Caleb Karges ’09 was awarded the André Corvisier Prize for his PhD thesis in military history, and traveled to Cameroon to receive the honor. The prize, in its first year, is given by the International Commission of Military History (ICMH).
“I was completely surprised,” says Karges. “One morning I woke up and looked at my emails, and the secretary of ICMH had written me back. I was in disbelief for about two months. Even though they were making arrangements I thought, there must be some kind of mistake.”
It suddenly felt like I was a very important person,” Karges says with a laugh. “It was a great experience.
The dissertation, titled “So Perverse an Ally”: Great Britain’s Alliance with Austria in the War of the Spanish Succession, is about the British and Austrian alliance during the War of Spanish Succession in 1701-1714.
“It was probably the single biggest war in Europe before the French Revolution, but we all forget about it because Napoleon happened and these were old aristocratic guys with wigs,” Karges says. “It’s kind of inaccessible to us.”
His study found that personal relationships between allies play an enormous role in the outcome of international events.
“One British commander was super-heavy-handed and almost collapsed the entire war effort in Spain,” Karges says. “You can have all kinds of structural problems, but if people can work it out, they can bridge those gaps. Effectiveness is very much reliant on whether these agents can work together.”
Karges’ experience in Cameroon was otherworldly, with many festivities, the presentation of the award, and being hosted by the Cameroonian government.
“It suddenly felt like I was a very important person,” Karges says with a laugh. “It was a great experience.”
Karges has been teaching at CUI for two years as an assistant professor of history. His parents are both Christ College alums (Lonnie Ray Karges ’80 and Ingrid Ellen [Warpness] Karges ’81).
In giving him the award, the ICMH wrote, “Dr. Karges’ thesis is an excellent model of PhD dissertation, dealing with a subject not too narrow and not too wide, which is examined with great competence and balance between diplomacy and military strategy. It is well written and clear, based on extensive literature in English and German and documents from Austrian and British archives.”
Karges beat out 25 other entries for the award. It came with 3,000 euros cash and a paid trip to Cameroon for the ceremony.
“I like to think that this underscores the good work we’re doing in the history department at Concordia,” he says. “I’m very proud of the department I work in. A lot of great scholarship goes on. It is super-encouraging for continuing with my projects and research to know that there’s a sense of validation, that I didn’t do this all in vain.”