression by a colonial power, e.g., historical illustrations of the American Revolutionary War.

Military events have changed ways of life as well as political borders shown on maps. Historical pictures show military conquests have changed the languages spoken along paths of invasion, local customs have been mitigated by contact between cultures, and inventions and diseases have spread between societies forcibly brought together by war. Military conflict can merge cultures, or events such as massacres can result in lasting bitterness between groups. Civilians are often intentional or unintentional participants in military events, seen historically in pictures. Intentional civilian participants have included American colonial minutemen and other guerilla war combatants, while unintentional participants are refugees and families caught in the location of military conflict, such as those forced from Canada in 1755 by the Acadian expulsion. Spies often pose as civilians but are intentional participants.

National heroes and heroines are often military leaders glorified in historical pictures, such as Joan of Arc, George Washington, or Simon Bolivar. A nation's destiny may depend on the outcome of a war or even a single pivotal battle. The Battle of Hastings comes to mind, which established the success of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Soldiers and armies have become legends through historical pictures, from the Trojan Horse to the Alamo.

Historical pictures show how naval warfare became specialized from land warfare as sea power became increasingly important in a nation's economy, whether protecting maritime trade or supplying a distant colony. From Vikings to the Great White Fleet, warships have been pictured defending homelands, engaging enemy ships in sea battles, and raiding seaports and waterfront settlements.


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