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on 16 June 2012
The slight delay in delivery only whetted my appetite to have this book in my hands. It is great value, there is a wealth of information on the armies and uniforms of the period and the battle maps with orders of battle are well done and very useful.
However, colour in the 21st century is no longer a luxury, and replacing the extensive use of line drawings coupled to text on the opposite page by colour images and short captions à la Funcken books would have been be a joy here, too, especially as this is clearly aimed at wargamers. Colour images of flags and standards rather than dry descriptions would have been welcomed, as would colour images of each nation's artillery equipment. A great text is never spoiled by great colour illustration, and this is what wargamers are really hoping for. Welcome as the two colour sections are, they are reminiscent of dated approaches to this kind of production. I realise that this would have made this book much bigger and pricier - bring it on, say I!
Also welcome would have been a further reading list. The bibliography is astonishing for its omissions - no Duffy, no Bleckwenn, no Cecil Lawson, no Parkman, not a single title from French authors. So a reading list that beginners would have found truly useful is an unforgivable omission from such a work. However, much can be forgiven for mentioning the incredible web-pages of kronoskaf - my recommendation to any wargamers looking for a model resource. If only that were available in book form - web pages so often disappear off the face of the Internet.
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on 17 June 2012
Written by Digby Smith, who made his name (or perhaps, given that he used to be known as Otto von Pivka, somebody else's) by producing a whole host of primarily Napoleonic titles starting over thirty years ago. Mr Smith states in the introduction of this his latest work that a great deal of the information presented here was gathered during the course of researching those other earlier works.

Stylistically, this volume is very much like his previous "Armies of the Napoleonic Era". Thankfully he eschews the traditional extended historical introduction, concentrating on more specifically tactical considerations before plunging into the details of the alphabetically listed armies themselves; their treatment is unfortunately rather uneven. Whilst uniform detail is adequate, unit organisation is often a little vague (and rarely lists numbers of men, just companies and battalions/squadrons); when touched upon at all, colours are described more often than illustrated.

Some nationalities armies fare reasonably well (the Prussians, for example, though Mr Smith has published on their army previously), others less so. Curiously, given his previous output, it is the armies of the smaller German states which seem to suffer this the most. Thus, whilst his treatment of the Reichsarmee might be pretty good, some of the national haus-regiments get pretty short shrift. The troops of the Palatinate are a good example of this - despite being included in the title of one chapter, no information is offered on their army other than the fact that it was combined with that of Bavaria in 1777!

Unlike the earlier Napoleonic title, this volume includes a good number of colour illustrations gathered into two sections, with additional black-and-white pictures embedded in the text. Whilst most of the "usual suspects" one might expect are included (Knotel, Ottenfeld, Lienhart and Humbert), it's good to see a lot of Morier's paintings of the British army reproduced (even though they more accurately reflect dress in the previous War of the Austrian Succession - but I guess that's a rather petty quibble!) On occasion however, the choice of illustration is another area where some slight eccentricity is evident. For example, the infantry shown in the chapter on the Russian army are certainly not wearing the uniforms described in the text, but probably the Prussian-style ones of 1762 which "were probably never introduced" (to quote from one of the least useful coloured illustrations included).

The addition of details of a few "key battles", including orbats, in one appendix is a nice touch, the thirty pages of potted biographies in another is probaly less so. As has been commented upon elsewhere, the absence of some important names from the bibloigraphy is also a bit odd - surely Duffy at least merits inclusion?

I guess the key question when it comes to recommending this volume is whether it is better than anything else that might currently be available. If searching for information on individual armies, one may be better served by more focussed specialist titles. The closest comparable general publications to this one are James Woods' three volumes on the armies of the Seven Years War recently published by Partizan Press. These certainly aren't perfect (and in fact, neither they nor this title cover the army of Mainz, for example), but probaly do a better job of it than Digby Smith manages here. They too have plenty of colour illustrations (no David Morier, but Bob Marrion provides some excellent plates), and stick very rigidly to the armies themselves without some of the extraneous bits featured in this volume. But they are three books instead of one, and probably more expensive as a result, which may be an important consideration.

In conclusion, I think Smith's book is reasonable primer, but too incomplete (and sometimes downright vague) to stand alone.
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on 22 February 2016
There has been no single volume book on the uniforms of the armies that took part in the Seven Years War since the Mollo & McGregor book issued by Blandford Press a number of years ago. Such subsequent offerings as have appeared have been in the in multi-volume format such as offered by Osprey and Partizan Press. This book therefore represents an ambitious project and has grown out of various notes collected by the author as a by product of his researches into Napoleonic uniforms and military history. The author is a well known military historian although he freely admits his expertise is more towards the Napoleonic period

Therein lies the problem, coverage is very uneven, major participants such as France, Britain and Prussia are covered in some detail whilst that of Russia feels somewhat cursory. More minor participants are even more arbritarily served,the Bavarian army receives just 2 pages including illustrations which is one page less than Schaumberg Lippe-Detmold. The introduction to the Bavarian section introduces discussion of the Palatinate without any comment on what was the relationship between the two familial domains of the Wittelsbachs. These are just examples one could mention the sparse coverage of the Brunswick and Hessen-Kassel armies. The section on Austrian infantry units borrows heavily on the first edition of Summerfield's first volume on Austrian uniforms rather than the more detailed second edition.

To compound matters the way in which the information is presented veers between lists of regiments whose only difference is regimental flags (such as the Russian army) to the widespread use of tabulated data (the Spanish Army), surely a more consistent and user-friendly style could have been used throughout? The meat of this book is the uniform information, that is why most people will buy this book. The introduction has a brief political background to the war followed by very brief discussion of the tactics and weaponry and bizarrely in a book on armies a chapter on naval warfare.

There are three appendices. The first includes a list of battles with brief descriptions, orders of battle and maps/battle plans. The latter appear computer drawn but are clear if not particularly attractive.The position of the southern part of the Austrian line at Leuthen very much contradicts that suggested by Christopher Duffy in Prussia's Glory: Rossbach and Leuthen. Once again space is given to discussing specific naval actions. Fights in India and Canada are included when there is virtually no mention of anything specific concerning those areas elsewhere in the book. Appendix two has a list of place names used in the C18th (mainly German ones) and the modern name (mainly Polish ones) - this is quite useful although having been to Lublin I am pretty sure that its name in Polish is not Bystrzcya. Appendix three gives brief biographies of Key People involved in the war but one does have to wonder at the inclusion of George Washington.

Illustration is quite lavish, the greater part is drawn from Knotel's Uniformekunde and appears as both black and white and colours figures. Good use use has been made of the Morier paintings from the Royal Collection for the British, Hanoverian, Hessen Kassel, Brunswick and Austrian armies. A large number of line drawings of grenadier caps from the Prussian and British armies occupy the relevant sections but little or no use has been made of the various Becher manuscripts available for the armies of France and the Holy Roman Empire.

So should you buy this book? An awkward question, there is a lot that could have been done better and maybe some which should not have been done at all. That said all in all I am glad I bought this book but I do feel that it could have been so much better. There appears to have been no editorial control which is reflected by the way the book feels cobbled together. It would have been wiser to exclude any discussion of the naval war given this is a book on the armies of the Seven Years War. Even more so it might have been wiser to concentrate wholly on the west European theatre in attempting to cover the whole of what has been called the 'First World War' I think that the author's attention was directed too widely and the book suffers as a result. Finally there are a number of typographical errors that might have been picked up if History Press had bothered with proof readers. So in the end the verdict must be close but no cigar.
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As with any one-volume history Digby Smith's summary has to set itself limits. His notes on the uniforms of the Austrian army are not, for example, going to equal those of Stephen Summerfield. They do however provide a good starting point. The illustrations are the usual old favourites, including a number from the excellent Kronoskaf website. Even at twice the size it would still be hard pressed to encompass everything. It serves therefore as an entry pass to this period of history
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on 29 April 2016
good read
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on 13 June 2012
Under the guise of Otto Von Pivka, Digby Smith produced a classic reference book to help wargamers of the Napoleonic period many moons ago.
That book covered every nation,of that war,regarding uniforms,etc.and was worth its weight in gold,prior to the plethora of reference books that came later.
This time Digby Smith has gone one better,as the book covers all the nations of the Seven Years War conflict,recording their uniforms,and in some cases,their history.Additionally there are some fine coloured prints of the uniforms,coupled with a brief history of some of the main commanders.
As a bonus,there are orders of battle for some of the main battles linked to coloured maps.
Overall the book is great value for money,especially coupled to Amazon's generous discount. Three hundred and twenty seven pages for under £30.00p you cant be robbed for that.It certainly beats the price for current wargames rules. Grab the book while you can.
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on 23 September 2012
This book details the uniforms of all countries involved in the Seven Years War, even the Minor Powers. It is very well documented and, until now, I have seen no obvious flaw in the different uniforms. A very good purchase.
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