Not to be confused with the former Tory leader, Michael Howard, Emeritus Professor of Modern History at Oxford University, is, now approaching 90, the undisputed doyen of Britain’s military historians.
A veteran of the 1943 Salerno landings, he is also one of the few Military History writers who has personally experienced the (very) sharp end of the subject. This brisk summary of European war – and war fought elsewhere by European powers – from the Middle Ages to the present, was first published in 1975, but has now been updated, with an Epilogue taking us to 9/11 and the so-called ‘War on Terror’.
Howard’s chief strength, along with his refreshingly old-fashioned clarity of style and concision of thought, is the way that he widens the study of warfare to take in economic, political and social factors behind the battlefield. This is the accepted way to write military history today, but it was not when Howard first picked up his pen, and it is largely down to him that it has now become orthodoxy.
This excellent little book is an exemplar of Howard’s way of writing history.
Anyone reading it will have the best possible introduction, not just to military matters, but to the whole of Europe’s history from the Vikings to the modern Middle East.
His main theme is that warfare both determines the character of societies, and is itself determined by them.
I cannot think of a better book to put in the hands of someone setting out on the study of military history.
Oxford University Press £9.99