A Military History of Britain
From 1775 to the Present
by Jeremy Black
October 2006, 208pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-99039-8
$95, £74, 83€, A131
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eBook Available: 978-0-313-08074-6
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A concise look at British military history focusing primarily on the last three centuries, this study examines land, sea, and air warfare-in particular, cycles of alliance and enmity with the United States.

Starting his account at a time when Britain was poised to rule the world’s oceans—and much of its land as well—prolific historian Jeremy Black details the nation’s involvement in global affairs from the late-18th century to the present. A Military History of Britain is an account of military structures and cultures, and relevant socio-political contexts, as well as of conflicts. As in all of his writing, Black seeks to challenge conventional assumptions and offer illuminating new perspectives.

Black begins by setting the background to British military history, in particular the anti-(large) army ideology, the maritime tradition, and the growing geo-political rivalry with France. After the defeat of the French in North America, Britain would become the world’s leading maritime power. The 19th Century would see tension between Britain and the new United States, France, Germany, and an increasing emphasis on imperial conquests. Organized in three parts: Britain as Imperial Parent; Britain as Imperial Rival; and Britain as Imperial Partner. A primary focus of this account will be the 20th century, examining Britain and World War I (including Britain as a world power and issues of imperial overstretch) and World War II (and the subsequent wars of Imperial Retention in Malaya, Kenya, and Cyprus). As in all of his writing, Black seeks to challenge conventional assumptions, and offer illuminating new perspectives.

Black details the involvement of Britain in global affairs up to the present. Recent issues of continuing importance include Britain as a nuclear power, the end of the East of Suez policy, NATO membership; out-of-area conflict (from the Falklands to Iraq), and the adjustment to new global roles. This wide-ranging and broadly-based account is designed for students and for the general reader.


"Black organizes this account of British military structures and cultures, and relevant socio-political contexts, as well as of conflicts not in relation to Britain's European rivals France or Germany, but in relation to the US. Thus, the book's three sections are titled Imperial Parent, Imperial Rival, and Imperial Partner....Recommended. Libraries with national-security collections; graduate students and faculty."—Choice, September 1, 2007

"Black begins this concise and comprehensive military history with an overview going back to the Roman invasion of Britain in 55 and 54 B.C.E. The book is organized into three parts: Britain as imperial parent (through 1775), as imperial rival (1775-1904), and as imperial partner (from 1904). The first part deals with Britain's maritime tradition, its relatively small army, and its growing struggle with France. The second part begins with the War for American Independence, covers the rise of Napoleon, and ends with the ascendancy of Great Britain as the master of imperialism. The third part concentrates on the role of Britain as imperial partner in the 20th century and the challenges contained therein: the retraction of Britain's Far Eastern policies, its membership in NATO, and modern conflicts from the Falklands to Iraq. Black presents new perspectives on his subject (since military history cannot be studied in a vacuum) and thus challenges established assumptions (e.g., that the Crimean failures were owing simply to aging generals). His discussion of military history as an interrelated part of the nation's history is most enlightening. Recommended."—Library Journal, January 1, 2007

"Military structures and cultures, relevant sociological contexts, and the conflicts themselves are part of the story that Black tells. The early 21st century, he says, provides a different perspective than did the Cold War, and so he chooses some surprising topics to follow down the three centuries. The series being American, he devotes much attention to cross-Atlantic military relations, mostly after the unfortunate dust-up in the 1770s, oh yes, and that 1812 misunderstanding."—Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2007

"Intellectually questioning, Black's study cultivates an understanding of the resources and doctrines underlying the British military panorama of battles, leaders, and soldiers."—Booklist, December 1, 2006
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