Here are a few books that have arrived recently. Most are review copies that I have been sent.
First, is Bryn Hammond’s new book on the Battle of El Alamein. Entitled El Alamein: The Battle that Turned the Tide of the Second World War (Oxford: Osprey, 2012). I mentioned this book in an updated review of Niall Barr’s Pendulum of War. Bryn has an interesting perspective in viewing the battle. He examines in through the prism of Montgomery’s First World War experience. Given his previous work on Cambrai he has a solid foundation on which to build. This is not as surprising argument as it may seem. Stephen Hart, in his work Colossal Cracks, suggested that Montgomery’s operational technique was based on his First World War experience in line with his view on the morale on the British soldier of the Second World War. I have only started reading it but so far so good.
Second, there are a couple of books by Williamson Murray. Both will appear in a comparative review for the Institute of Historical Research’s Reviews in History. Murray is a well-known name in academic military history. However, the past few years have seen him move towards the social science side of the discipline and these titles are representative of that move. The first is Military Adaptation in War: With Fear of Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). This book is of particular interest given the book I am editing on transformation and innovation in the British military. My particular concern with this book relates to just how out of date some of Murray’s scholarship is. He obviously has not kept up with the latest research in the subject areas that he discusses. The other book is a collection of his articles that ranges back to the 1980s. It is entitled, War, Strategy and Military Effectiveness (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011). It covers many of the key themes that have engaged Murray throughout his career. Of particular interest for me is his pieces on ‘Reflections on the Combined Bomber Offensive’ and the ‘The Air War in the Gulf’. The former first appeared in Militargeschichtliche Mittelungen in 1992, the latter appeared in Strategic Review in 1998. These will form the basis of the review with a comparison to the chapters in Military Adaptation that deal with the Battle of Britain and the Combined Bomber Offensive.
Finally, a book that is not for review, but may well be reviewed here on the blog at some point. It is Jeremy Black’s War and the Cultural Turn (London: Polity Press, 2012). The use of the term culture as a construct through which to examine military history has become more prevalent over the past thirty years. It is a perfectly valid methodology but one that lacks effective definition. Indeed, as Black himself notes it is ‘Malleable, Nebulous, but Useful’ (p. 42). In this book, Black does his usual effective broad analysis of the term. In doing so he looks at concepts such as organisational culture, strategic culture, military culture and the use of culture as an analytical tool. This is a useful adjunct to his book Rethinking Military History. If you have an interest in the use of culture in historical analysis, I would recommend this as a useful starting point.