Monday, December 30, 2019

Booknotes: Bull Run to Boer War

New Arrival:
Bull Run to Boer War: How the American Civil War Changed the British Army by Michael Somerville (Helion & Co, 2019).

From the description: "The American Civil War is often said to have predicted the way in which later wars such as the Boer War and the First World War would be fought. As a result the British Army has been criticised for not heeding its lessons, a view that can be traced back to the 1930s." Michael Somerville's Bull Run to Boer War: How the American Civil War Changed the British Army "challenges that long-held view, and demonstrates that the responses to the lessons of the war in the British Army were more complex, better informed, and of higher quality, than normally depicted. Key to this new interpretation is that it takes a nineteenth century perspective rather than pre-supposing what the British should have seen based upon hindsight from the South African veldt or the Western Front trenches."

The standard survey history of how European military observers interpreted the American Civil War is Jay Luvaas's 1959 book The Military Legacy of the Civil War: The European Inheritance. The first chapter of Bull Run to Boer War reassesses Luvaas's place in the historiography and the second reexamines the firsthand experiences of the conflict's British observers. Successive chapters consist of numerous topical discussions of Civil War lessons in the areas of artillery, military engineering, cavalry, infantry tactics, military ballooning, and railroads.

More from the description: "In studying how the Civil War changed the Late Victorian British Army, the book provides insight into its learning process, and concludes that although sometimes flawed, its study of the American Civil War meant that it was better prepared for the wars of the twentieth century than previously acknowledged."

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