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Combat and Morale in the North African Campaign: The Eighth Army and the Path to El Alamein (Cambridge Military Histories) Hardcover – 17 Feb 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (17 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521192706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521192705
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,673,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'[This] book is a tremendous work of scholarship. It is an archivally driven study that impresses the reader on nearly every page with the breadth and depth of its analysis. In many respects it sets a new standard for the study of the British and Commonwealth armies in the Second World War and the study of morale more generally in the twentieth century.' James Kitchen, English Historical Review

'[A] path-breaking study … Through heroic labour in the archives in the UK and overseas, Fennell has constructed a richly detailed picture … This is an important book by a very promising historian.' Gary Sheffield, BBC History Magazine

'A groundbreaking study … This is a major contribution to the historiography of the war in the desert.' Book Review Supplement, National Army Museum

'… a model of primary investigation into a subject extensively wrapped in supposition and myth … The book makes a significant contribution not only to the history of the desert war but also to the methodology of military morale.' Dan Todman, Twentieth-Century British History

'A fine piece of scholarship … The success of Fennell's work rests on … the scholarly effort and rigour poured into it through extensive archival investigations carried out in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.' Craig Stockings, Journal of Military History

'[Fennell] marshals a considerable amount of evidence … [and] has made a major contribution to the debate over the desert war in this valuable study of the significance of morale in warfare.' Martin Kitchen, Cercles: Revue Pluridisciplinaire du Monde Anglophone

'… Fennell has made a decided contribution to the literature of military history.' Stuart McClung, H-War (

Book Description

This new perspective on the desert war challenges conventional explanations for Allied success at El Alamein, one of the most controversial campaigns in British and Commonwealth history. The author studies the campaign using newly discovered sources, plotting a morale crisis and stunning recovery that decisively affected the Eighth Army's performance.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mike on 17 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A truly outstanding contribution to the literature. The author has looked in detail at the morale of British (including Australian, New Zealand and South African) forces during the North African campaign. He has, I believe, taken the study of this campaign a great step forward, and has given a new dimension to understanding of how the army fought at the very basic level, the people and how their morale and motivation affected higher command decisions. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ian on 26 Jan. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I would highly recommend this book; it gives a highly insightful view of the role of morale in the Eighth Army in 1942. I would go so far as to state one cannot fully understand the North African campaign without reading this book.
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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Small ambition, big claim 4 Feb. 2012
By wimiam - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This isn't a book about morale but an attempt to resurrect Montgomery's reputation. Fennell claims to "discover" that morale was important to British performance in North Africa and military operations in general, but who disagrees with that? Yet Fennell gratuitously claims to be countering an "orthodoxy" that morale did not matter or at least did not matter as much Fennell thinks it did (oh, the argument of a thousand incremental degrees). Fennell does not actually review any literature on morale, except to gratuitously dismiss superior theories as older (he does the same to previous histories of the North African campaign, BTW) and thus fails to assess the importance of such real concepts as leadership, primary groups, regiments, initiative, tactical competence, crew skills, material balances, etc., that others identified as important. Of course, he wants to write a history, in which case he should stop messing with theory. In any case, the history is tiresome: morale matters, over and over again, morale matters, see how it matters, every soldier agreed that morale matters; when the British Army was doing well, it was because of morale, when it was doing poorly it was because of morale. Finally, we get to Fennell's main objective: Montgomery. Montgomery thought that morale mattered; he told people that morale mattered; he reduced everything (training, commanders, unit structure, strategy) to morale; eventually Britain won in North Africa. Get it?
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