Classics of Military History

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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.

Autobiography & Memoir

Deneys Reitz, Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War (1929)

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

This riveting account of the Boer War as experienced by a young Boer irregular balances out our through-English-eyes perception of this hard-fought, brutal conflict (which saw the first use of concentration camps, if not of the harshness later associated with the phenomenon).

Autobiography & Memoir

John Masters, Bugles And A Tiger (1956) And The Road Past Mandalay (1961)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

These two autobiographical volumes from a former (British) Indian Army officer begin by capturing a lost world, that of the Raj in the years before World War II, in the grand imperial twilight (punishing Afghan tribes, downing gin, and shooting tigers), then move into the desperate war years that doomed the British Empire. Masters’ account of fighting in Burma is an even-rawer version of George MacDonald Fraser’s superb memoir, Quartered Safe Out Here.

Period Military History

Lesley Blanch, The Sabres Of Paradise: Conquest And Vengeance In The Caucasus (1960)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

For those who only know the Caucasus from recent conflicts—in Chechnya, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabagh and elsewhere—this book offers a vital historical perspective. Although Orthodox Russia battled Islamic powers on and off for centuries, Russia’s longest war, waged against hardline Islamists, lasted a full generation in the nineteenth century.

Period Military History

Steven Runciman, A History Of The Crusades (Three Volumes, 1951-54)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Crusades are often invoked, but rarely understood. Runciman’s modern classic remains the benchmark for its objectivity, clarity and literary merit. Of immediate value for military officers and civilian analysts, this work explodes pernicious current myths, while reporting human valor and folly, treachery and brilliance with enthralling narrative style.

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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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