Two historical references for a discussion on the right to keep and bear arms


Battle  of Courcelette
Battle of Courcelette
Like the observer in the tree in the right foreground, painter Louis Weirter witnessed this Somme battle as a soldier. His painting depicts the chaos and complexity of fighting on the Western Front, and the use of combined arms tactics. The capture of the ruined town of Courcelette, France on 15 September 1916 was a significant Canadian victory. It was also the first time tanks (left foreground) were used in battle.
Painted by Louis Alexander Weirter
Beaverbrook Collection of War Art

One of the most controversial discussions in the last few weeks has been the one around guns, its regulation and controls, its production, on the rights to use guns, on private gun ownership and the arguments of those in favor/against the Right to keep and bear arms in the United States of America.  The right to keep and bear arms in that country has a historical significance rooted in a long standing common law, prior even to the existence of their Constitution.  In England, a similar legal wording can be found in the Bill of Rights 1689 which states “Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defense”.

The historical significance of this argument is long standing and varies from country to country (specially those with a common law system).  The principle behind this topic is the relation of the private ownership (historically contextualized of course) of the “means of force” versus the monopoly of the use of force by government.  Today I have two recommendations on this topic for those of you looking for essays and books to read:

tilly-diagram

The monopoly of the use of force is claimed to be the reason behind why some kings in Europe succeed in wining wars and enriching their countries; and also the reason why others were subjugated and conquered (see the work of War Making and State Making as Organized Crime by Charles Tilly for a complete picture on this topic (online pdf) a Chapter from Bringing the State Back In (1985), edited by Peter Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Theda Skocpol).  But also, in a longer historical perspective it has been the monopoly of the use of force by specific authorities which for other authors built/destroyed entire civilizations (see the work of The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History (2002) by Philip Bobbitt).

Have a happy reading!

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