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October 13, 2019

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Short Rounds

The First Peacekeepers?

The earliest instance of a peacekeeping mission seems to have occurred in 1625, during a lull in the Thirty Years’ War.

In 1624 Duke Carlo Emmanuelle I of Savoy, a French ally, had gone to war with the Republic of Genoa, a Spanish ally, over the ownership of some villages that dominated certain important mountain passes. It was a desultory war, but the “superpower” allies of the two small states, France and Spain, were concerned that it might ultimately involve them at a time when both were otherwise occupied. So they agreed to intervene

Spain and France each pressured its respective weaker ally into agreeing to a cease fire and mutual withdrawal from the disputed areas. To insure the peace and security of these territories, the Spanish and French convinced Pope Urban VIII to provide troops to police the area. In this way the peace between Genoa and Savoy was kept for about two years, until the French and Spanish were inclined to have it out themselves.

This early example of international intervention in the name of peace displays substantially the same pattern that most peacekeeping operations followed during the Cold War; The convergence of the interests of the superpowers – in this case France and Spain – to avoid becoming embroiled in a local war caused them to establish and enforce the peace.

 

Paying the Troops, 1914

Regardless of how patriotic they may be, the troops do like to be paid, at least occasionally. Not that military pay has ever been really munificent. And normally, the pay given to recruits has been particularly poor, as can be seen in these figures for monthly recruit pay in the principal armies of 1914.

Monthly Recruit Pay
The Armies of 1914
Remuneration
Army1914 - $2000 - $
Austro-Hungarian .73 c. 37.00
British 8.56 431.00
French 1.70 86.00
German 3.21 162.00
Russian .32 16.00
Switzerland .16 9.00
U.S. 15.00 756.00

The pay recruits received in the principal European armies in the years before World War I was remarkably low, even given the considerably lower standard of living o the age. For example, per capita income in Russia was then barely 27-percent of that in Britain, yet recruit pay in the Russian Army was not even 4-percent that of the British Army. This table compares the pay of the principal European armies of 1914, plus those of the United States and Switzerland, on the basis of both the American dollar of 1914 and a 2000 figure which is adjusted for inflation and cost-of-living changes. In general, the wealthier the power, the better the pay. In addition, those nations – the United States and Britain – which relied upon volunteers paid considerably more than those resorting to conscription. The apparent anomaly of Switzerland may be explained by the fact that it had the only real "nation-in-arms" in the world, and in its essentially militia army a recruit served no more than a month, and the figure above is actually pro rated from his annual stipend.

Some idea of the relative worth of 1914 recruit pay may be gained by noting that an American laborer in 1914 earned between $0.75 and $1.25 for a ten-hour day, depending upon season, experience, race, and other factors. Interestingly, on the "constant dollar" basis the pay of an American recruit in 1914 is about two-thirds that of his great-grandson – or great-granddaughter – today. In most of the other countries recruit pay is relatively far higher than it was in 1914. The exception to this rule is Russia, which still pays a pittance, and that in very inflated currency, so that a Russian soldier today is probably making no more than what his great-grandfather made under the Tsar.

 

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