Top five pre-1914 military history books for Christmas

ChristmasFrom books on the Napoleon to the Jacobites; the New Model Army to Prussian warfare, here Charles Singleton, our Commissioning Editor, shares his top five recommendations for pre-1914 military history enthusiasts.

Since coming to work full-time at Helion in April of this year, I have been fortunate in being able to work on a great many interesting books. It’s been a very busy year with more than 120 titles published and the start of a new series on warfare in the 17th century.

I have been given the difficult task of choosing a list of those books I have especially enjoyed working on and reading this year. I hope you like them too.

1) Fight for a Throne. The Jacobite ’45 Reconsidered by Christopher Duffy

Fight for a Throne. The Jacobite '45 Reconsidered
A fresh take on the 1745 Jacobite Rising – a pivotal moment in British history – hit the shelves in its 270th anniversary year. This extraordinary episode led Dr Duffy to beg the question: How was it possible for a handful of men without arms or any preparation to have landed on a remote coast of Scotland and, within a matter of months, to have put the regime of King George II within thinkable distance of its overthrow?

Hard-headed men of the time were using the words ‘miraculous’ and ‘epic’ when they looked at something that seemed to defy the laws of probability. Readers will be surprised to learn that the army of Prince Charles was more ‘modern’ than has so far been appreciated.

They were a well-disciplined and well-drilled force, which brought together hardy Highlanders, steady Lowlanders and contingents of French Regulars and military experts. Time and time again the Jacobites beat their enemies in open battle, and almost until the end, they proved themselves to be superior in the fields of supply, intelligence and mobility.

2) The End of Empire. Napoleon’s 1814 Campaign by George NafzigerEnd of Empire

A continuation of Nafziger’s definitive military studies of the Napoleonic era -beginning with the 1812 campaign and progressing through the 1813 campaign – The End of Empire finds Napoleon confronted in Germany by the combined forces of Russia, Prussia, and Austria…

On the defensive and at bay against a great many enemies, it also was to be – perhaps – his greatest hour as a General.

This detailed text contains specially commissioned maps and the author’s trademark extensive orders of battle.

3) Marlborough’s Other Army. The British Army and the Campaigns of the First Peninsula War, 1702-12 by Nick Dorrell.

Marlborough's Other ArmyThis was the second book in the new series Century of the Soldier that we launched at Rowley’s House in Shrewsbury in the spring of 2015. The writer – a war-gaming chum of mine – has succeeded in filling a great gaping hole of knowledge with this book, which is very much a best-seller.

The forgotten conflict in Spain, often called First Peninsula War of 1702–1712, is covered in great detail. For the first time, the armies of the conflict are covered in depth, along with the campaigns and battles they were involved in.

Marlborough’s Other Army examines not only on the reasonably well-known British contribution, but also the equally important role of the less well-known Austrian, Dutch, Palatine, Portuguese and Spanish contingents.

Nick is currently working on another eagerly-awaited Century of the Soldier contribution.

4) Reconstructing the New Model Army. Volume 1 – Regimental Lists April Reconstructing the New Model Army1645 to May 1649 by Professor Malcolm Wanklyn

Malcolm was my Professor at university and we have remained good friends ever since. It was with great pride that I worked as an Editor on this book alongside him. Both volumes trace the development and structure of the New Model Army – arguably the ancestor of today’s army. Malcolm goes back to the original sources and follows the careers of the officers that staffed the regiments in the New Model. Volume 2 is due for publication next year.

5) Too Little, Too Late. The Campaign in West and in South Germany, June -July 1866 by Michael Embree

Too Little Too LateEarlier this year, BBC Four ran a Danish series, 1864, about the Second Schleswig War. This was one of the conflicts that heralded the rise of Prussia and the beginnings of the countdown to German unification in 1871.

Prussia – very much the junior partner with Austria in 1864 – went to war with its former partner in 1866. In a little over two months, Prussia was to emerge triumphant in a conflict that closely followed the lessons of the American Civil War. This gem of a book moves away from the Prussian Austrian Conflict and examines the war elsewhere. The Hanoverian’s were able to defeat the Prussians at Langensalza, but were forced to surrender to vastly superior numbers two days later. The Bavarians fighting in the fortress of Würzburg only stood down at the armistice that ended the conflict.


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