Book Review: Frederick the Great On The Art of War

Jay Luvaas is a professor at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle Pa.; he coauthored a series of Battlefield Guides of U.S. Civil War battlefields that became almost instant classics. He has authored several books of military history such as “The Military Legacy of the Civil War: The European Inheritance”, “The Civil War: In the Writings of Col. G.F.R. Henderson”, and “Napoleon on the Art of War”. He has also authored many articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Parameters, the Journal of the U.S. Army War College and the Civil War Times Illustrated. Professor Luvaas prefaces his work by pointing out that the book is not a straight chronological … More after the Jump…

Book Review: Bernard Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain

Porter’s book is in many ways an eye-opener.   It was a surprise to discover that Britain’s empire was not a topic of national discussion until the latter portion of the imperial period.   If porter’s thesis is correct and the people of Britain were by and large ignorant of the empire and willfully so as he makes clear in his introduction then that makes a hash out of most of the post-colonialist arguments he is criticizing.[1] It is Porter’s position that Britain was not “steeped” in imperialism even for the segment of society from which most imperial administrators were drawn until comparatively late in the imperial period itself.The Absent-Minded Imperialists has much to tell us about the way in the British Empire was perceived in Britain itself during the imperial period.   Porter makes an excellent argument that while the empire materially affected the lives of many Englishmen through such things as raw materials, some culinary habits, and trade; these things did not necessarily mean that the average Englishman was consciously aware of the extent of Britain’s empire on a day to day basis.   He also demonstrates why this could be so.   Once he really delves into the ways in which the British Empire affected the British home culture he proves his point quite well.

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Book Review: The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, edited by Hew Strachan

           

The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War

The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, edited by Hew Strachan,  is one of those rare history books that manages to be both readable scholarly at the same time.   Indeed, it is an even rarer breed of book because it is an anthology and not by a single author.   Where many history books are written for the specialist historical crowd and there is an element of haughtiness in the writing, that condescension is entirely missing here.   This history book does not assume knowledge on the part of the reader, but at the same time does not present its material in such a way that the non-historian would be put off by it.

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Book Review: Decisions for War, 1914-1917

           

Decisions for War, 1914-1917

In Decisions for War, 1914-1917, Richard Hamilton and Holger Herwig present a new thesis for the origins of World War I.   They argue that in all the belligerent countries the decision for war was made by a one person or at most a small group of individuals regardless of the type of government.   Given the wealth of material written about the origins of the First World War it seems incredible to me that this possibility has, if not been overlooked in all previous scholarship, then certainly ignored, as the authors claim[1].   While Hamilton and Herwig do not entirely discount that other factors than pure national self-interest on the part of the leaders played a role in the decision for war, they do contend that this was the overriding concern in most if not all of the wars belligerents.

            I found the book to be a fairly easy to read, the writing style was not as dry as might be expected given the topic of discussion.   Even though I do not necessarily agree with the authors, the book was fun and captivating to read.   They write with a style similar to what I try to achieve in my own writing.   It is written such that it is simultaneously engaging, factual, and descriptive, just a good read.   I do not have to agree with a book to enjoy it, and the authors certainly made reading this enjoyable.   It was laid out well and the chapters flowed in a logical progression, discussing each country in the order in which it declared war.  

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BOOK REVIEW: Moltke on the Art of War: Selected Writings

This is the first of a series of book reviews I will put on my blog. Not necessarily because I think anybody cares what I think about a book. The commenters on Amazon certainly don’t. But rather because I think it is helpful for my readers to get an idea of where my knowledge comes from and also because I hope to highlight some great books that are out there that I don’t think a lot of people have read, even history buffs. Most will be good reviews but I do have some books I absolutely think are worthless or despise. I will put those up too. The bottom line … More after the Jump…