The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Army

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The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Army. Edited by David Chandler and Ian Beckett. Oxford University Press, 1994. 493 Pages. $39.95, Softbound. Reviewed by Lieutenant Colonel Harold E. Raugh, Jr., U.S. Army.

Eminent British military historian David Chandler, assisted by Ian Beckett (both formerly of the Department of War Studies, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst), has edited this superb volume. It is truly "an examination of the development of the British Army as an institution."

This book consists of 20 chapters, arranged in general chronological order, beginning with "The English Medieval Army to 1485," by Michael Prestwich, and concluding with Michael Yardley's insightful "Towards the Future." The remaining chapters, all of which can be read as self-contained essays, were written by authorities in their respective fields. While many of the chapters naturally focus on the most significant war or operations of its respective era, others highlight special, related topics-notably Alex Danchev's "The Army and the Home Front, 1939-1945"; T.A. Heathcote's "The Army of British India"; and Beckett's "The Amateur Military Tradition."

One of the most significant themes of the British Army, as reflected in this book, is that of continuity. Other recurring themes, which further illuminate that army's roles and responsibilities, include the arguably ironic antimilitarist tradition of the British; the existence of friction between soldiers and civilians despite the British Army's small size and frequent overseas postings; an interdependence between the British Army and society; and the general apolitical nature of the British Army. …