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The Best Place to Start Checking Out Land Warfare Questions,
This review is from: The Oxford Companion to Military History (Hardcover)
As a writer, I am often interested in selecting a military example for a point I am making about business. Invariably, I have a hard time locating the facts to see if the examples I have in mind work for my purposes. Weeks of fruitless research have often followed from wanting a fairly minor example. Then, in editing, much rewriting occurs because the details were slightly off in the draft. With the Oxford Companion to Military History, those problems are now all behind me.
I began my investigation of the book by checking out every military history question I could ever remember having had for my writing. Sure enough, this volume contained enough information to have answered each and every one of my questions more than adquately. That was very impressive to me, and it made me decide to add this volume to my reference library. One of the many nice features of this book is that each listing also refers to the best full-length works on that subject, for those who want to get a lot of detail.
The book has more than 1300 entries, written by more than 150 specialists in these military subjects. The subjects are elaborated on by more than 70 detailed maps and 15 pages of diagrams. Each entry is in alphabetical order, with cross-references to more general and more specific topics.
The book focuses on land warfare, so air and naval warfare are in the book primarily to round out the picture on land. So you will find Billy Mitchell, but not the air raids on Ploesti during World War II.
As the editor points out, "There are dictionaries of battles, of military leaders, and even of military history. This is none of those things, although, in its way, it subsumes them all." The purpose is to provide "dependable information and thoughtful assessment for intelligent readers of many kinds . . . ." The book is also designed to be a "reliable and quick reference for scholars . . . ." The limit is that "no companion can claim to be comprehensive."
The subjects include battles, individuals, campaigns, wars, military concepts, weapons, uniforms, equipment, and wider issues (like the military in politics, gender in war, and casualties). I was impressed with the fineness of the detail for many fairly obscure references. Anyone but a military historian would rapidly add new knowledge from just scanning the listings.
Here are some sample listings I found while searching for answers to my old questions: Gulf War, battle of Thermopylae, Alexander the Great, essay on Strategy, Clausewitz, battle of Shiloh, battle of Stalingrad (with maps), Mau Mau uprising, Hundred Years War, siege of the Alamo, and diagrams of how to construct nuclear devices.
After you have a chance to become familiar with this important reference work, I suggest that you think about questions that we should ask about what humanity has learned from warfare. What lessons can be drawn from military examples?
Turn the history of swords into visions of better plowshares!