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on 1 August 2013
Note: I only own one of the original three books, Blood in the Sand: More Forgotten Wars of the 19th Century; the notes here I believe are correct. This volume (2003) is stated to collect three earlier books by Hernon, including 'Blood in the Sand'; judging by the number of pages, this claim is correct.

Five stars for effort: literally 19th century (1803 to 1898, I think), possibly based on Annual Registers which appear to to be official British publications. Other sources include The Times, some HMSO reports, and, mostly, books, some of them fairly contemporary, but mostly recent. 'Punch' (1841 onward) is NOT included.

In this volume we have the Gurkha War (1814-16), Borneo Pirates, Madagascar, two Sikh Wars (1845 .. 1849), Eureka Stockade in Australia during the gold rush, Kars, in Turkey, 1855, the Fenian Invasion of Canada, 1866; Orange Walk in Belize (which made it 'British') 1872, and Sierra Leone's Hut Tax War 1898.

As far as I can work out (I only own one of these books) two of Hernon's other books (written within two or three years of each other) look at Kandy War (1803-5), the tiny Falklands 1833 events, Jamaica Rebellion (1865), Ceylon, the Maoris, and others, and the opium wars, Zanzibar shelling. extermination of the Tasmanians, Benin massacres, and others.

There are 'Illustrated London News' engravings, photos, portraits, and so on. Hernon also wrote a pictorial history of Victorian wars.

'.. there was not a single month of that [nineteenth] century when British forces were not engaged somewhere across the globe.'

Hernon explicitly states he's writing in a journalistic mode, and the descriptions he gives certainly sound exactly as the places and events must have seemed at the time, including the slaughter-house aspects, and the individual psychology aspects. His selection of subjects relegates big wars to noises off - several of his pieces deal with side-issues to the US Civil War, for example; Crimean War ditto; Afghan Wars ditto. Non-British material barely appears - Belgian Congo atrocities, the French Empire, and so on. I believe the 'Boxer Rebellion' may not be included; the Boer War appears to be excluded because it was large, and just out of the time range. Hernon gives detailed descriptions and reasonably fair treatment, though perhaps he's a bit too neutral. I'd have liked more on the string-pullers - weapons suppliers, money, news agencies and so on - and trade connections such as Rothschilds and opium. All the subjects are now dead, of course, but no doubt we can try to empathise and understand.
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on 13 May 2008
This book is chock full of fascinating and forgotten moments of conflict. Starting with the Kandy wars in treacherous jungle it pulls you through moments of red coated and wooden shoe wearing soldiers fighting in the foothills of the Himalayas to machine gun wielding exchanges in Africa. This is an excellent book to underline the huge diversity and scope of challenges the British army had to face in the 19th century.

There are however problems. As 1 other reviewer points out for no properly explained reason there's one chapter on the US army vs. Native Americans a very strange inclusion in a book about the British army. Secondly the conflicts are not in chronological order and this at times gets confusing as in one situation soldiers have modern weapons piling on the firepower only to find in the next chapter they are standing in long red coated lines firing muskets. The organisation could have been forgiven if this jumbling up was to make a point but there's nothing really linking these chapters, no overarching theory or point.

It is always interesting reading, I am just not convinced that the book has much value other than a series of "boys own" stories.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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on 8 July 2013
With this mighty tome you get three books in one and that is one hell of a bargain. Ian Hernon is a great historian with the rare ability to make the history very readable (a trait shared with people like Saul David or Richard Holmes
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on 4 March 2004
Forgotten wars is a usually highly readable account of some of the most noble and ignoble of britains overseas adventures. Readers will be interested to see the real background to many of the Flashman Novels. Some curiosities of history are well explained.
Only two criticisms. The book needs some maps to explain some of the campaigns clearly, and the Modoc War does not belong as neither is it British nor frankly a war.
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This book is a good read , full of ripping yarns of Empire , the Victorian age when a quarter of the globe was coloured pink !! It covers everything from quite well-known colonial campaigns to skirmishes that look quite tame compared to Saturday nights in many modern British towns and cities !! An excellent book only lacking the addition of a map or two to accompany its account of each campaign .
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on 22 March 2007
fantastic view of all the less well known actions fought by the british empire, very interesting indeed. I found it quite useful to read about things like the ashanti war, and the plunder taken before going and actually seeing some of it in the british museum. good for getting a more in depth background on the 19th century history, and warfare.
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on 3 November 2003
From start to finish this book grabs you by the collar and drags you into the frantic action, frustrating fiascos and personal nature of the inidivduals.
Each chapter is structured to keep the pace moving but with the detail to leave you amazed at the courage of the soldiers and the extremes some of the battles embraced.
Comprehensive and compelling. A 'must' read for anybody interested in history.
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on 24 March 2008
Hernon provides the reader with an immensely readable account of unfamiliar aspects of British history. This collection of essays illuminates the heroism, dignity & - occasionally - the treachery & savagery of the protagonists.
However, there are two aspects of this work which detract from my enjoyment & from it's usefulness as a source or reference. Firstly, he includes a small-scale conflict - the "Modoc War" - which has no connection with the British Empire. Secondly, he allows his own prejudices to colour his accounts. Many chapters are parenthesised by withering references to "racism", "bigotry" & Hernon's narrow political view.
Bravery, nobility & cowardice are not the preserve of any particular race or nation.
A more balanced account may have earned four stars, or more. Read this collection as an entertaining introduction rather than an authoritative & balanced history.
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on 14 September 2015
excellent value, look forward to reading
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on 26 June 2016
Excellent book.
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