Following on from last year’s Books that Changed History, DK has returned with Battles That Changed History; a book aimed at military history buffs around the globe. The aim of the book is to describe and put into context battles that have shaped how the world evolved. Beginning with the Battle of Marathon and ending with Desert Storm, Battles that Changed History is a comprehensive overview of one of humanity’s worst habits, war.
What Is Battles That Changed History?
It’s a 250-page hardback that charts the history of warfare from 490 BCE up to 1991. The book has a forward by Sir Tony Robinson, possibly because of his decades long pursuit of popular history and archeology or maybe just because he knows a cunning plan when he sees one. The book features conflicts from every continent, except Antarctica.
The battles are presented in chronological order and broken down into several color-coded sections. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the book has more content devoted to the last 500 years than the previous 2000. A testament to mankind’s ability to find innovative reasons to kill each other and invent technology to make the process a whole lot more efficient.
The book does not aim to be a comprehensive compendium of the world’s wars or as a manual on the art of warfare but instead aims to offer a glimpse into the broader world in which each battle took place, as well as the ways in which history was made at a particular moment in time. (Note: I borrowed most of that paragraph from Sir Tony.) Much like the previously reviewed History of the World Map by Map, this is a book that not only aims to deliver facts but tries to give those facts some context.
Each section contains roughly 15 (for those earlier in history) to 25 (for the more modern eras) detailed overviews of specific battles. The end of each section contains a short “directory” of other significant conflicts of the period covered.
The sections are:
- Red: Before 1000 CE. From Marathon to Lechfeld (Magyar invasions of Bavaria) via the conquests of Alexander the Great.
- Light Blue: 1000-1500. My favorite era of military history. Hastings to the Fall of Constantinople via Agincourt.
- Orange: 1500-1700. The Siege of Tenochtitlan to the Siege of Vienna via the Thirty Years War, Spanish Armada, and Hansando (Japanese-Korean War).
- Dark Blue: 1700-1900. My dad’s favorite era of military history. Blenheim and the War of Spanish Succession to Isandlwana in the Anglo-Zulu war. This chapter also takes in Little Bighorn, The Napoleonic Wars, The American War of Independence, and the American Civil War.
- Green 1900-Present. Mukden in the Russo-Japenese war of 1906 to Operation Desert storm, taking in two World Wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War along the way.
All of this is presented using color photos of artifacts relevant to the era; contemporaneous works of art that depicted the conflict. There are also modern accurate maps, maps that date from the time of the battle, and modern block tactical diagrams, that describe how the battle was fought. The text is never overwhelming, and usually features a solid block of writing on each double page, with additional sidebar text to label diagrams and photos.
Why Read Battles That Changes History?
This is an invaluable book for anybody interested in military history. It’s particularly good for those with a passing interest, who wish to learn more about the development of warfare and how key conflicts shaped the life and politics of the time. Those who are already military history experts may find the overview approach doesn’t give them the depth they require. You could certainly drill down a lot deeper into all the battles covered and the reasons they occurred.
Once again, DK has delivered the sort of book you can lose yourself in. A casual glance through draws you in to read deeper around the subject. The pictures and maps help keep the reader engaged and maintain the quest for more information. In tandem with History of the World Map by Map, this is an excellent book to learn about how the political world was shaped. It’s particularly fascinating if you have traveled to the places in question. We regularly holiday in Bavaria, so reading about the battle at Lechfeld was of particular interest.
It’s hard to imagine that the modern, fairly quiet city of Augsburg was once at the center of a pivotal historic battle. A reminder that history is everywhere. Which is perhaps why Sir Tony Robinson was happy to put his name to this excellent book. Much of the historical television programming he presents, brings home that everywhere we go, we’re surrounded by history. We just have to look beneath the surface. Books like Battles That Change History not only prompt us to do this but also remind us why it is important to do so.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of Battles That Changed History you can do so, here in the US and here, in the UK (where at the time of writing it has a very good price.)
If you enjoyed this review do check out my other Word Wednesday pieces.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review.