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An Annotated Bibliography of the Wars of Unification

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The below annotated bibliography was initially prepared as teaching material for the Study of War in the Late 2nd Century AG, a course offered by the Royal Fire Academy including options to study abroad for a period in Yu Dao, Zaofu, and Ba Sing Se universities. It was released for public consumption in edited form in 227 AG.

As with any collection of readings, it cannot be considered comprehensive. The reader is advised to draw their own conclusions – all comments are for context and summary purposes only. If cited as its own document, the correct format is ‘Majin. (227 AG). An Annotated Bibliography of the Wars of Unification. Royal Fire Academy Press, Caldera City.’

 

Raiko. (174 AG). The Defence of the Republic. Yu Dao University Press, Republic City.
The first book written in the aftermath of Kuvira’s defeat. While then-President Raiko claimed to be the sole author, textual analysis suggests the use of a ghost writer. The work is exculpatory in character and designed to aid Raiko’s re-election campaign against outsider candidate Zhu Li Moon. As a consequence, it highlights Raiko’s role in the repulse of imperial forces, papers over issues of unpreparedness in the United Forces, and downplays his responsibility for the legitimisation of Kuvira after the capture of Ba Sing Se.

Despite this, scholars hold that it has some value as a narrative history; the core facts of Kuvira’s campaign are captured, and individuals including Tenzin and Fire Lord Iroh II have testified to its passably accurate recounting of high-level meetings. Moreover, it provides an interesting window into the dynamics and rhetoric underpinning Raiko’s attempted re-election campaign.

Iroh II. (175 AG). Military Lessons Learnt from the Battle of Republic City. United Forces Command and Staff College, Halong.
This slim volume is comprised of a series of lectures delivered by then-General, now Fire Lord, Iroh II at the United Forces Command and Staff College in Halong. To his credit, Iroh highlights severe deficiencies in the United Forces order of battle, including a lack of airpower, strategic intelligence, and long-range anti-armour capabilities. His work also drew on interviews with Avatar Korra, Asami Sato, Iknik Varrick, Tenzin, and others to provide a comprehensive account of the destruction of Kuvira’s Colossus war machine.

The work served as the bedrock for major reforms to United Forces capability and doctrine and is a useful case study on the specifics of the invasion of United Republic territory – with Iroh II adding contextual notes covering the beginning of Imperial efforts, broadening the focus from his lectures. However, its limited perspective and tactical emphasis limit its utility to strictly military historians.

Wu et al. (177 AG). Final Omashu Commission Report on Crimes Against Humanity in the Former Earth Kingdom. Federation of Earthen Republics Press, Ba Sing Se.
Chaired by the erstwhile Earth King Wu, the Omashu Commission spent two years investigating the crimes committed by the Earth Empire. The process involved six hundred and seventy three witnesses, eight tons of paper records, and numerous inspections.

It found the strictly military actions of the Imperial Army broadly in compliance with the letter of the Cranefish Conventions mediated by Avatar Aang – although it levied particular criticism at population resettlement conducted during the suppression of a Si Wong tribal insurgency, the bombing of central Reizan, and the indiscriminate use of chemical defoliants in the Foggy Swamp.

The Commission, however, found evidence of widespread abuses of human dignity in the re-education camp system. Both Kuvira and Baatar Beifong Jr attested that this was never the intent of the program, and especially inhumane actions such as Commander Gao’s experimentation in Camp 31 were indeed not sanctioned by the central leadership. However, Kuvira and Baatar were aware that prisoners were kept in miserable conditions and forced to conduct back-breaking labour, typically without access to sufficient food, water, or medical attention.

Release of the report sent shockwaves throughout the Federation of Earthen Republics. Pro-Kuviran factions and parties denounced it as wholly inaccurate and politically motivated slander, while anti-imperial leaders; especially President Yudei of Omashu; were dismayed by what they saw as a too-lenient stance on the Empire.

Beifong, H & Beifong, O. (177 AG). Orphans of Unity. Zaofu Press, City-Republic of Zaofu.
Written by Huan and Opal Beifong, this work is a bottom-up history of the Wars of Unification. Each short chapter recounts a story of an ordinary person who’s life was damaged by the wars and imperial rule. The writers allow these stories, most of which are drawn from original interviews, to stand on their own – but equip them with copious footnotes which provide context and factual information. As the book is arranged in chronological order, the result is a creditable account of Kuvira’s rise to power as told by those sorely affected by it.

Orphans of Unity is a contested work. Many scholars and politicians praised it as a necessary corrective to narratives of war and politics which did not accommodate the human suffering caused by Kuvira’s actions. However, some have accused the pair of cherry-picking deliberately negative accounts and overlooking gains in living standards made during the Earth Empire. Others go further and question the veracity of the interviewees and allege that the work may be partly – if not wholly – fictional.

Opal and Huan stand by their work, pointing out the necessity of nipping apologia for criminality and conquest in the bud. In later years, scholars were surprised to learn that Kuvira herself requested a copy during her time in prison and kept it upon release.

Loh, S. (179 AG). Decision at Yu Dao. Yu Dao University Press, Republic City
While many books have been written about the prosecution of Kuvira and Baatar Beifong Jr, Sirah Loh’s effort Decision at Yu Dao is hailed as an accessible and comprehensive work. Loh, a reporter for the Republic City Gazette, reported the trials live in 178 AG and draws from her articles to recount the issue with flair. She was also able to interview Wu, Avatar Korra, and President Moon among others to gain additional context.

Some note, not without justification, that Decision at Yu Dao lacks analytical rigor and neglects to cover the explosive reaction in segments of Republic City to the surprisingly lenient charges handed down to the former imperials. Princess Ursa II’s comparative history of crimes against humanity from the Age of Kyoshi to the Gaoling Insurrection, Sins of Might, contains several chapters on the issue and benefits from her personal connection to many of the senior decisionmakers at the time.

Gannor, R. (182 AG). By Steel and Sword: A Military History of the Wars of Unification. Ba Sing Se University Press, Ba Sing Se.
Gannor draws on numerous interviews with all senior imperial commanders – bar Kuvira, who at time of research was refusing to comment on any such matters – in conjunction with extensive documentary evidence to create the first comprehensive military history of the Wars of Unification.

He follows a broadly linear narrative from Kuvira’s departure from Zaofu, to the capture of Ba Sing Se, and then the destruction of the Noble Alliance with the culminating assault on Reizan in 172 AG. From there, he switches to a regional approach, examining the counterinsurgencies waged in the Si Wong, Foggy Swamp, and northern mountains, before returning to the narrative for the action against Zaofu and the United Republic.

Gannor freely admits that his work is the ‘first, crude draft of history’ noting the lack of sources from anti-imperial forces. Some commentators have observed, not without cause, that his work is at times too complimentary of Imperial forces and its sharp focus on military history downplays the political and social repression conducted under the name of unity. Nonetheless, it won praise from numerous military and political leaders, notably Fire Lord Iroh II, who awarded Gannor with a prestigious visiting fellowship at the Royal Fire Academy.

Beifong, B Jr & Varrick, I.B. (186 AG). Some Technical Notes On The Peaceful Application of Spirit Vine Technology. Zaofu Press, City-Republic of Zaofu.
Baatar Beifong Jr and Iknik Blackstone Varrick are the world’s leading experts on spirit vine technology. Nonetheless, given their contentious relationship at the end of the empire, it is surprising that they cooperated on this work. What records we have suggest that a degree of reconciliation was achieved while Beifong was in prison, and when released in 185 – contingent on good behaviour and suspected as a result of lobbying from his mother Suyin – they put together this work.

Although proprietary Varrick Global Industries technology was not shared, the work nonetheless constitutes the bedrock of modern spirit vine exploitation. Its release was initially a cause for concern, especially for the residents of the Foggy Swamp and Republic City’s inner city, both of whom were concerned over the potential for environmentally dangerous harvesting of vines. However, following intervention from Asami Sato, Avatar Korra, and Jinora of the Air Nation, sustainable alternatives and process were devised.

Orasi. (189 AG). Twelve Days in the Caldera. Queen Lake Press, Capital Island.
The first wave of histories after invasion of the United Republic by the Earth Empire privileged continental perspectives. Beyond the role of then-Crown Prince Iroh II, the Fire Nation was seen as a minor player, hamstrung by Fire Lord Izumi’s decision not to commit to a forward defence of Republic City.

Upon ascension to the throne, Iroh II decided to authorise an official history of the event from the Fire Nation’s perspective, commissioning distinguished professor of history Orasi to produce the work. Five years later, Twelve Days in the Caldera was published. Taking advantage of remarkable archival access and numerous interviews with former Fire Lord Izumi and her ministers, the book is an exhaustive depiction of the Fire Nation response to the crisis. Orasi shows how far from taking a passive role, Izumi was committed to a strong reaction, at the cost of substantial dissent from her government.

While some have criticised the work for its close links to the royal family, its veracity is broadly agreed as unimpeachable. Unfortunately, while Orasi was a distinguished scholar, his writing style has been described as dry. As a consequence, while Twelve Days is invaluable reference material, it is not recommended for general readers. Such an audience may find Princess Ursa II’s Fire About The Throne: A History of the Later Monarchy more revelatory to the political elements, and Ukao’s Honour Endures: The Fire Navy from 100 – 212 AG more valuable on the military details.

Jinora. (193 AG). The Air Nation 171-174 AG. Yue Press, Republic City.
While this work is more properly understood as a collection of chapters from Volume 9 of Jinora’s ten volume history of the Air Nomads, public demand led to syndication in the Yue Bay Times and later publication as a stand-alone book.

In this work, Jinora – who ascended to the highest ranks of the Air Nation – draws on extensive primary sources to detail the history of the Air Nation’s actions over the three years in which Avatar Korra was recovering in the South Pole. As the majority of these actions were across the Earth Nation, involving peacekeeping and humanitarian aid, the book provides a novel perspective on both the conditions during the Wars of Unification and the advance of imperial forces.

While it does not lose sight of the bigger picture and remains comprehensible even to a novice of the period, Jinora is at pains to weave in personal stories and anecdotes – in the vein of Orphans of Unity written by her colleague Opal Beifong sixteen years earlier. The result is an affecting narrative of interest to both scholars; especially those of the Air Nation; and general audiences alike.

Mako. (197 AG). An Economic History of the Earth Empire. Yu Dao University Press, Republic City.
Chief of Police Mako was not an academic or researcher. However, he did have a background in accounting. During his deployment to Omashu as part of Earth King Wu’s security detail in 175 AG, he began to work on this manuscript. Twenty years later, having been written sporadically, it was published in a limited run.

It should not be considered deathless prose. However, Mako’s scope is commendable. Each short chapter sums up a key sector of the imperial economy, supported by numerous tables and graphs. While previous works on the economy of the Earth Empire had been published – notably Rice and Iron by Fa Peme – they had tended to focus on a smaller set of sectors, or else be notoriously exculpatory of the imperial regime.

While interest in the work saw a minor uptick in 212 following Mako’s action in the Gaoling Insurrection, it was never widely circulated beyond imperial specialists. Biographers have noted that this is a source of some amusement for his sister-in-law Opal Beifong.

Haph, A. (203 AG). Armies of Deliverance. Lower Ring Press, Ba Sing Se.
Approaching thirty years after the war, with the initial trauma of the conflict beginning to fade, there was a surge in re-interpretations of the Wars of Unification. One of the most popular was An Haph’s work Armies of Deliverance, which drew on both archival documentation and previously unexplored primary sources – particularly oral traditions of the Ba Sing slums – to argue that Kuvira had been a hero.

Haph’s work, in the vein of Gannor’s classic twenty years earlier, follows Kuvira’s campaign in broadly chronological fashion. However, she is at pains to point out positive actions undertaken by imperial forces. The redesign of Ba Sing Se by Baatar Beifong Jr receives particular praise, as does the destruction of the Noble Alliance. The re-education camps are glossed over, and the findings of the Omashu Commission given short shrift. The situation, Haph says, called for urgent action.

Owing to its readable style and provocative argument, the book sold well, igniting fresh public debate – something only exacerbated by Kuvira’s studied silence on the matter. Some neo-Kuviran politicians, particularly in Gaoling; who would later form the core of the insurrection in 212 AG; hailed it as an honest history. Others, particularly in communities like Reizan which had suffered badly during the war, called for it to be banned.

Galeng, H. (205 AG). A Gaol for a Continent. Ba Sing Se University Press, Ba Sing Se.
Written in direct response to Armies of Deliverance, this book argues that the first wave of post-war scholarship set the stage for revisionist history by its focus on military matters and unique abuses of human dignity, without reckoning with the more mundane systems of control imposed on imperial citizenry.

Galeng draws on extensive and novel archival evidence, much of it from Zaofu, to outline how strict border controls, military command of the railway network, and the provision of constabulary powers to local garrisons conspired to impose an organically evolved police state upon the entire country. While he does not deny the popular support enjoyed by the imperial apparatus, he makes clear – drawing on works like Orphans of Unity – that much of this was undergirded by fear.

The work was greeted with howls of protest from neo-Kuvirans, and some in the scholarly community – particularly Roh Gannor – questioned both its emphasis on social history to the exclusion of security matters and its final argument that this system of control was the ultimate intended form of the Earth Empire rather than an emergency stop-gap. Nonetheless, despite the controversy, it is a tightly argued and effective work; although less popular in sales figures than Armies of Deliverance.

Anon ed. Paraq. (209 AG). The Consuming Sand: Poetry of the Balatra. Glacier Publishing, Agna Qe’la.
Discovered in the High Si Wong during a research expedition from Agna Qe’la University, The Consuming Sand is a written record of the poems used among the Balatra people of the Si Wong to share their history – a rare find, made even more significant by Kuvira’s near-destruction of the Balatra during her counterinsurgency in the region in 173.

The work – translated, lightly edited for clarity, and footnoted – recounts the founding myths of the Balatra and their rivalries with the Peula, and Ghash, before jumping forward to recount the Wars of Unification and their ruinous impact. The major gap in the record suggests more fragments still to be found, although research has continued in vain for some decades. What scholars do have paints a rich picture of an ancient society destroyed in a matter of weeks by modern war-making techniques.

Commercially, it sold tolerably well and is considered influential in the poetry traditions of the southern Earthen Republics.

Ruoh, M et al. (214 AG). The Raiko Cables. Republic City Gazette, Republic City.
Headed by Min Ruoh, The Raiko Cables were a six part investigative feature published in the Republic City Gazette and syndicated internationally, including in The Times of Ba Sing Se and The Calderan Tribune.

They consist of analysis of cables leaked from United Republic archives which spell out a deliberate effort by then-President Raiko to install Wu as a puppet Earth King. Measures included a handpicked cabinet of United Republic ministers, creating roadblocks to Wu contacting Kuvira prior to his coronation, and exploratory steps to allow the United Forces constabulary authority within the Earth Kingdom, among other actions.

The articles series set off a firestorm of dissent in the Earthen Republics, with leaders by turns denouncing United Republic imperialism and dismissing the investigation as misinformation. An elderly Raiko answered press questions from the balcony of his retirement villa on Ember Island, denying all culpability. Analysts have noted that, were it not for the Gaoling Insurrection the previous year, the release of the cables would likely have led to a major upsurge in neo-Kuviran sentiment.

Further historical exploration has confirmed the work of the Gazette’s reporters. It is now broadly agreed that President Raiko did attempt to use the death of Queen Hou-Ting to expand United Republic power in the Earth Kingdom. However, wilder conspiracy theories – prominent among them linking Raiko to the Red Lotus – which spread at the time have been conclusively debunked. The article series remains a valuable piece of primary source documentation for scholars of the period.

Kyinon, L. (215 AG). Conspiracy! One Woman’s Race to Save Her Nation. Lower Ring Press, Ba Sing Se.
The release of the Raiko Cables series was swiftly followed by less scrupulous works expanding on it. Among the most famous – or perhaps infamous - was Conspiracy, written by a prominent neo-Kuviran from Ba Sing Se. The work alleges that Raiko, Avatar Korra, and Fire Lord Izumi worked together to supplant the Earth Nation with a single Republic beholden to Fire Nation interests. It is poorly sourced, of indifferent literary quality, and riven with hoarily unpleasant tropes. It is of some value to scholars of the early neo-Kuviran movement, and also as the work which induced Kuvira to break her silence on the events which defined her legacy.

Kuvira. (217 AG). The Weight of Empire. Yue Press, Republic City.
Upon her release from prison in 190 AG, Kuvira – dashing the hopes of some and relieving the fears of many – retreated to a quiet life of scholarship. She wrote prolifically, particularly on the Age of Kyoshi, and completed an acclaimed three volume biography of Chin the Conqueror, and a profile of Fire Lord Zoryu, along with numerous monographs and smaller works. In addition, her one volume work on the origins of the Air Nomad genocide, co-authored with Princess Ursa II, Before the Comet, is required reading in the Fire Nation. She also authored a number of treatises on metal bending which need not detain us at this juncture.

However, she did not write nor publicly comment on her own actions until 217 AG, with the release of The Weight of Empire shortly after her 67th birthday.

The work is part memoir, part confession, and part textbook. Drawing on her own diaries and correspondence, the recollections of her husband Baatar Beifong Jr, and hidden archives, it is an exhaustive account of the period.

It begins with her childhood, noting the formative influence of her parent’s abandonment and her fostering by Suyin Beifong – suggesting that the values the empire carried forward were, in many cases, those of Zaofu. She then moved on to recount the Red Lotus crisis, with details provided by Avatar Korra and her brother-in-law Bolin Beifong, among others, before turning to address the campaign proper.

This campaign history is immensely detailed, and – unlike work by Gannor or other historians – contains significant information about the process behind each operational decision, rather than just its outcome. It also contains orders of battle, ammunition expenditures and budgets to a weekly extent. Of particular note were casualty numbers; it appears that she kept a daily tally of them in her diary, although the reason for this is touched upon only lightly.

The work is unflinching in describing her crimes. While the tactical rationales for breaches of human dignity are laid out, she takes care to present this not as justification but as a warning of the ease with which such acts are committed. She commends the work of the Omashu Commission and notes bitterly that they had a far better idea of what happened in the re-education camps than she did.

Similarly, the logic behind the invasion of the United Republic is laid out in lucid style, describing the intent to conduct a fait accompli and proceed to bargain with the Fire Nation from a position of strength. Her narrative ends with her decision to surrender to Avatar Korra – and the afterword that the rest of her life has not been quite as interesting.

While the book at times verges into self-flagellation, it is an exhaustive and well-written history of an empire from the very top. Of particular value, aside from the immense detail, are interjections from key players on both sides of the conflict – including a foreword by Avatar Korra, and editorial assistance from Baatar Beifong Jr, Jinora, Fire Lord Iroh II, and her long-term confidant Princess Ursa II.

It was sold out in Republic City within a day of release and provoked significant public debate around the world. Neo-Kuvirans experienced a significant political rift as a result of publication. Many extremists within the movement had taken her refusal to comment as tacit endorsement. Weight of Empire demolished this tendency and led to the growth of a moderate faction which held itself to be more in line with Kuvira’s vision – although she refused to comment on their policy platform. Anti-imperial thinkers and children of re-education camp survivors; as most original internees were by this point dead; evinced a degree of satisfaction at her admissions but were unconvinced by any claims at redemption.

As with every work on this list, readers must make their own judgement.