Profile for Peter White > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Peter White
Top Reviewer Ranking: 593,066
Helpful Votes: 1

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Peter White

Show:  
Page: 1
pixel
The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command
The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command
Price: £14.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent view of both Jutland and of military command, 29 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I enjoyed this much more than I expected. It's extremely clear and readable, and gives a fascinating, original and persuasive perspective on both Jutland and on military command in general. If you have any interest in the subject, you probably ought to read it.

The author's premise is that the Royal Navy in the First World War was divided, with Jellicoe and Beatty as extreme opposites. Jellicoe was an all round nice guy, extremely efficient, and highly capable, but implementing a flawed style of command (over-centralised and over-cautious). Conversely Beatty of the Battle Cruiser Fleet was a nasty bit of work and much less efficient, but implementing a better style of command (more flexible and better able to seize opportunities).

The book starts off by describing the run up to Jutland, giving a clear feel of what was going on (and his account of Jutland itself is one of the clearest I have read). Just as the fighting kicks off, it jumps to a discussion of the Victorian navy, then comes back to the battle. That is as odd as it sounds, but allows the author to explore how the two very different styles of command had their origins in the history of the Royal Navy and in particular the events around the accidental loss of the Victoria and Admiral Tryon in 1893.

My only real criticism is that it felt it needed editing here and there; I felt the author made his point rather more often than he needed to. But I'm quibbling; it's an excellent book.


The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
Price: £5.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading, 27 Jun 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book covers the run up to the First World War, with a heavy concentration on the Balkans, and in particular on Serbia and its various backers and opponents. The perspective is very much about how the Great Power manoeuvring around the Balkans led to the disaster. In that sense it's slightly unconventional : for example, German power politics and naval conflict gets very little coverage, compared to the Balkans. It's almost an afterthought what happened when the Balkans pulled the trigger.

It paints a carefully crafted, readable and fascinating picture of the governments of the time, with their deep internal conflicts (in many countries the army and the civilian leadership seem to have been at odds, for example, but even the foreign ministries chopped and changed as influence went from one person to another); their failure to understand the viewpoints of other countries; and the almost universal belief that the war was somebody else's fault and so unavoidable.

It's hard not to recommend this book if you have even a casual interest in the topic. It's an unusual viewpoint, but it's very well done indeed.


Engines of War: How Wars Were Won and Lost on the Railways
Engines of War: How Wars Were Won and Lost on the Railways
by Christian Wolmar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial but very readable overview, 9 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The author writes well, and the book is very readable, but the research seems patchy.

It often gives the impression that he only read one book on the military history of each period and refers to that book repeatedly and uncritically. As a result his views are definitely one sided; he comes across as an uncritical advocate of the controversial "Lions Led by Donkeys" view of the First World War, without justifying it in the slightest, for example.

To be fair, the author is quite open in his introduction and notes about having limited knowledge of military history (as opposed to railway history), and it's a good read. As a result I would still recommend this for somebody who has only a casual interest in the topic who wants a superficial but very readable overview. If that doesn't describe you, then you should probably not bother.


Europe's Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War
Europe's Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War
by Peter H. Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely good overview of the period, 28 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Extremely well written. Drawbacks first - the book is very long, and the war does not even start until page 269, so if you aren't interested in the detail 17th century politics, move along please (though if you are, then of course these are not drawbacks). The single overview map is pretty dire and inadequate as usual, though the many battle maps are excellent.

On the positive side, the book is clear, incisive, comprehensive, well written and extremely readable, with (absolutely critical for such a work) an excellent index. It'll probably stand the test of time as the best single volume reference for the war, though both Parker and Wedgwood give it a run for its money if you don't want to read such a door stopper.


On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War
On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War
Price: £7.93

1.0 out of 5 stars Very poor, 28 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Frankly, very poor. Starts with some interesting discussion around declaration of war and the initial failure to line up the United States behind the war, and how the US military had failed to think through the implications of limited war. Then really went downhill and became verbose, patronising and meaningless to the point where I gave up just over half way through.

There seem to be entire chapters relating things that could be stated in a couple of sentences; endless unhelpful attempts to sound meaningful by bringing in Clauswitz regardless of the relevance to the argument; and some deeply patronising statements about criticisms of the US human rights record that I found borderline offensive. The author is incredibly dismissive of arguments that the US military's conduct in the war was inapproporate. Maybe he's right (it's certainly a complicated subject open to reasoned debate), but he chooses not to just dismiss the critics as gullible fools who do not know that war is nasty.


Page: 1