A Short History of War
Bibliographic Essay
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General SourcesBack to Top

The bibliographic entries that appear below are designed to provide a short and handy list of sources to which the student of military history may refer in his or her quest for deeper knowledge about various aspects of the discipline. There are any number of general sources which stress a chronological and developmental approach to the history of weapons and warfare. Archer Jones, The Art of Warfare in the Western World (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987) is among the most recent of these works. A detailed and more academic treatment of the subject can be found in Hans Delbruck, The History of the Art of War (4 vols.) (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990). This book was first published at the turn of the century and marks a high watermark of German historical scholarship. Delbruck's footnotes, often running to several pages, are goldmines of information. Robert Laffont, The Ancient Art of Warfare (2 vols.) (New York: Time-Life Books, 1966) is most interesting for its illustrations, tables, and charts which effectively compress information into compact wholes for student use. T.N. Dupuy, The Evolution of Weapons and Warfare (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1980) and T.N. Dupuy and R. Ernest Dupuy, The Encyclopedia of Military History (New York: Harper and Row, 1987), are both excellent general works on the subject.

Origins of WarBack to Top

Two books are particularly interesting for their treatment of the problem of the origins of war. Arther Ferrill, The Origins of War (London: Thames and Hudson, 1985), provides a developmental history of the archaeology of war while Richard Gabriel, The Culture of War (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1991) places stress upon the biological arguments that surround the question of why men fight.

War in the Ancient WorldBack to Top

On the subject of war in the ancient world, Richard Gabriel and Karen Metz, From Sumer To Rome: The Military Capabilities of Ancient Armies (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992) provides the most recent and most empirical analysis of the subject. The best and most comprehensive of available works dealing with war in ancient times is Yigael Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963). The work is richly illustrated and provides many interesting insights into the archaeology of war.

SumeriansBack to Top

The definitive work on the Sumerians is still Samuel Noah Kramer, The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963). A more detailed cultural history of the area that is highly recommended is Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq (New York: Penguin Books, 1964).

EgyptiansBack to Top

Regarding the armies of ancient Egypt, Leonard Cottrell, The Warrior Pharaohs (New York: G.P. Putnam, 1962) is a delightful and adventurous little book. Important information on the Egyptian armies can also be found in O.R. Gurney, The Hittites (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1962). The best work on the organization of ancient Egyptian armies is R.O. Faulkner, "Egyptian Military Organization," Journal of Egyptian Archaeology , 39 (1953).

AssyriansBack to Top

A.T. Olmstead, The History of Assyria (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951) is still among the best works on the subject.The definitive work on the Assyrian military is H.W.F. Saggs, The Might That Was Assyria (London: Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd., 1984) and labors mightily to make a very complex subject easy to read and comprehend.

PersiansBack to Top

As regards Persia, A.T. Olmstead, The History of the Persian Empire (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948) remains the most comprehensive work available. A good work on the history of the Persian military per se can be found in Yaha Zoka, The Imperial Iranian Army from Cyrus to Pahlavi (Teheran: Ministry of Arts and Culture Press, 1971). This work is readily available in many military libraries. A glimpse into time can be obtained by reading the original works in the words of the ancients themselves. Two works by Xenophon, the Anabasis and the Cyropaedia , are highly recommended.

GreeksBack to Top

A generally good work on warfare during the period of classical Greece is Peter Connolly, Greece and Rome at War (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1981) while J.F. Lazenby, The Spartan Army (Wiltshire: Aris and Philip, 1985) is generally considered definitive on the subject. A truly interesting and extraordinary work of great value addressing the Alexandrian period of Greek warfare is found in Donald W. Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978). Also worth examining is W. Kenrick Pritchett, The Greek State At War (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971).

RomansBack to Top

There are any number of solid works on the Roman army. Probably the best for the beginning student of the subject is Graham Webster, The Roman Imperial Army (Toronto: Barnes-Noble, 1985). Providing greater detail into the nature of military life in Roman times is G.R. Watson, The Roman Soldier (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969). A good perspective on the nature of field combat in the Roman army is found in Robert L. O'Connell, "The Roman Killing Machine," Quarterly Journal of Military History 38 (Autumn, 1978). The definitive work of developmental history of the subject is Michael Grant, The Army of the Caesars (New York: Charles Scribner, 1978).

Dark AgesBack to Top

Not much in the way of general works are available dealing with the armies of the Dark Ages. None are particularly comprehensive, and the researcher is forced to rely upon more scholarly articles for good information. Nonetheless, one might read Tim Newark, The Barbarians: Warriors and Wars of the Dark Ages (London: Blanford Press, 1985). A more scholarly treatment of the barbarian armies as they relate to the fall of Rome is found in Walter Goffart, Barbarians and Romans: The Techniques of Accommodation (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980).

ByzantiumBack to Top

Some good work on the armies of Byzantium is found in George T. Dennis, Three Byzantine Military Treatises (Washington, D.C: Dunbarton Oaks, 1985); some good sections on military life are found in Tamara Talbot Rice, Everyday Life in Byzantium (New York: Dorset Press, 1967).

Middle Ages and LaterBack to Top

An old and much respected source of information on war in the Middle Ages, first published in 1898, is C.W.C. Oman, The Art of War in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1953). A good general history, heavily illustrated, of war from the Thirty Years War to the Waterloo is found in H.W. Koch, The Rise of Modern Warfare (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1981). One of the better academic works on warfare in this period is William H. McNeill, The Pursuit of Power (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982). By far the best overall work on the Napoleonic period is David Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon (New York: Macmillan, 1966).

Modern WarfareBack to Top

Once into the modern period, especially that following the Civil War to the present, an industrious student ought to have little trouble finding his or her way in the discipline. Libraries are full of excellent works on specific aspects of weaponry and war, so much so that any selection listed here would be sorely incomplete, almost random in nature, and as likely to mislead as to inform. Accordingly, having taken the student from the ancient period to the dawn of the modern age of warfare, it is now time to leave him or her to their respective mental devices, and to close by simply noting that the expansion of the mind in search of new information rests ultimately with the individual.

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