Wild Geese, Winged Daggers, and Leopards in the Jungle

In perfect keeping with my academic ventures, the initial plan for my paper was quite interesting to me, very very ambitious, and on the whole more than a little high-minded and obscenely impractical. While the study of mercenary soldiering’s evolution from the Congo to the modern age would be interesting and very much in line with my academic pursuits, it would also be nigh well impossible to cut down to a mere 14 or so pages.

So I decided to chop things down a bit and to focus merely on the Congo, and to try to gauge the effectiveness of the three main mercenary units that served for the duration of the Simba Rebellion. This actually made matters much easier for me, as the number of primary source documents about the Congo is considerably higher than those of, say, Biafra or Angola.

Granted, that’s as much of a curse as it is blessing. Due to the lack of secondary source documents, I have to use a lot of “source triangulation” to confirm the veracity of statements—fact-checking documents against one another. Considering the obvious self-interest of memoirs, this could have proven problematic were it not for the accounts of two players who had little to no emotional investment in the mercenary leaders. Frederic Vandewalle and Jerry Puren’s memoirs act as a sort of a baseline to judge the others off of, something that has proven quite useful.

Another benefit to the tightened focus is being able to devote greater pagespace to elements of the topic that interest me rather than rushing through them so as to ensure I cover everything possible. Overall, I feel that this new paper will be considerably more successful than the other one potentially could have been.

2 thoughts on “Wild Geese, Winged Daggers, and Leopards in the Jungle

  1. Jake,
    Despite having to narrow your topic since your first presentation, I think your new focus on the effectiveness of the three mercenary units will be equally as interesting and will provide for a more informative read as you won’t have to cut material out for fear of the page limit. Although I understand your problem of needing to narrow the scope of your project, as I had to do the same with mine in order to fit the page limit as well as finish researching in time for the deadline. For your primary sources, have you considered looking at accounts or memoirs from the French-speaking African soldiers who directly interacted with some of the mercenary units? It sounds like you have been having problems finding primary sources and determining their possible biases, but hopefully the two memoirs you found will help. Good luck on the rest of your paper!

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