MHM Book of the Year 2024: Shortlist

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Military History Matters has curated a list of 2023’s best military history titles: the nominees for this year’s MHM Book Awards. Our selection includes some of the best-researched, most-insightful, and most-readable titles reviewed and featured in the magazine over the last year. But we need your help to select the winners!

Gold, silver, and bronze prizes are up for grabs in the race for MHM Book of the Year, which will be awarded to the title our readers feel has made the greatest all-round contribution to the study of military history.

Read the reviews of all 12 titles below. And click here to vote.

Voting has now closed, and the winners will be announced shortly

The MHM Book Awards is sponsored by The Cultural Experience, a leading international tour company that offers expert-led holidays to historical and culturally significant destinations throughout the world. For more information about the company, please visit their website.

On a Knife Edge: how Germany lost the First World War

Holger Afflerbach
Cambridge University Press

Holger Afflerbach’s On a Knife Edge reassesses why the First World War ended as it did, based on a close analysis of the German experience. Yet the decisions, motives, and challenges facing Germany’s allies and enemies are also brought into the narrative. As well as being well-researched, finely balanced, and highly readable, this book advances several thought-provoking arguments.

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The Commanders: the leadership journeys of George Patton, Bernard Montgomery, and Erwin Rommel

Lloyd Clark
Atlantic Books

George Patton, Bernard Montgomery, and Erwin Rommel were arguably the three outstanding battlefield commanders of World War II. In this biography, Lloyd Clark gives us a vivid portrait of each of his subjects’ characters and careers. The Commanders effectively bridges the gap between academic and popular history.

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Mercy: humanity in war

Cathal J Nolan
Oxford University Press

Cathal J Nolan reflects on the profoundly human quality of mercy in warfare – which must be the most merciless environment possible – and all the surprising, unpredictable, and irrational forms it can take. Above all, this book – which covers conflicts as diverse as the Vietnam War and The Troubles – is an argument for violence that is restrained, measured, and proportionate to the cause. ‘Make your forces merciful,’ Nolan warns, ‘or you will surely lose.

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The Great Defiance: how the world took on the British Empire

David Veevers
Ebury Press

David Veevers presents this alternative narrative of the ‘First’ British Empire, telling the story from the perspective of many peoples and cultures of Britain’s attempts to dominate them. A lively and provocative book, which is bound to ruffle feathers in some quarters, The Great Defiance is also important, for it argues passionately that much of the history of this period is distorted,

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Bismarck’s War: the Franco-Prussian war and the making of modern Europe

Rachel Chrastil
Allen Lane

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 was launched by the French Emperor Napoleon III – but it was truly Bismarck’s war, with the Prussian Chancellor emerging victorious in terms of territory gained and status acquired. This book by accomplished historian Rachel Chrastil is the first new account of the period in 20 years, and is a valuable addition to the coverage of an often-neglected conflict.

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Footsloggers: an infantry battalion at war 1939-45

Peter Hart
Profile Books

Britain’s ‘poor bloody infantry’ did most of her fighting and dying during World War II. Peter Hart has assembled a portrait of one of these units, the 16th Durham Light Infantry (DLI), chronicling all the boredom, horror, and humour of their war. Footsloggers is an authentic account, whose universal truths about frontline soldiering will resonate with readers of every generation.

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Revolutionary Spring: fighting for a new world, 1848-1849

Christopher Clark
Allen Lane

Sir Christopher Clark has an established reputation for crafting insightful historical narratives that explore complex periods of change and turbulence across the European continent. His latest book is in keeping with this reputation, offering a comprehensive overview of how the political trends of the early 19th century contributed to the revolutionary outbreaks of 1848 and subsequent counter-revolutionary responses.

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The Savage Storm: the battle for Italy, 1943

James Holland
Bantam Press

James Holland seeks to explore the campaign to seize Italy from the build-up of the landings at Salerno in September 1943 through to the Battle of Ortona in December the same year. The significance of the Italian campaign is deeply illustrated for a new audience through a compelling narrative, making The Savage Storm a remarkable achievement by a historian at the height of his powers.

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Women in Intelligence: the hidden history of two world wars

Helen Fry
Yale Books

Helen Fry’s latest book explores the lives of the many hundreds of women who worked in intelligence-gathering in Britain and abroad over 30 years, as ‘intelligencers, codebreakers, spies, secret operatives, handlers, and double agents’. The detail of this book demonstrates not only the thoroughness of Fry’s research, but also that, without the contribution of women during the two world wars, the outcome of both of them would have been very different.

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Conflict: the evolution of warfare from 1945 to Ukraine

General David Petraeus and Andrew Roberts
Harper Collins

This ambitious undertaking from two authors with very different backgrounds considers the current conflict in Ukraine within the long-term perspective of warfare since 1945. General David Petraeus and Andrew Roberts have delivered a wide-ranging and well-written guide to a turbulent and transformative era of military history.

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Rome and Persia: the seven hundred year rivalry

Adrian Goldsworthy
Basic Books

The two empires of Rome and Persia would uncomfortably abut one another for seven centuries in a fraught relationship filled with numerous wars, but also with long periods of peace and extensive trading contacts. Historian Adrian Goldsworthy examines their hot and cold confrontation over a tremendous span, running from the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD, in this thorough and insightful book.

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To Besiege a City: Leningrad, 1941-42

Prit Buttar
Osprey Publishing

Leningrad – today’s St Petersburg – was a key military target in the early years of the Second World War, although Stalin himself never cared for the city, believing it to be too isolated. Prit Buttar’s latest book is a well-written new account of the first year of the siege, providing horrifying insights into the murderous Nazi plan to blockade the city and the half-hearted Soviet attempts to relieve it.

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