Book Review: White Mughals by William Dalrymple.

White Mughals.

Paperback: 640 pages41F2TQJ604L
Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (19 April 2004)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0006550967
ISBN-13: 978-0006550969
http://www.amazon.co.uk/White-Mughals-Betrayal-18th-century-Eighteenth-century/dp/0006550967
http://www.williamdalrymple.uk.com/

The appearance of the hardback that I picked up second hand, is dark and mysterious. The celebrated portrait of the Palmer family on the cover, which though admirable, does not quite suit the actual story, more fitting is the latest paperback production of the book that shows the lovely portrait of  Khair un Nissen on a white background. Credit is due to the publishers for using the gilt lettering but without embossing the text, thus you can read it without taking off the dust jacket for fear of rubbing off the gilt.
Amusingly this used book showed the usual signs of a volume well read, at least twice. The usually crisp white block of pages striped with muddy grey lines deriving from a close hold and much finger flicking, the deepest stain indicated that the previous owner, whose dedication adorns the primary pages, often turned for help to glossary, when the many Indian terms became too much.
Here you are dealing with about 501 reading pages, so its a hefty number, with three sections of very fascinating pictures and beautiful, with between 1-4 pictures per page

This is now a famous book, there is a fan club and an intense almost cult following of Dalrymple’s works and it has taken a great deal of time for me to find out why. The author has all the ingredients a successful writer of History needs to attain international acclaim, and White Mughal’s succinctly encompasses them all.
An unknown subject, built upon by utterly new and fresh personal research that brings not only new light but compleltey new evidence and sources to a given field. This is indeed rare.
A solid and lucid narrative style inspired not so much by the subject but by the author’s personal experience of living in the country the work is set.
A deep knowledge of the literature and culture aside from the work at hand that props up the narrative and adds depth.
And last but not least the author is utterly sympathetic with to his subject and admiring and perhaps enamoured, as many writers often become when dealing with personal discoveries, of the characters involved.

The book purports to tell the story of a romance, or an affair, whichever, between British resident in Hyderabad James Kirkpatrick and the highborn “Begum” Khair un Nissen.
However due to the fact that “Khair’s” voice in the relationship is largely missing, it actually tells a much wider and richly embroidered story of a once cosmopolitan and cross cultural 18th century British India, full of open exchanges of ideas, religion and culture, changing into the Imperial, racially superior model it became reviled for.
It is the failing of new evidence that it usually needs an awful lot of beefing out to make a half decent book, and this is partially true here, but in this case the new evidence beefs out the already written record, usually dominated by Governor General Lord Mornington and his younger brother Arthur Wellesley.
Those like me, familiar with the Duke of Wellington’s India time, will own that it is entirely one dimensional, and largely concentrates on his service in carrying out his brother’s expansionist aims, and sheds only fragmentary light on the India either was dealing with. Little did I know when I picked up this book that this provides exactly that.
Here, through the story of William and James Kirkpatrick, Khair un Nissen and the Court of the Nizam of Hyderabad, we see the decaying grandeur of Mughal India, the politics concerning this vital princely state, usually relegated to a paragraph or two in most history books not specifically academic, the power struggle of Mornington’s uncompromising imperialism against the still proud yet pressured State of Mysore ultimately doomed to destruction. Similarly the last of Mornington’s achievements, the breaking of the Maratha Confederacy and the change in direction of British India.
Not only does it weave these rich threads, Dalrymple’s loom creates a vignette of Anglo Indian relationships during the early Raj, the motives an Indian woman would have to becoming a White Mughal’s wife, the trials of a bibi, or the longer term harem mistress and the bleak fate that ultimately faced the vast majority. One of the many interesting background stories I found was the French interest in India, represented by several mercenary officers, who seemed to carry over their royalist and revolutionary ideals to India, this is just one of the fascinating sidelines this book investigates.

Even though I find it a little amusing that any cavalry regiment of the line at this time should be compared to the SAS, this is without doubt a vital piece of reading for students of British Indian History and one I heartily recommend.

Josh.

Book Review: Peace on Earth by David Boyle.

Peace on Earth: The Christmas Truce of 1914.

  • Format: Kindle Editionxmastruce
  • File Size: 511 KB
  • Print Length: 71 pages
  • Publisher: Endeavour Press (30 Nov 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00QFN18Z2

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Peace-Earth-Christmas-Truce-1914-ebook/dp/B00QFN18Z2

Most people seem to have some opinion about the “Christmas Truce”, from conspiracy theorists to idealists, it’s not a subject that has gone unnoticed in the 100 years since it happened.
In fact for those of us with only a basic knowledge of the “Great War” this event has attained such an, almost mythical status that many of us must have wondered “So what’s the deal with that then?”.
David Boyle has written a delightful little “Kindle Single” about the Christmas Truce of 1914. It is short, I read it easily within one day in two sittings, but it’s good stuff and if you’ve been mulling over what your opinion is on those controversial centenary TV ads then I think I’ve found a good Wikipedia alternate.
Boyle presents us with a fluid narrative heavily salted with good first hand account backup that is necessary for the telling of this story. Yet the author isn’t trying to put a spin on the legendary tale, or framing a personal opinion, he’s presenting what is generally known about the truce basically in the way people saw it back then. He doesn’t question sources, he doesn’t dig too deeply beyond what they say, it’s certainly not a myth busting job, once or twice he hints at odd coincidences but never over indulges in deep analysis.
The truce is shown here coming not out of a mad spontaneous rush of goodwill all along the line, but as an sporadic, semi predictable series of random events over the period from 24th to about the 30th and the New Year, that were something of a natural progression of the behaviour of many front line units on both sides during the winter of 1914.
In a short space of time Boyle gives us the “Deal” about what happened, what it meant to people, from rank and file to the high command and, what effect the spirit that sparked it affected the next few years of the war.
Don’t get the impression that it’s a syrupy waffle of sentiment, the poignancy of the thing is that for the men in many sectors it was business and usual, it is a brief attempt to show the truce in the way people saw it, leaving the reader to achieve their own opinion about it and about how to proceed from here. For those interested in finding out more there’s a helpful sources page at the back.

I found this one of the best E-reads I’ve ever read, well researched, thoughtfully written and convincingly told. It’s a great light Christmas read for military history fans, and would make an equally nice gift, and I highly recommend it for people wanting a little background and perspective.

Merry Christmas.
Josh.

Book Review: The Battle of Trafalgar by Geoffrey Bennett.

The Battle of Trafalgar by Geoffrey Bennett

http://amzn.to/1DSWASG710j2eF2D9L._SL1000_
File Size: 809 KB
Print Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Endeavour Press (September 30, 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00O2Y2FW6

When looking for an exciting, dramatic and tragic book, history or fiction you can’t go wrong with Nelson and Trafalgar.
In this book Geoffrey Bennett give a good clear cut account of the most famous naval battle in British history. Filled with solid background information that traces the prior history of the Navy, anecdotal facts and a serving sea officer’s prejudice for all things nautical over things terrestrial, not least the obvious affection a British sailor holds for the Royal Navy and Nelson in comparison to the enemy. Though as always never denying the threat of defeat.
Bennett is very thorough, giving great detail in the first part of the book, everything is covered, from origins, construction of ships, makeup of crews, armament, sailing capabilities, and tactics. The lions share goes to describing the British, but he doesn’t ignore the French, or for that matter the Spanish. So by the time the campaign narrative starts the reader has a good picture in their head as to the nuts and bolts of the matter.
The nautical conduct of the Revolutionary War is given, and the actions of the Navy in thwarting the Republic’s attempts to gain the seas, expand outside of Europe and invade Britain , while at the same time giving us some highlights of Nelson’s career, including the Hamilton affair and the dramatic chase across the ocean and seas that led up to Trafalgar. I was also pleased to see an abridged version of one of his memoranda included.
The narrative of the battle is well done, full of first and accounts and is clear and concise. Conveying well the thumping mechanical grind of a sea battle at this time and the courage and bravery of the men involved that contributed to the glory of the day.
This is a great book for someone looking to start reading about the battle and indeed the Navy. It’s short, authoritative and well written. And for this week also free, so what are you waiting for. Engage the enemy more closely!

Happy reading

Josh.

Book Review: Three Italian Wars titles from Osprey

Osprey publishing breaks down its books into small high quality illustrated volumes, each focusing of a specific subject within a specific series. None are over 100 pages which allows their authors to really get to grips with the minutiae of a given military unit, piece of hardware or fortification. The nice thing about this is that you can create little compound collections of the different series’ (Historical combo meals if you will) which can give a shocking level of detail to your given area of study.

I’ll give an example with three mini book reviews, each of three different Osprey Series titles.

Campaign: Fornovo 1494.51PFTCDQV4L
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fornovo-1495-Osprey-Military-Campaign/dp/1855325225
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Osprey Publishing (15 Sep 1996)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1855325225
ISBN-13: 978-1855325227
Campaign books give overview, scope, maps and full colour illustrations of battle scenes. They are perfect places to build up a picture from. Osprey’s own Medieval expert David Nicolle is at the helm of this relatively little known but highly significant Renaissance battle between France and the League of Venice. Nicolle takes a professionally even handed approach to this campaign, the format of these books makes it easy to do this, however Fornovo has always been a battle in which the French have been given the better end of the stick, and the author therefore is often at pains to fully clarify and explain the Italian side. The art inside is a special thing. The late Richard Hook showed consummate skill in packing this volume full of stunning full colour images.

Men At Arms: Italian Armies 1300 1500.51KG8T18HJL
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Italian-Medieval-Armies-1300-1500-Men-at-arms/dp/0850454778/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414426038&sr=8-1&keywords=italian+medieval+armies
Paperback: 48 pages
Publisher: Osprey Publishing; First Edition edition (24 Mar 1983)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0850454778
ISBN-13: 978-0850454772
Having gotten a setting in mind, you might be more curious about that confusing array of Italian city states and their armies. Here again Nicolle gets into the nitty gritty. Men at Arms books discusses the nuts and bolts of armies and units. In this case, the progression of Italian armies from 1300 to 1500. Tactics, weaponry and a selection of choice battles (most of which will be new names to you) are included that beef out the “Opposing armies” section of the Campaign book. The excellent f

Warrior: Condottieri 1300 1500.51IeglLhQaL
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Condottiere-1300-1500-Infamous-Medieval-Mercenaries/dp/1846030773
Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: Osprey Publishing (4 July 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1846030773
ISBN-13: 978-1846030772
But what if you want more? While reading the other two you might have puzzled about the Condottieri, and how they fit into the Italian military system. This title goes deeper than the MAA, focusing on a specific type of soldier, the infamous Italian mercenary who dominated warfare on the Peninsula during the height of the renaissance, and of whom you’ll have heard allot about from the other two,. Hitting all the high points, contracts, recruitment, tactics, and life on campaign beefed up by ground already covered in Nicolle’s work, it includes a list of famous Condottieri as well.

So there’s a very short demonstration of how you can build up compounds of composite series in the Osprey line to build up a comprehensive picture of an event. You can do with three or as many as four or five. This flexibility in resources is one of the reasons (the other is the pictures) why I have always loved Osprey.

Happy reading
Josh.

Book Review: The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander.

The Bitter Trade “A scurrilous tale, one which warns rather than elevates, of title without value and no noblesse”


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Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher: Tenderfoot (12 Jun 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 099286450X
ISBN-13: 978-0992864507
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Bitter-Trade-Piers-Alexander/dp/099286450X/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

Calumny Spinks. A crass, grimy unholy no-good, who by all rights should have ended up in a red coat or at the end of a noose, but by stint of his unfortunate luck, unfortunate breeding and unfortunate parentage ends up saddled as the hero of Piers Alexander’s debut novel Bitter Trade.

To say the hero is an anti-hero is to achieve high levels of understatement, if his life had not so far been a succession of cruel disappointments and calamities, so much so that he must be pitied, he would be the sort of guttersnipe true villains are made of. However I was pleased to see that the hero is accurately portrayed with some religious belief and prejudice common to the time, he’s not going to please many Catholic readers but I doubt Protestants are overjoyed with Perez Reverte’s brilliant Alatriste novels.

But as it is, his predicament is not his own doing, and it is because of this that one identifies with, him by commiserating with him. He inherits the sins of his father, whose secrets trap him as a nobody with no future, and so, angry at the world and eager to use anyone he can to become someone, he uses his smart mouth and striking looks (yes he’s irresistible to women) to cheat debt, death and ignominy. Alexander paints this likeable and unlikeable boy well, at war with the world and a mass of contradictions, he is a character well created.

The story is set against the “Glorious Revolution of 1688” and anyone who decides to set a novel in these usually overlooked times deserves a clap. Calumny and his associates are entangled in a mysterious web of intrigue and treason, the heart of which is artfully concealed, allowing for many twists and turns to keep you wondering what will happen next.

The book is a pseudo memoir, giving it immediacy, thus the language is deliberately archaic, but it is un-honeyed, threatening and hard in tone, and you shouldn’t get lost, and there are also modern plot devices to act as direction markers if you do. Coffee as you’d expect plays a central role, but its more the people who sell the bean rather than the drink itself that the book centres on.

It’s very well paced, flowing with the smoothness of java, even when things get complicated. It’s slow at first, then picks up speed and clarity, its chapter structure made it able for me to slice through chapters at a fast rate. It’s got a solid niche story, mostly rooted in history with bags of plot,  (enough to fill a coffee warehouse), lots of intrigue, grime and general sordid doings, vivid characters, and minute detail.

I think I could give a very precise guess at where one would look to find Calumny in 15 years, but I shall follow the example of so many of the shadowy characters in this book and keep it to myself. I shall look at you over my shoulder with a knowing smile and tap my nose secretively, then disappear into the shadows.

Happy reading.

Josh.

Book Review: Toward the Setting Sun by David Boyle

There need to be more narrative histories of the 15th century. In my opinion Europe had not seen so much change and upheaval since the fall of Rome as it did in this turbulent time.
This was a period defined by immense change and progress, a time of cataclysmic warfare, of the Renaissance and of world changing discoveries. Few eras have such a resonating echo down to modern times, and few events such an impact as the European discovery of America.

Format: Kindle Edition618yrPfUGhL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_
File Size: 2145 KB
Print Length: 494 pages
Publisher: Endeavour Press (12 Aug 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
Language: English
ASIN: B00MOYPB36
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Toward-Setting-Sun-Columbus-Vespucci-ebook/dp/B00MOYPB36/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=

In David Boyle’s “Towards the Setting Sun” you get a good narrative history that intertwines the lives and achievements of the great European explorers, Columbus, Cabot and Vespucci, with the backdrop of the rich tapestry of 15th century Europe.
Boyle tells the story well, no easy task given the state of Europe in this time, refining it down to the spheres that his three main subjects lived in. The early chapters deal with their rise and struggle for funds and patrons to finance their costly and honestly insane voyages. While reading about Columbus I was reminded of some inventor or young entrepreneur building a business plan and attempting to convince multi millionaires to back them. Not quite the Apprentice or Dragons Den, but that’s essentially what he was doing.
His vignettes of people and places are evocative and entertaining and quite witty in some places, though I would never describe Ferdinand II of Aragon as a “striking figure, tall and good looking” to me he looks more like my image of Sancho Pança, but in general I liked his style. Of the three, Vespucci comes out the best, Columbus is more glamorous and controversial and Cabot the most mysterious.
The book is separated into long chapters, each subdivided handily into 3 smaller parts, in turn separated into smaller sections. It’s unlikely to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the age of discovery or these three remarkable men, but it does put the age of discovery squarely in the context of the time, and these men’s stories in the context of each other, and it’s packed with information.
In that sense, this is a book is also about the “Scramble for America” or what some people thought was the Indies, with Portugal, Spain and England all racing west to find a shorter route to Asia, and then accurately identify the unknown west. Readers will find much more than tales of discovery, adventure and seamanship, it seems to sway backwards and forwards from the tales of the three discoverers to the courts of Europe, and I must say I actually found myself preferring the parts about the scheming plotting princes, something I didn’t expect. Doubtless others with more knowledge would challenge some of his assertions but I very much . All in all this is a good, lively account of how Europe looked west to find the east, and unexpectedly found out there was more to the world than had been hitherto thought.

Happy Reading

Josh.

Book Review: French Guardsman versus Russian Jaeger 1812-1814 Laurence Spring.

Paperback: 80 pages

Publisher: Osprey (20 Nov 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1782003622

ISBN-13: 978-1782003625

http://www.amazon.co.uk/French-Guardsman-Russian-Jaeger-1812-14/dp/178200362251PtKw08l1L

 

Last year I read War and Peace. When I was finished I was overcome with a very strong desire to learn more about the Russian “Patriotic” war against Napoleon. So I did what any self respecting military history enthusiast would do, I went to my nearest Osprey Publishing carousel and began spinning.

 

Each Osprey series offers different things. Campaign gives you Battle’s and commanders, Men at Arms uniform and organisation, Warrior and Elite, penetrating insights into specific unit types. It is in fact possible to build up highly detailed pictures of particular campaigns by taking from all the series, as by now most compliment the other.

Osprey’s newest series; Combat, offers a front line view of battle from a boots on the ground point of view, giving a real picture of what happens after the General says “Take that hill”. The Osprey series’ have become much more detailed since their founding and these slim, highly illustrated 80 page volumes prove that.

Russian Army expert Laurence Spring has in my opinion written the finest of the series’ first wave. Examining the experiences of French Young Guardsmen from the 1st 2nd and 14th Voltiguers and their counterparts from two Lifeguard Jaeger units (Including the superb Finland regiment) and the 19th Jaegers through three battles. Krasnyi 1812, Leipzig 1813 & Craonne in 1814.

The book is broken down in traditional Osprey fashion into 10 sections:

Introduction

Opposing Sides

Krasnyi

Leipzig

Craonne

Analysis and Conclusion

Unit Organisations

Orders of Battle

Select Bibliography

Index

Notes are inserted into the text, which is well spiced with first hand accounts and really takes you to those deadly fields. One of the best parts apart from the excellent battle descriptions is the insights into the Russian & French army, especially the former. People like me who more often than not end up digging deeper into the Peninsular War and Waterloo, don’t get as many chances to see what was going on in other army’s and the level of detail crammed into this book was a delight.

Another reason this is the best of the first wave is the superb illustrations by Mark Stacey. Two double page spreads put the reader right in the front line, the specially commissioned artwork, creating the impression of literally being in the picture. One is in double perspective, first the reader is a Russian Skirmisher ready to cover his parter once he has fired, the other they are in the  congested French ranks, handing a newly loaded musket to a wild eyed Voltiguer. The second spread you are a French Guardsman rushing, bayonet fixed into a deadly melee to wipe put a small pocket of stranded Russians. Stacey’s composition and attention to detail is unreal, almost as if you were in a 1st Person Napoleonic Shootemup game.

The accompanying period images that illustrate the rest of the book, at an average of 2-3 a page are brilliantly chosen, and some are in colour, the best being the portrayals of Russian infantry uniforms towards the front. Maps are clear and are accompanied with detailed subtext.

In summary this is an excellent book and well worth the money if you are a Napoleon Wars enthusiast.

Josh.

Book Review: The Hollow Crown by Dan Jones.

Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Faber & Faber (4 Sep 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0571288073
ISBN-13: 978-0571288076
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Hollow-Crown-Roses-Tudors/dp/057128807351yFjy801UL

The name Hollow Crown is not an uncommon one, but then Shakespeare has a knack of repeating himself in modern life and Historians like to help him along.
I am coming to find that Faber & Faber can be relied upon to produce a good quality book, everything is here to make a reader feel satisfied long before he reads the first sentence. Yet again I happily report that there is none of the awful gold embossed lettering that rubs off as you read, the somber brooding cover is another typical theme found in medieval books. The harsh steel of the lettering and the sharp edge of the all evocative rose tells of hard violent times within.

There are 372 reading pages which gives a manageable chunk of reading, while still offering notes, index etc, and at the front there are 3 black and white maps and an introduction. The midway oasis of images take up 8 pages, with an average of 2-4 pictures per page, they include portraits and manuscripts that reinforce key characters and points found in the book.

The wars of the Roses are perhaps more easily understood by a secular society than some others. These were not like the later Religious wars that convulsed Europe as its head broke into the light of the renaissance from the Medieval Sea. These wars were motivated by emotions familiar to any regular soap opera watcher, power, greed and revenge playing principle parts, though they didn’t initially start that way.

Perhaps this is why this tumultuous series of conflicts, the biggest until the Civil Wars of the 17th century, have remained a conscious part of Britain’s history. There can be no doubt though that they were nation shaping events, as well as nation shaking times. Thanks to Shakespeare most of us think we know the broad strokes of the Wars of the Roses, yet do we really?

Author of Plantagenets Dan Jones shows that we don’t know it all. He shows that these wars were essentially born out of the end of the 100 years war, after the death of Henry V a guiding direction was lost, and the lacklustre reign of Henry VI, whose inablitly to rule effectivly in the wake of the collapse of te English Kingdom of France, caused a power struggle between the great lords vying to prop him up.

All the while the Tudors slowly step more and more into the limelight while the Plantagenets begin tearing each other apart, then finally take the stage. The road to the 1st Battle of St Albans is well told. Making clear a tortuous path of typically complex medieval manoeuvring, between the King, his wife Margaret, and the Dukes of Suffolk, Somerset and York. The seesaw nature of these protracted conflicts makes for exciting reading and all the big battles are there, their consequences to see.

Here we see that these wars of the roses, occurred not as a direct attempt to steal the crown, but it all began to hold together a crumbling kingdom that had once seemed the most secure in all the world. The steps taken by the emerging factions of York and Lancaster grew into a self perpetuating downward spiral of increasing hostility, that created a monstrous vendetta and suddenly the entire kingdom was drawn into a titanic struggle not to save the Kingdom, but for the crown itself, which cost many countless lives. Eventually destroyed them both and made way for the Tudors.

It would be a mistake to underestimate just how much the Tudor’s have influenced our view of this time. Let it not be forgot that Shakespeare was a Tudor bard and told his stories with that prejudice in mind. This is not so here.

The course of the Wars are vividly and excitingly told, and their results are often as poignant as they are glorious, the array of battles that mark their course fall into place in the tale, some might have heard of Towton or Bosworth but there aren’t many contemporary books that put them in their place amongst the others, thus book does this and it’s great to be able to be able to put it all together. I’m a little unsure how the author has decided that a poleaxe and a bill are the same weapon, though certainly part of the same polearm family, but that was the only thing that made me raise an eyebrow.

A modern history of the Wars of the Roses is a nice thing to see appear on bookshelves. The recent interest in Richard III fairly pleads for new popular scholarship and this book will answer many questions. It is a good overview, nicely spiced with detail and you don’t need to be an expert, or someone with much previous information to enjoy it or learn from it. The Hollow Crown is a great read for anyone interested in a real “Game of Thrones”.

Josh.

Book Review: San Juan 1898 by Angus Konstam.

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Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Osprey Publishing (16 Nov 1998)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1855327015
ISBN-13: 978-1855327016

Osprey books are some of the most invaluable references for military history available and I have always considered their campaign books to be some of their finest products. These slim little numbers offer concise yet detailed accounts of military actions, both large and small, famous and obscure from Ancient Egypt to the present day, and should be the first port of call for people wanting to get to know the nuts and bolts of any conflict.

All Osprey books have a similar appearance, but this appearance has changed over time, I picked up a 1997 edition of San Juan 1898 second hand. Back then the Campaign books were more individualistic and mostly black. Nowadays they still have the broad frontispiece picture on the front but the differing series’ are identified by colour bands, orange for campaign and so on.

Osprey Books are divided into sections. All these are present and correct and are helpful to break down the actions described. Classic examples, familiar to fans of the Osprey range are:

Origins of Campaign
Opposing Commanders
Opposing armies
Plans of Campaign
The Campaign
Aftermath
Battlefields today
Orders of Battle
Chronology

The author is Angus Konstam, one of the veteran Osprey writers and one of the finest in the pool. This is reflected in the lucid text, full of detail and verve, generously salted by first hand snippets. As anyone with basic knowledge will know, the San Juan Hill is more than the name suggests, and all the ancillary actions that made up the battle are included, as well as the skirmish at Las Gossimas and the Naval battle of Santiago, but the battle at Fort McCalla is only briefly mentioned. The Rough Riders feature prominently along with the 9th and 10th Cavalry and 71st US Infantry. The Spanish side, and the Cubans, also get a word in, not as big a word as the US, but that is to be expected. He makes a slight misjudgement when asserting the Spanish had not fought a regular army since the Napoleonic Wars, but on the whole slip ups like that are not to be found.

Osprey books are heavily illustrated, catering to the little kid still playing toy soldiers inside most of us, we like to see the pictures. Amongst the text and on 99.99 percent of all pages are scattered many images that accentuate the flow of the descriptions and help carry it along. This one has some very fine images, one of my favourites, besides the classic image of Teddy Roosevelt and his men on top of San Juan Hill, is the image of the 1st Marine Battalion raising the Stars and Stripes over Fort McCall at Guantanamo Bay just after landing, a pre Iwo Jima moment if you will.

The best part about Osprey books, and the Campaign series in general, is the large specially commissioned two page art and high detailed 3D maps that form the centrepieces of the books. The 2D and 3D maps contradict each other once, but as usual are very well done, if old fashioned, in this book. David Rickman illustrated this one with a colourful and energetic series of eye catching paintings that show the old Osprey habit of packing books full of commissioned images, the best are the Advance up the Camino Reale and the Defence of El Caney. They are not exceptional, not the level you get with Graham Turner, the late Angus McBride or Steeve Noon for example but their quantity is very refreshing.

This is a very good overview of the campaign and it has all that I require in an Osprey book, detailing how the campaign that set America on course to become a world power unfolded.

Happy Reading!

Josh.