History and Life #657: War and Cold | Extreme weather as a weapon in war conflicts

The myth of “General Winter”, who crushed Napoleon’s troops in Russia, was repeated in World War II with Hitler and the Operation Barbarossa. Of course, the weather is never “neutral” in a military campaign, but there are other factors that contribute to redoubling its effects, such as a lack of foresight or a lack of knowledge of what is necessary to survive in such circumstances.

We delve into all this and much more in the December issue of the magazine History and Lifeof which we bring you forward the editorial of our director, Isabel Margarit, followed by the summary of the contents of the month.


The uncertain outlook in Ukraine becomes bleaker with the arrival of winter. Russia has started the “cold war” with targeted bombing of energy facilities, one of the Kremlin’s strategies to subdue the Ukrainians. Not only the civilian population will be affected, without heat sources due to the sharp drop in temperature; the troops also fear the effects of harsh weather. Once again, “General Winter” looms in a conflict.

Although historians have shown that this figure was not as decisive as Napoleon and Hitler claimed after the failures of their Russian campaigns, the effects of the cold have wreaked havoc in numerous battles. It acts as a lethal weapon when armies are not ready to fight it. From frostbite derived from hypothermia to psychological destabilization, which can lead to wrong decision making.

read also

If unpredictability was decisive in the failure of the Grand Corsican, the overconfidence of the Führer and the lack of supplies to his troops were key in the outcome of Operation Barbarossa. The Germans were ill-equipped to deal with the frigid temperatures, and poor weather management contributed to the debacle.

Lack of calculation, ignorance of the terrain, inadequate tactics or malnutrition are some of the factors that have come together in different battles and different scenarios to make the cold one of the most fearsome enemies in war.

HYV 657, DECEMBER 2022


war and cold

“General Winter” has had a decisive influence in some of the biggest conflicts in history.

G. Toca Rey, journalist


Mithridates vs. Rome

His model was Alexander the Great. His objective is to expand the borders of the kingdom of Pontus. Fearless of Rome, Mithridates challenged his best generals.

I. Giménez Chueca, journalist

Theodora of Byzantium

A former prostitute, the Byzantine empress fought against the exploitation of women and was able to influence the legislation that her husband, Justinian, put in place to control this scourge.

F. Martínez Hoyos, PhD in History

animals on trial

Pigs in the dock and rats receiving court summonses. The Middle Ages witnessed scenes like these, the result of the perception that animals had consciousness and, in some cases, were possessed by the devil.

A. Ortí, journalist

the mary celeste

The most famous ghost ship of all time has given rise to endless hypotheses about the disappearance of all its crew members in 1872.

Mr. Martín González, journalist

This is how we slept before

The Industrial Revolution changed our sleeping habits, which in the past developed in phases.

C. Contente, historian

children of the atom

After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and with the sword of Damocles of a nuclear war on the horizon, the seventh and ninth arts warded off panic with the figure of superheroes.

C. Joric, historian and journalist


Front page: The “Mundial” showcase

Before the World Cup in Qatar aroused reactions against it, other football events were also involved in the controversy.

E. Mesa Leiva, journalist

Archeology: The Michaux Stone

In 1784, a French botanist, on a scientific mission to Asia, found a monolith that would help unravel cuneiform writing.

J. Elliot, journalist

Photo with story: Engineering on the Nile

The Aswan Dams tamed the longest river in Africa.

A. de Sentmenat Rivero, journalist

read also

History and Life #657: War and Cold | Extreme weather as a weapon in war conflicts