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.

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

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.  

More after the Jump…Book Review: Decisions for War, 1914-1917

Military Principles: Britain

To be honest, Britain did not go very far toward developing principles of war during the 19th century.  There were two reasons for this, 1. Britain was heavily committed in fighting small colonial wars such as the Indian Mutiny, and Boer War, not to mention numerous other small conflicts throughout their globe spanning colonial empire; and 2. They did not have a mass army.  In 1914 Britain could only field a small six division expeditionary force compared to the mass armies of Germany, France, and Russia. A short history of the 19th century British Army is probably called for here because it explains much.  After the defeat of Napoleon the British army … More after the Jump…

Military Principles: France

Military Principles: France France during the 19th century and until the end of WWI was enthralled with the writings of two authors and naturally the exploits of Napoleon when they developed their principles of military operations. The two authors are Baron Antoine Henri de Jomini and Ardant du Picq, both wrote seminal works that were avidly devoured by French military thinkers but for different reasons. First, and most influential was Jomini, he was a Swiss-born French speaking veteran of the Napoleonic wars who served on the Napoleons staff for much of the Napoleonic wars and wrote The Art of War analyzing Napoleonic tenets and presented what he thought of as the recipe for … More after the Jump…

Military Principles: 1st in a series

There are several things that are important when studying any military battle or campaign.  There are also several versions of this list and which list you use essentially depends on personal preference.  What follows is my personal list of what for lack of a better term can be called Military Principles.  These are things that in my opinion the victorious commander and his army must get right to be victorious.  Let me clarify that, the victorious military force must get more of these right than his opponent to win.  It is rare indeed that any commander or army gets every one of them right every time. If you study military … More after the Jump…

Dating Conventions

I figured that here I would talk about dating conventions because I will eventually be posting about ancient and medieval battles as well. The question is A.D. & B.C. or C.E. & B.C.E.? The current convention says that C.E. & B.C.E standing for Common Era & Before Common Era are what we should use in modern scholarship.  The reasoning is that A.D. & B.C. are religious in nature and therefore exclusionary terms.  Sorry, I call bullshit on that.  A.D. & B.C. may be religious terms, I don’t dispute that, but they are also what people have been using for literally hundreds of years.  Trying to change dating conventions because of … More after the Jump…