Classics of Military History

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Autobiography & Memoir

My Early Life, by Winston Churchill (1930)

by Andrew Robertsvia Classics of Military History
Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Times review of Churchill’s autobiography, My Early Life, mentioned “the charm and briskness of this book” as well as its “humour, headlong excitement, quiet irony, melancholy regret for vanished customs and glories, love of sport [and] the pleasures of friendship,” although it also made the slightly snide point that “The material is, of course, splendid, as Mr. Churchill will agree.” That material is an adventure story that would defy belief if it were in a novel, yet in fact it did all happen to one man.

Autobiography & Memoir

Her Privates We, by Frederic Manning (1930)

by Andrew Robertsvia Classics of Military History
Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Frederic Manning was an expatriate Australian aesthete-turned-journalist-turned-soldier who wanted his readers to understand was it was like to have fought in the trenches of World War One. His haunting autobiographical novel became an international bestseller in the 1930s and no less an authority than Ernest Hemingway described it as “the best and noblest book of men in war that I have ever read.

Period Military History

The March of the Twenty-Six, by R. F. Delderfield (1962)

by Andrew Robertsvia Classics of Military History
Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ronald Delderfield was an English novelist and dramatist (A Horseman Riding By, To Serve Them All My Days, God is an Englishman) who nonetheless wrote a sublime piece of military history telling the story of the Emperor Napoleon’s relations with his twenty-six marshals of the Empire and their relations with each other and the effect both had on the course of the Napoleonic Wars. 

Autobiography & Memoir

War Diaries 1939-1945: Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, edited by Alex Danchev & Daniel Todman (2001)

by Andrew Robertsvia Classics of Military History
Tuesday, August 9, 2016

General Sir Alan Brooke, later Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke, was Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) of the British Army from December 1941 and also chairman of the British Chiefs of Staff from March 1942 until after the end of World War Two. He was one of the four people who created the grand strategy of the Western Allies and so his unexpurgated diaries published in 2001 are an invaluable source for historians. 

Period Military History

This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History, by T. R. Fehrenbach

by Barry Strauss via Classics of Military History
Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A journalist rather than an academic, Fehrenbach (1925-2013) wrote larger-than-life history of a heroic bent. He is remembered for the bestselling Lone Star: A History of Texas and Texans (1968), whose emphasis on gun-slinging white men now makes it politically incorrect. But he also wrote the sad and beautiful Comanches: The Destruction of a People (1974), which shows great admiration for Native Americans. This Kind of War originally appeared in 1963 with the subtitle of A Study in Unpreparedness and was republished in a new edition in 1994.

Autobiography & Memoir

Anabasis, by Xenophon

by Barry Strauss via Classics of Military History
Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Anabasis is a classic story of an army’s retreat from disaster, told by the man who was thrust into the role of saving it. Anabasis means “march inland from the coast,” which is a paradoxical title for a book that is mostly about a march to the coast from inland. But the author, Xenophon, an Athenian, had a taste for irony, borrowed from his teacher, the great philosopher Socrates.

Battle History

Decision at Trafalgar: The Story of the Greatest British Naval Battle of the Age of Nelson, by Dudley Pope

by Barry Strauss via Classics of Military History
Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Dudley Pope is best known as a novelist who wrote a well-loved series of books about a fictional Lord Nicholas Ramage, an officer in His Majesty’s Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Pope was also a journalist, writing on naval defense, and he knew the sea. A survivor of a torpedoed merchant ship in World War II, he later lived for over 20 years on a yacht in the Caribbean.

Autobiography & Memoir

The Sergeant in the Snow, by Mario Rigoni Stern

by Barry Strauss via Classics of Military History
Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Rigoni Stern began writing this short, powerful memoir of the Russian front in a German prison camp, where he was interned after refusing to continue serving in Mussolini’s army after the armistice with the allies in September 1943. Earlier he served in an elite Italian mountain fighting unit that saw action on various fronts in World War II: France, Albania, Yugoslavia and, most memorably, Russia. 

Autobiography & Memoir

Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain

by Williamson Murrayvia Classics of Military History
Monday, May 16, 2016

Vera Brittain arrived at Somerville College, Oxford concurrently with the outbreak of the First World War. Almost immediately she left the comfortable confines of that most beautiful of universities to volunteer to serve on Western Front as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment. The fact that the men in her family as well as those she befriended had joined up immediately was undoubtedly a factor that motivated her to leave Oxford. 

Battle History

History of the Peloponnesian War, by Thucydides

by Williamson Murrayvia Classics of Military History
Monday, May 16, 2016

In his introduction, Thucydides remarks that “it will be enough for me, however, if these words of mine are judged useful by those who want to understand clearly the events which happened in the past and which (human nature being what it is) will at some time or other and in much the same ways, be repeated in the future.” 

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The Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict strives to reaffirm the Hoover Institution's dedication to historical research in light of contemporary challenges, and in particular, reinvigorating the national study of military history as an asset to foster and enhance our national security. Read more.

Strategika

Over time, a popular and scholarly consensus has been reached that a few singular military histories and philosophies of war offer unparalleled wisdom. Yet these landmark studies span 2,500 years of history, appear in a myriad of languages, and reference thousands of conflicts, and thus require brief, analytical introductions by contemporary military historians to guide the reader of how best to approach such a vast but often underappreciated literature.

The banner image is Gabriel Salmon's Hercules Fighting the Giants. Additional information available from the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.