Classics of Military History

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Period Military History

Maurice Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944 (1959)

by Andrew Robertsvia Classics of Military History
Monday, January 21, 2019

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Pentagon published its official history of the U.S. Army in World War Two under the general editorship of Kent Greenfield, of which the sixth volume was Maurice Matloff’s masterful Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare 1943-1944. In his Foreword written in April 1958, Major General R. W. Stephens, who had the splendid title of “Chief of Military History,” wrote, “Within a generation the attitude and policy of the United States toward alliances have undergone a revolutionary reversal.

Period Military History

Michael Howard, Grand Strategy, Volume IV: August 1942–September 1943 (1972)

by Andrew Robertsvia Classics of Military History
Monday, January 21, 2019

In the 1960s and 1970s, the British Government published its official history of the Second World War, edited by Sir James Butler. The fourth volume, covering the period from August 1942 to September 1943, was written by Professor Sir Michael Howard, then a Fellow of All Souls, Oxford. It is a stupendous work of scholarship, the product of ten years working in what he called “the catacombs of Whitehall.” 

Period Military History

Ricarda Huch, Der Dreißigjährige Krieg (The Thirty Years War) (1937)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This is the most important portrayal of war that remains untranslated into English. A profound study of how military behavior, values, and entire societies degenerate under the stress of extended warfare, this is a book that shaped the reviewer’s thinking for the past forty years.

Period Military History

Bruce W. Menning, Bayonets Before Bullets: The Imperial Russian Army, 1861-1914 (1992)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This unique book has never gotten the broad recognition it deserves. The finest available study of the late-czarist Russian army as an institution, it analyzes bureaucratic and cultural problems that continue to afflict Russian forces today. 

Military Fiction

James Jones, From Here to Eternity (1951)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

.Yes, it’s a novel, but this is the finest book, fiction or non-fiction, ever written about the United States Army. Regulations have changed, as have accepted behaviors, technologies, uniforms, rations…yet, today’s soldiers remain these soldiers.

Period Military History

John Julius Norwich, Byzantium, The Early Centuries, The Apogee, and The Decline and Fall (1989, 1992, 1995)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This classic work in three volumes fills a crippling gap in the knowledge of Euro-American strategists. Edward Gibbon’s irrational vilification of the Byzantines has obscured the empire’s glory and importance for English-speaking readers, as well as neglecting the military challenges and triumphs of commanders too often starved of funds as the empire fell into its long decline. 

Biography

Jasper Ridley, Garibaldi (1974)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A massive study of a magnificent soldier—and sailor—this relentlessly fascinating biography finally does justice in English to a brilliant campaigner (from Latin America to Italy) unaccountably slighted by military historians.

Period Military History

A. J. R. Russell-Wood, The Portuguese Empire, 1415-1808: A World on the Move (1998)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This authoritative book on Europe’s first great overseas empire (which also would be the last to leave its remaining outposts) is eerily timely. 

Battle History

David L. Preston, Braddock’s Defeat: The Battle of the Monongahela and the Road to Revolution (2015)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Thursday, March 29, 2018

Deservedly a winner of the Guggenheim–Lehrman Prize for Military History, this magnificent book is an instant classic. The author’s innovative research, ranging from French, British, and colonial records through Indian accounts and lengthy canoe trips down French logistics routes, resulted in a vivid account of a disaster that has sharp lessons for today’s military.

Biography

Friedrich Katz, The Life and Times of Pancho Villa (1998)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Thursday, March 29, 2018

A masterpiece of historical research, this book is as revelatory as it is essential for serious students of North American history or military history. In remarkable detail, Katz chronicles the rise to power of a man who, far from being a mere bandit, for years commanded a battle-hardened army that defeated modern Federal forces in pitched battles fought over multiple days and dozens of miles, including the use of machine guns, barbed wire, and long-range artillery.

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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.

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.

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