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Annual Booklist 2016-2017 : Dr Rory Muir

Visiting Research Fellow, University of Adelaide. Author of Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon (Yale, 1998), Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815 (Yale, 1996) and Salamanca, 1812 (Yale, 2001); winner of the 2015 Templer Medal for Wellington: The Path to Victory, 1769-1814 and Wellington: Waterloo and the Fortunes of Peace 1814-1852 (Yale, 2013 & 2015).


Sir Charles Oman, A History of the Peninsular War (Clarendon Press, 1902-1930). A century after it was published this remains the essential foundation work on which all subsequent studies are built. Narrative history on a grand scale, thorough, comprehensive and well-written.

S.G.P. Ward, Wellington’s Headquarters (Oxford University Press, 1957). A model of concise erudition that showed not just how headquarters, but how the staff throughout the army worked on campaign. I am very pleased that this is going to be reprinted by Pen & Sword in 2017.

Antony Brett-James, Life in Wellington’s Army (George Allen and Unwin, 1972). Possibly the most enjoyable and entertaining book ever written on the Peninsular War (not excluding fiction), this draws on a comprehensive range of sources to describe the life of the officers and men of Wellington’s army on campaign and in cantonments.

Mark Thompson, Wellington’s Engineers. Military Engineering in the Peninsular War, 1808-1814 (Pen and Sword, 2015). This excellent recent book sheds important light on the difficult topic Wellington’s sieges – so much less successful than his battles – and on other operations conducted by the engineers in the Peninsula.

Trevor Wilson, The Myriad Faces of War. Britain and the Great War, 1914-1918 (Polity Press, 1986). As an undergraduate I was lucky enough to be taught by Trevor Wilson, but that is not the only reason I include this wonderfully wide-ranging and learned study of Britain in the First World War. Wilson’s work combines the politics and social history of the war with a serious understanding of all aspects of the military and naval operations. It is a huge book and a pleasure to read.

Lastly, I would like to highlight a gap in British military history that I came across earlier this year when I read Alanbrooke’s War Diaries. While I found this fascinating, I wanted a modern, scholarly account of British strategy in the Second World War that would show where Alanbrooke’s strongly held judgments were right and where they were flawed. How should resources have been balanced between the different theatres of war, and the different services? To my surprise, there did not seem to be such a study, and I hope that someone is working on it even now.

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