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International Relations Battle
by
Cathal Nolan

Introduction

Much literature on war details battles and campaigns. Quality varies from compilations of précis to full-length books on “decisive battles.” Much is overly heroic and uncritical, but some is deeply scholarly. Accurate battle and operational history is extremely hard to write, especially about wars distant in time. Traditional histories were often overly reliant on a few eyewitnesses or took the “top-down” approach dictated by heavy reliance on commanders’ memoirs. Thus, they too often were concerned primarily with military reputations, critical tactical decisions made or not made by commanders which putatively turned the tides of whole campaigns and even wars. From the 19th century, war diaries and letters home by more educated men sprinkled among a generally and more commonly illiterate soldiery enriched battle and campaign reconstructions but still emphasized command decisions in battle reconstructions. Modern accounts often benefit from the necessary collaborative writing by teams of historians or military professionals working from a multitude of sources on enormous battles of the 20th century, or extending this methodology back to earlier times. Eyewitness oral histories, interviews, and detailed after-action reports have become key sources in writing battle and campaign history, in addition to “official histories” and ever-wider publication of battle memoirs by even very low-level participants in modern wars. Battle study today nearly always includes “bottom-up” social and cultural issues, better reflecting the “face of battle” experienced by ordinary soldiers.

General Overviews

The main tradition in battle study is narrative recreation, or reconstruction, usually of what are judged to have been “decisive battles.” Paving the way for many imitators was Creasy 1992, first published in the mid–19th century yet still read today. A more detached and scholarly operational work is Heller and Stofft 1986. Its unique feature is to assess the “first battle” of each war and what was learned from the experience. Altering the landscape of writing about battle was Ardant du Picq 1978, first published after the Franco-Prussian War. Written by a French officer once gravely wounded, it is full of empathy for the human experience of combat. Keegan 1976 changed the way much contemporary military history is written by recreating in remarkable detail and outstanding prose the experience of three key British battles. Keegan 1999, a collection of firsthand accounts of battle, is a useful compendium of primary readings. Although couched in a questionable theoretical framework, the power of the originals shines through the editorial fog. Richard Holmes went farther than any other military historian in Acts of War, exploring the age-old question of why men fight by following recruits across time and cultures into different armies and multiple wars (Holmes 1986). He lets the men describe for themselves acculturation into military life, training, battle experience, suffering, and wounds of body and mind. A third type of study assesses the experience of battle across time in search of cultural patterns. Hanson 2001 argues for a peculiarly lethal “Western way of war” in his widely read, and equally widely criticized, study of “carnage and culture.” More scholarly, error-free, and persuasive is Lynn 2003, which presents the culture of battle as shifting, impermanent and nonlinear, but always centrally important to the larger understanding of war.

  • Ardant du Picq, Charles J. J. Études sur le combat: Combat antique et combat moderne. Paris: Champ Libre, 1978.

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    French officer examined ancient war to mid-19th-century wars; emphasized role of morale as key to success; notable for insight into battle psychology, physical and mental strains of combat.

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  • Creasy, Edward. Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: Marathon to Waterloo. Wayne, PA: Landpost, 1992.

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    Traditionalist treatment of selected battles; each conflict narrated, assessed for putative decisive effects on world history. First of a whole genre of “decisive battle” literature. First published in 1851 (London: R. Bentley).

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  • Hanson, Victor Davis. Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power. New York: Doubleday, 2001.

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    The West has a uniquely lethal, linear military culture, rooted in social organization and ideas about a citizen’s relationship to state. Illustrates with accounts of nine battles, classical to modern. Often criticized for its cherry-picked historical record; major errors of fact or interpretation; presumption of linear Western tradition leaps over the Middle Ages and rediscoveries and “military revolutions” of the 15th and 16th centuries.

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  • Heller, Charles E., and William A. Stofft. America’s First Battles, 1776–1965. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1986.

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    Rich operational study of ten American “first battles” by historians and professional military. Includes Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican-American War, American Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War.

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  • Holmes, Richard. Acts of War: Behavior of Men in Battle. New York: Free Press, 1986.

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    Medical layman’s informed, psychological study of why men fight and how they react to the experience of military life and war. Historical accounts and contemporary oral histories interwoven with secondary sources. Detached, objective, keen insights abound.

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  • Keegan, John, ed. The Book of War: 25 Centuries of Great War Writing. New York: Penguin, 1999.

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    Eclectic but valuable collection of one hundred short, primary source readings. Imposition of overly artful editing and Western “theoretical” bias in commentary rarely detracts from core utility of original sources. Each excerpt preceded by short introduction. Useful companion to any main course text.

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  • Keegan, John. The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme. New York: Viking, 1976.

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    Pathbreaking, close study of three famous battles; highlights the ground-level, personal experience of combat; effectively demonstrates expanding scale of modern warfare. Heavy and oddly theoretical prologue may be usefully skipped.

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  • Lynn, John A. Battle: A History of Combat and Culture from Ancient Greece to Modern America. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2003.

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    Insightful cross-cultural study; evolution of experience of combat; argues against special cultural patterns; history of warfare more varied. Argues against determinative role of technology, revives cultural beliefs and ideology as key explanations of multiple causes of war and styles of combat. Notable for rare essays on military culture of India.

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Reference Works

An older style of reference work on battle is Eggenberger 1985, a compilation of short descriptions of more than 1,500 battles from antiquity to the mid–20th century. Comparable works provide short military biographies as well as battle summaries. The Oxford “Companion” series is well-established across global history and national military history lines. Holmes 2003 maintains high scholarly standards and aspires to be universal but in fact concentrates most heavily on modern military history. Its real strength is presenting “new military history” that goes beyond battle to social and institutional concerns. Nolan’s encyclopedias (Nolan 2006 and Nolan 2008) are single-author period works comprising short definitions and translations of technical and foreign-language terms, as well as longer essays. They are fully cross-referenced. Parker 1995 is a masterpiece of clear narrative writing and thoughtful, well-chosen illustrations.

  • Eggenberger, David. Encyclopedia of Battles: Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles, 1479 B.C. to the Present. New York: Dover, 1985.

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    Covers ancient world to mid–20th century; paragraph or page-length summaries include dates, locale, participants. Organized alphabetically. Nearly one hundred battle maps. First published in 1967 as Dictionary of Battles (New York: Crowell).

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  • Holmes, Richard, ed. The Oxford Companion to Military History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    Clear, readable. Ancient world to end of 20th century, with more emphasis on modern wars from 18th to 20th centuries than title suggests. Strength is range of topics beyond battles or campaigns to include social and class issues, pay, food, disease, soldiers’ lives, and state finance. First-rate scholarship. Excellent maps.

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  • Nolan, Cathal J. The Age of Wars of Religion, 1000–1650: An Encyclopedia of Global Warfare and Civilization. 2 vols. Greenwood Encyclopedias of Modern World Wars. Westport CT: Greenwood, 2006.

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    More than two thousand entries, from short definitions to multipage essays; global coverage of military technology of period; social and class relations; major confessional groups; theological disputes; political and military biographies; notable battles; crusades, jihads, and secular wars. Extensive bibliography, maps, index, detailed chronology of events.

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  • Nolan, Cathal J. Wars of the Age of Louis XIV, 1650–1715: An Encyclopedia of Global Warfare and Civilization. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2008.

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    More than a thousand entries, from short definitions to multipage essays; 17th- to early 18th-century warfare. Mostly Europe but some global coverage. Topics covered include: Fortification and siege methods; weapons; emergence of battle versus siege; national political histories; military biography; discrete battles, campaigns, recruitment, war finance. Includes northern wars and Ottoman wars. Bibliography, maps, index.

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  • Parker, Geoffrey, ed. The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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    Western military history from Greece and Rome to end of 20th century; essays by seven prominent historians on strategy, tactics, logistics, finance, military culture, fortification, industrialization, war at sea, civil wars, world wars, post-1945 conflicts. Maps, diagrams, pictures, rich illustrations. Excellent work.

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Bibliographies

The reference works listed above all contain useful bibliographies or suggested readings on specific battles. More specialized bibliographies are listed below. A strength of online works is that they can be kept up-to-date after first publication. However, an attending weakness is that some are not maintained or updated as they should be, while active links fall out of service. The Journal of Military History is essential for tracking down articles published elsewhere, in addition to its own fine contributions. The Society for Military History website has a master link page that will lead researchers to abundant online archives and sources. The US Army Command and General Staff College publishes several useful bibliographies. H-WAR is an interactive bulletin board where bibliographic and even highly specific queries may be posted and answered by active military historians in lightly edited “threads.”

Ancient Warfare

The starting point for all empirical study of war, and of international relations more generally, is Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War (Thucydides 1998). Roman warfare and the nature of classical battles are well portrayed in Goldsworth 1996. The study of classical military operations revived during the Italian Renaissance, notably influencing the military writing of Niccolò Machiavelli. A century later, new translations of Roman military histories and tactical guides, especially that by Vegetius, greatly influenced the “infantry revolution” in early modern Europe: the critical shift from squares to lines, volley fire, and other innovations introduced by Maurits of Nassau, Gustavus Adolphus, and other military reformers in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Non-Western warfare is less well studied or publicized in Western languages, though a number of important works appeared in recent decades. Breaking fresh ground was Fairbank and Kierman 1974, a study by leading Sinologists of Chinese campaign histories over the millennium from 500 BCE to 1556 CE. Stephen Turnbull has written a number of solid books on the samurai military tradition in Japan, of which a good representative is Turnbull 2002.

  • Fairbank, John K., and Frank Kierman. Chinese Ways in Warfare. Essays presented at a conference sponsored by the American Council of Learned Societies’ Committee on Studies of Chinese Civilization and the East Asian Research Center of Harvard University. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.

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    Scholarly campaign studies of Chinese wars from 500 BCE to 1556 CE. Entry in Harvard East Asian Series. Sources necessarily problematic. Advanced the field.

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  • Goldsworth, Adrian. The Roman Army at War 100 BC–AD 200. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.

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    Solid empirical study of Roman Army organization and doctrine, tactics, weapons, generalship, ordinary soldiers’ motivation and morale, life on the march. Comparisons made to Rome’s principal martial enemies.

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  • Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. Translated by Steven Lattimore. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1998.

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    The great war of classical Greece, fomented by an aggressively imperial Athens, opposed by an anti-Athenian alliance marshaled around Sparta. Remarkably dispassionate narrative. Most famed for “Melian dialogue,” read as core “realist” text by international relations scholars and teachers. Unabridged edition.

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  • Turnbull, Stephen. The Samurai: A Military History. London: Routledge Curzon, 2002.

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    Well-written, authoritative overview of samurai formation, civil wars, resistance to Mongols, martial ethic, honor code, dominance of Japan. Standard and reliable history. Originally published in 1977 (London: Osprey).

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Medieval and Early Modern European Wars

Medieval combat was largely a matter of prolonged sieges and confused skirmishes, in which small garrisons sallied to harass enemy lines and camps, or attackers stormed broken town or fortress walls after a breech was made by bombardment or a sapper’s mine. Field armies clashed rarely and usually carefully. Much began to change in the early modern period as the “infantry revolution” displaced heavy cavalry and missile weapons displaced edged weapons in combat. Beeler 1994 provides survey coverage of the rise of heavy cavalry to social, economic, and military dominance. Curry 2003 is the most accessible single volume on the extraordinarily complex Hundred Years’ War. Philippe Contamine wrote the most important modern book on medieval military history, La guerre au Moyen Age (Contamine 1984). The masterful volume of Hall 1997 carries the tale to the start of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648). Rodger 1997 provides a remarkable history of naval life and warfare in the Atlantic over one thousand years. Asch 1997 and Parker 1984 offer different explanations of the climactic violence of the age of wars of religion that led to collapse into anarchy in Germany and much of Europe in the first half of the 17th century. Murphey 1999 is an important scholarly corrective to an almost cartoon presentation of Ottoman military power in too many European-based histories, both contemporary and more recent. Murphey demonstrates that the Ottoman Empire remained a major military power to the end of the 17th century, its army equal to any in Europe in technology while many of its military support systems were superior in scale and sophistication.

  • Asch, Ronald. The Thirty Years’ War: The Holy Roman Empire and Europe, 1618–1648. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997.

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    Compact, clear history of exceptionally complex conflict. Argues religious and constitutional struggle in the Holy Roman Empire was central cause. Covers secular issues also, including war finance and political support; confessional divisions explained as key to spreading war beyond Germany.

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  • Beeler, John. Warfare in Feudal Europe, 730–1200. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994.

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    Traces evolution of heavy cavalry to the start of its demise. Social history of medieval muster, makeup of armies, movement and battle, key factor of leadership. First published in 1971.

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  • Contamine, Philippe. War in the Middle Ages. Translated by Michael Jones. New York: Blackwell, 1984.

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    Sweeping interpretation; extraordinary detail on military life, rations, medicine, tactics, finance, rise of standing armies and navies. Especially important for correcting misinformation on heavy horse, restoring “cavalry” function in place of older view of the medieval “battle” as a mounted mob. First edition published in French as La guerre au Moyen Agein in 1980.

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  • Curry, Anne. The Hundred Years’ War, 1337–1453. Essential Histories. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2003.

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    Solid, single-volume narrative history that also engages major interpretive debates. Discrete chapters: “Portrait of a Soldier”; “Portrait of a Civilian.” Maps. Recommended readings and annotated bibliography.

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  • Hall, Bert. Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe: Gunpowder, Technology, and Tactics. Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology 22. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

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    Modern classic on the interplay of weapons technology with existing military and cultural systems and dynamics of military transitions. Best single volume on war and weapons between Hundred Years’ War and Thirty Years’ War.

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  • Murphey, Rhoads. Ottoman Warfare, 1500–1700. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1999.

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    Excellent, compact, well-written on all aspects of Ottoman warfare, from rations and barracks life to Janissary Corps recruitment, weapons, political influence, fighting skill; advanced military medicine and imperial magazine systems; war finance; wars with Austria, Iran, Russia. Key finding: Ottoman military decline up against Europe came later than usually stated.

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  • Parker, Geoffrey, ed. The Thirty Years’ War. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984.

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    Best single-volume political history of the Great War of the 17th century. Top scholars and multinational scholarship. Chronology, genealogies, index, bibliography in multiple languages.

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  • Rodger, N. A. M. Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, 660–1649. London: HarperCollins, 1997.

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    Comprehensive, authoritative, extraordinarily detailed on one thousand years of maritime history, mainly British but necessarily also Atlantic. Demonstrates Britain’s vulnerability to other naval powers until the English civil wars. Ship design, construction, guns, sails, navigation, tactics, technology, social makeup of navies, crew life, military discipline.

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Seventeenth-And Eighteenth-Century Wars

European wars of the late 17th and early 18th centuries expanded in scale and bloodshed as conflict over religion yielded to an age of secular Leviathans maintaining larger standing armies and globe-spanning navies. The era saw hundreds of sieges and increasingly frequent battles. Duffy 1996 is definitive on early modern fortification. David Chandler wrote the key study of the “great captain” of the age in Chandler 2007. Chandler is essential on the changing face of battle in the early 18th century. Alternately, Weigley 1991 challenges the utility of 18th-century battle. Keep 1985 expands understanding of military transformation to Russia, a rising great power in a swelling states system. Europe’s land and sea battles, and hence its revolutions in military affairs (RMAs), also spilled overseas in protracted naval and colonial conflicts that touched the shores of five continents. Mahan 1980 is a remarkably influential study of the cresting era of wooden warships. Mahan’s work was critically important in naval strategy and doctrine during the first half of the 20th century, but it lacks much as a history of the era it purports to explain. Its clear diagrams and expositions on tactics of Fighting Sail are still useful. Britishbattles.com is a commercial website that sells British naval and military art. It has a useful list of several hundred battles from Hastings to the end of the Boer War. It is less useful for battle synopses than for military art, engravings, and illustrations that accompany the very brief text. Non-European military traditions of the era are found in unique detail in Pinch 2006 on India. Starkey 1996 supplies a cultural corrective to traditional treatments of North American native warfare.

  • Britishbattles.com.

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    Commercial site. List and quick synopses of British battles from Hundred Years’ War through Boer War. Strong national bias, but good source for naval and military art, especially of 18th century at sea and on land.

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  • Chandler, David. The Art of War in the Age of Marlborough. 2d ed. Staplehurst, UK: Spellmount, 2007.

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    Scholarly yet highly readable study of social, institutional, training milieu of war in Western Europe in late 17th to early 18th centuries. Focus on Marlborough’s campaigns, war of maneuver versus siege; search for decisive battle; newly sanguinary field battles. Detailed on various arms, tactics, doctrines, methods. First published in 1976 (New York: Hippocrene).

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  • Duffy, Christopher. Fire and Stone: The Science of Fortress Warfare, 1660–1860. London: Greenhill, 1996.

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    Detailed, authoritative, densely written. Not for beginners. Fortification design; siege techniques; attack and defense. Excellent diagrams.

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  • Keep, John L. H. Soldiers of the Tsar: Army and Society in Russia, 1462–1874. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

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    Russian military evolution from Muscovy through the late 19th century. Introduction of the infantry and gunpowder revolutions; class and social consequences; new universal conscription and other recruitment methods replace service military; end of strel’sty; professionalizing officer corps; army life. Territorial expansion of Russia.

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  • Mahan, Alfred Thayer. The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660–1783. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1980.

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    Battle history is secondary to deriving lasting principles of sea power, crucially influential in American, British, German, and other naval theory and practice in 20th century, with central ideas of “command of the sea” and access to, control of, “sea lanes.” Battlefleet and battleship theory now largely outdated. First published in 1890 (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington) and still widely read.

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  • Pinch, William. Warrior Ascetics and Indian Empires. Cambridge Studies in Indian History and Society 12. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    War in India: Mughals; warlords; Rajputs; Marathas; sadhus; shakti bhakti; military institutions and organization. Illustrations, glossary, maps.

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  • Starkey, Armstrong. European and Native American Warfare, 1675-1815. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

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    Clash of cultures view of invasions of North America. Indians as highly successful military culture, neither savage nor always victimized. Merges cultural and military history. Details native weapons, ways of war, battle successes, colonist failures. King Philip’s War, French and Indian Wars, War of Independence, War of 1812.

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  • Weigley, Russell. The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

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    Contests idea of “decisive battle” and “great captains”; argues attrition major cause of victory in era’s wars: Gustavus Adolphus, Charles II, Louis XIV, Marlborough, Nelson, Napoleon, Wellington. Development of professional officer class; command issues. Relevant to RMA debate.

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Nineteenth-Century Wars

Europe entered the century in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars. It then slipped into a “long peace,” broken before 1914 only by the Crimean War. Meanwhile, numerous “small wars” were fought to expand or defend overseas empire. The middle century was punctuated by two great conflicts: the Taiping rebellion that fatally weakened the Qing dynasty in China, and the American Civil War. McElwee 1974 supplies the best short history of 19th-century warfare, notable also for its treatment of technology. Strachan 1983 masterfully surveys European and colonial military culture, institutions, and strategic doctrine into the 20th century. Knightley 2004 introduces important actors who appeared first on the Crimean stage: war correspondents and their counterparts, and military censors. Linderman 1987 applies techniques of the “new military history” to the American Civil War to produce a study of personal experience of combat by veterans from both sides. Hattaway and Jones 1991 approaches the same conflict at the level of strategy and operations. Ajayi and Smith 1964 documents a thriving African military and imperial tradition that survived for much of the period. Farwell 1973 provides a “heroic” account of Britain’s many small imperial wars in Africa and Asia. Kuhn 1980 outlines the roots and course of the most deadly war of the century.

  • Ajayi, J. F. A., and R. Smith. Yoruba Warfare in the 19th Century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1964.

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    Expansion and defense of Oyo; Yoruba social and military organization; comparative influence of imported military technology and persistent environment on Yoruba imperial expansion and martial rivalries.

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  • Farwell, Byron. Queen Victoria’s Little Wars. New York: W. W. Norton, 1973.

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    British colonial or imperial wars: Opium Wars, Crimean War, Zulu Wars, Boer War, Sikh Wars, Indian Mutiny, Taiping intervention, Ashanti Wars, Aghan Wars, Sudan. Traditional focus on acts and men deemed heroic.

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  • Hattaway, Herman, and Archer Jones. How the North Won: A Military History of the Civil War. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991.

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    Strategy, top command decisions, operational planning, key role of logistics. Singular military explanation of outcome. Detailed appendices on study of military operations. Originally published in 1983.

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  • Knightley, Phillip. The First Casualty: From the Crimea to Vietnam—The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist, and Myth Maker. 3d ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.

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    Emergence of war correspondents; public opinion; censorship. First edition (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975) to Vietnam. Up-to-date to Iraq War.

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  • Kuhn, Philip. Rebellion and Its Enemies in Late Imperial China: Militarization and Social Structure, 1796–1864. Harvard East Asian Studies 49. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980.

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    Qing military policy; role of militia; military rebels; White Lotus Rebellion; Taiping Rebellion; strategic problems posed by protracted Taiping war; breakdown of Qing state. Outstanding scholarship. Advanced specialist study.

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  • Linderman, Gerald F. Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War. New York: Free Press, 1987.

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    Major study of the religious, social, and other personal beliefs and opinions of Civil War soldiers from Union and Confederate armies. Unifies experience of war by stripping away differences of uniform and sectional affiliation.

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  • McElwee, William. The Art of War: Waterloo to Mons. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1974.

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    Short work on 19th-century warfare that also focuses on military technology. Still reliable, compact history.

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  • Strachan, Hew. European Armies and the Conduct of War. London and Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1983.

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    Trends and developments from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries; Marlborough and Frederick the Great; influence of Jomini and Clausewitz; impact of colonial warfare on war in Europe; both world wars; Blitzkrieg; post–World War II revolution in strategy. Concise, well-written. Neglects Ottomans. Otherwise excellent.

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World War I

The origins, course, and consequences of the two world wars produced a vast literature. Much writing on World War I concerns fighting the Western Front alone. Brose 2010 and Strachan 1998 both avoid that failing in their one-volume histories of the “Great War,” but each still should be read in conjunction with Stone 1975 for proper perspective on the importance of the Eastern Front. Fussell 1975 is astonishingly original, emotive, and still fresh with deep meaning about the human experience of combat and how that experience is memorialized. It can be read together with the similarly evocative Cecil and Liddle 1996. At the strategic and operational levels, the single greatest battle of the war is the subject of Foley 2007. The French side of that extraordinary story of martial effort and human endurance and suffering is detailed in a superior study by the premier historian of the French Army in the 20th century in Doughty 2008. Macmillan 2003 provides a tour de force of lucid prose and keen analysis in the best one-volume treatment of the postwar settlement, included here as important to understanding the large and long consequences of battle.

  • Brose, Eric. A History of the Great War: World War I and the International Crisis of the Early 20th Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Well-crafted analysis unites grand themes of causes and outcomes with personal experiences of war. Controversial conclusions about long-term benefits of the war for peace and social justice in Europe. Strength is to situate Great War in longer history that preceded and followed it. Numerous maps.

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  • Cecil, Hugh, and Peter Liddle, eds. Facing Armageddon: The First World War Experienced. London: Cooper, 1996.

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    Rich firsthand accounts of the experience of the Western trenches. Includes thirty-two illustrations.

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  • Doughty, Robert. Pyrrhic Victory: French Strategy and Operations in the Great War. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2008.

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    Masterful study of the French Army in World War I; surpasses all work that preceded in quality of research, depth of insight, strength of analysis, fresh conclusions. Corrects several major myths about France and the French military effort. Superior study.

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  • Foley, Robert T. German Strategy and the Path to Verdun: Erich von Falkenhayn and the Development of Attrition, 1870–1916. Cambridge Military Histories. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    Best scholarly study of Falkenhayn’s strategy. Covers lesser-known early war victories, leading into better-known failure of strategy of attrition at Verdun. German imperial and military systems thoroughly layed out. Well-written intellectual, cultural, and military history of the German war effort.

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  • Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.

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    Remarkable study of poetry, prose, and soldier myths of Great War, concentrating on English authors: Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Edmund Blunden, David Jones, Isaac Rosenberg, Wilfred Owen, and others.

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  • Macmillan, Margaret. Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. New York: Random House, 2003.

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    Highly readable recreation of Paris Peace Conference; rich with personality and role of outside public opinion, details of negotiations and postwar settlements with defeated Central Powers. Main focus on “Big Three” of Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau. Also various small-power and nationalist appeals to conferees.

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  • Stone, Norman. The Eastern Front, 1914–1917. New York: Scribner, 1975.

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    Rare study of the Russian-German war and Russian-Austrian war, 1914–1917. Causes, plans, leading personalities. Most severe on Conrad and other Austrian leaders. Top-down traditional approach to study of command. Little on soldiery.

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  • Strachan, Hew. World War I. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    The best one-volume narrative history of World War I. Well-written, comprehensive, reliable.

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World War II

World War II saw more killing and destruction—and arguably also more cruelty and hate—than any other conflict in history. The best strategic and diplomatic history of the war is Weinberg 1995, but it must be read in conjunction with operational histories, as it lacks any real detail on how the war was actually fought and won. Spector 1985 is a solid if unexciting narrative of the Pacific War, but it does not cover the campaigns in China or Southeast Asia. Doughty 1985 is essential to understanding the military defeat of France in 1940, a signature moment in the war that fundamentally changed the Allied order of battle and every other powers’ strategic and diplomatic calculation. Mawdsley 2007 takes up the story as war broke out along the eastern front. It is the best, most up-to-date short history of the German-Soviet war. Mawdsley effectively unites scholarship and fresh archival material from both sides, a rare feat. Overy 1980 is the now standard history of the war in the air; it is a dense, richly detailed, and well-sourced study of all major air forces, of shifting production and strategic doctrines, and most notably of the economies and scientific establishments that sustained success or underlay failure over the course of a catastrophic attritional war. Chickering, et al. 2005 is a highly uneven collection of essays centered on theoretical debate over whether World War II qualifies as the paragon of an idealized academic concept of total war. Zeiler 2010 is an up-to-date, readable, concise, narrative synthesis, intended primarily for a college undergraduate audience.

  • Chickering, Roger, Stig Förster, and Bernd Greiner, eds. A World at Total War: Global Conflict and the Politics of Destruction, 1937–1945. Publications of the German Historical Institute. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Uneven collection wraps some solid empirical essays around theoretical and definition concerns most readers will find oddly detached, even abstruse. Dimensions of war; combat; mobilizing economies and societies; mobilizing noncombatants, including women; war crimes.

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  • Doughty, Robert Allan. The Seeds of Disaster: The Development of French Army Doctrine, 1919–1939. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1985.

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    Seminal work on French Army doctrine and organization; roots of defeat in FALL GELB (1940); relations with British Army; armored warfare doctrine; Maginot Line and mobile arms debates; alliance politics and strategy.

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  • Mawdsley, Evan. Thunder in the East: The Nazi-Soviet War, 1941–1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Clear, concise, reliable, though sometimes acerbic. Weapons, war finance, production, leadership, operational doctrine, military organization, recruitment, morale, personnel. Operational summaries of main campaigns and battles. High quality. Up-to-date.

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  • Overy, Richard. The Air War, 1939–1945. London: Europa, 1980.

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    Detailed, dense, authoritative history of major air forces and air economies of World War II. Not a battle history, yet solid campaign narrative chapters. Aircraft design; strategic bombing doctrine and practice; leadership, organization, training; aircraft economies; production strategies; science and engineering.

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  • Spector, Ronald H. Eagle against the Sun: The American War with Japan. New York: Free Press, 1985.

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    Reliable and readable, but not elegant, short history of Pacific War. Good on campaigns, including oft-neglected Australian campaign on New Guinea. No coverage of China War or Burma campaigns. Strong judgments about commanders.

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  • Weinberg, Gerhard. A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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    Authoritative, comprehensive, massive single volume diplomatic, political, and strategic history. Little operational, economic, or technological detail or coverage. Battle and campaign summaries cursory, standard. Strength is depiction of strategic thinking of all major players. Second edition, published in 2005, incorporates new Soviet archival material without altering any core argument.

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  • Zeiler, Thomas W. Annihilation: A Global Military History of World War II. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Readable, concise, narrative synthesis intended for a college audience. Occasionally provocative thesis on total war. Well-balanced on strategic, operational, and specific battle details. Excellent maps.

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Late Twentieth-Century Wars

The 1950s were dominated by the Korean War and several “wars of national liberation” of rebellious colonies against attempted reestablishment or continuation of European empires in Asia and Africa. Knox 1985 is a two-volume collection recounting diaries, letters, and oral histories of Americans in Korea. Horne 2002 recounts the brutal French-Algerian war that became famous as a signature conflict marking the effective end of French overseas empire. Several wars in Indochina and a crucially important war in the Middle East marked off the 1960s. North Vietnam issued a People’s War “how-to” guide over the name of General Giáp, who defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu and later drove the Americans from Vietnam (Giap 2001). Karnow 1997 is a dated but once highly influential survey history of the Indochinese wars, focusing on the US role. Dung 1977 celebrates the end of the vicious colonial war for Vietnamese independence and unification. It is a wholly one-sided account ostensibly by the North Vietnamese commander of the last campaign of conquest of South Vietnam in 1975. Egypt’s chief of staff, Saad el Shazly, provides a similarly intriguing but lopsided account of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War in Shazly 1980. Freedman 1994 is a wide-ranging anthology that includes a closing section of fifteen essays on “Limited War and Developing Countries.” In Steed 2002, an active-duty US Army officer evokes lessons from operations ranging from Korea and the Falklands to Mogadishu and Iraq.

  • Dung, Van Tien. Our Great Spring Victory: An Account of the Liberation of South Vietnam. Translated by John Spragens Jr. New York: Monthly Review, 1977.

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    North Vietnamese commander of final campaign of conquest of South Vietnam in 1975 recounts how victory was achieved. Originally published as newspaper series. Reprinted: Hanoi, Vietnam: Thê Gióri, 2005.

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  • Freedman, Lawrence, ed. War. Oxford: Oxford Readers. Oxford University Press, 1994.

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    Fifteen short, selected readings on limited war and developing countries since 1945; part of larger anthology on causes, experience, ethics, strategy of war; 1945 to early 1990s.

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  • Giap, Vo Nguyen. People’s War, People’s Army: The Viet Cong Insurrection Manual for Underdeveloped Countries. Honolulu, HI: University Press of the Pacific, 2001.

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    Part propaganda, part guerilla warfare “how-to” manual by leading general in the North Vietnamese war against the French, Americans, and South Vietnamese. Of interest as a primary source rather than as a primer. First published in 1961 (Hanoi: Foreign Languages Pub. House).

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  • Horne, Alistair. A Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954–1962. Rev. ed. London: Pan, 2002.

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    Compact narrative of Algerian war of independence; French colonial policy and internal divisions; Algerian resistance; urban guerilla warfare; insurgency and counterinsurgency. First published in 1977 (London: Macmillan).

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  • Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. 2d rev. ed. New York: Penguin, 1997.

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    Balanced narrative account of modern Vietnam wars: Japanese, French, American, and civil. Diplomacy and politics; strategy; errors. Focus on United States policy and lessons for US military. Became standard text used by US Army Command and General Staff College. Used also in academic courses; general readership. First published in 1983 (New York: Viking).

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  • Knox, Donald. The Korean War. 2 vols. New York: Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich, 1985.

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    Letters, diaries, oral histories of American soldiers in Korea. Focus on junior officers and ordinary G.I. Volume 1: Pusan to Chosin (1950); Volume 2: Uncertain Victory (to end of war in 1953).

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  • Shazly, Saad el. Crossing of the Suez. San Francisco: American Mideast Research, 1980.

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    Memoir of Egyptian chief of staff recounting successful surprise assault across the Suez Canal in October 1973. Detailed, somewhat self-critical. Cannot be read in isolation from more objective accounts.

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  • Steed, Brian. Armed Conflict: The Lessons of Modern Warfare. New York: Ballantine, 2002.

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    Battle analysis: Korea, Vietnam, Falklands, Iraq, Mogadishu. Future of warfare. Author is active US Army officer, trainer. Blunt, highly critical of tendency to depend on revolution in military affairs (RMA) research and solutions; special operations analysis; policy recommendations.

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Twenty-First-Century Wars

The new century shows no more sign of abandoning war as an instrument of policy than any century that has passed into history. Literature on 21st-century warfare is “hotter” than more detached historical studies because issues are necessarily topical, speculative, and intertwined with ongoing policy debates. A provocative theoretical place to start is van Creveld 1991. Hammes 2004 considers “asymmetrical warfare” options. Kilcullen 2009 is a close analysis of unforeseen outcomes of intervention by an adviser on counterinsurgency to General David Petraeus in Iraq. Both Hammes and Kilcullen argue strongly against over reliance on possible future revolutions in military affairs (RMA) as quick-fix solutions to fundamental cultural and political problems. A contrary voice was Admiral Bill Owens, who argued for future RMAs as essential to continuing US military predominance in the 21st century (see Owens and Offley 2000). The Journal of Defense Modeling and Simulation is strictly for professional analysts and the defense industry. Ongoing arguments about the nature and possible future direction of 21st-century warfare may be found in active military chat sites and official sites that cater to active-duty professionals. Deeper consideration of future RMAs, related intelligence issues, and other policy and technical concerns are covered in the Journal of Strategic Studies.

LAST MODIFIED: 03/02/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199743292-0062

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