Top critical review
Readable, but let down by lack of understanding of military history
on 30 April 2016
This is a bit of a mixed bag. I have read a number of the author's books, and his knowledge of railway history, and their social and cultural impact - as well as his ability to make that relevant to a non-railway buff like me - is second to none. However, here he has perhaps taken on a bit too much. There is definitely a real story to tell about the impact of railways on warfare, and, as he points out, it is a somewhat neglected area. The book is laid out in a straightforward way, with an opening chapter describing military logistics prior to the railways, and then goes through a number of conflicts in chronological order, outlining how the use of the railways affected their course and outcome.
The problem comes from the fact that the author knows very little about military history - a fact he readily admits - but which seriously hampers his analysis, and in some cases, leads to fairly basic factual errors. Whilst his explanations relating directly to the railway side of things is meticulous, some of the generalisations and sweeping statements on the military side are disconcerting, to say the least. The sources he has used are narrow - and somewhat out of date - and poor AJP Taylor comes in for a lot of stick!
Overall, it is still an interesting read, and could lead on to further reading, but I suspect it would have been much better had the author found an interested military historian as a co-author.