Future History Lesson

History Lesson Part 1:
Roman Soldiers & American Revolution Sailors as seen by Starship Troopers


Starship Troopers book cover
Starship Troopers book cover

I started readingStarship Troopers by Robert Heinlein today and it inspired me to investigate a little real history.

First, I’ve been a big fan of Heinlein for awhile, but strangely had never read this novel which many regard so highly. I had seen the crappy movie supposedly based on it, but let me say that movie really holds no similarities to the novel except for some characters’ and alien species’ names. Worse the movie turns some of the deeper but controversial aspects of the novel on their head, and turns the entire story into a farce. For example Heinlein’s novel portrays a democratic society in which suffrage is earned by a term of government service – in the case of the main characters this happened to be military service. The movie version portrays a fascist society where the only road to citizenship was through the military — kind of like non-citizen inhabitants of the early to mid Roman empire who could earn citizenship only after serving 25 years in the Roman legions.

I’m getting off the topic, which isn’t so much about the future the novel portrays, but about detailing some things I learned from a “future history lesson” today’s reading inspired me to take. Ironically, one of Heinlein’s creations is a “Future History” that ties much of his short story sci-fi and a few of his novels together into a chronology of the future. The future described in Starship Troopers is not part of that fictional “future history”, and the “history lesson” I took is in no way related to it, but… Well, I found the connection humorous enough to name this article that. So there!

Original painting used for book cover above, painted by James Warhola, nephew of pop artist Andy Warhol
Original painting used for book cover above, painted by James Warhola, nephew of pop artist Andy Warhol

Here’s the interesting but minor passing quote that started my exploration into some real military history.

 “There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men. We’re trying to teach you to be dangerous — to the enemy. Dangerous even without a knife. Deadly as long as you still have one hand or one foot and are still alive. If you don’t know what I mean, go read ‘Horatius at the Bridge’ or ‘The Death of the Bon Homme Richard’, they’re both in the Camp library.”
“Starship Troopers”, pg. 54 by Robert Heinlein

Well I kind of knew what he meant; I knew I’d heard of both as the names sounded familiar, but I couldn’t recall off the top of my head where they fell in military history. And I knew I hadn’t read the two titles mentioned, so I decided to take this fictional drill sergeant’s suggestion literally and tried to look them up. What I found in each case were such interesting stories that I decided to explore them on my blog.

As each story is a little long, I will give each it’s own post. So without further ado, click on any of the links below to read the stories:

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