Reviews: Reference Books


The Daily Telegraph Dictionary of Military Quotations

Tsouras, Peter G.  The Daily Telegraph Dictionary of Military Quotations. London: Greenhill, 2005. 480 pages. ISBN# 1853676667. Paperback. £19.99. #5

The Daily Telegraph Dictionary of Military Quotations

This is Peter Tsouras third outing with a volume on military quotations.  His first two, Warrior’s Words: A Quotation Book (Arms and Armour Press 1992) and The Greenhill Dictionary of Military Quotations (Greenhill 2000) are both outstanding and more than useful.  This new volume is essentially an updated and revised edition of the first two, and it should be on the shelf of every military historian as a quick reference.  In short, it is an outstanding reference work, an up-to-date lexicon of the words of wisdom, caution, and advice of the great, not-so-great, and even the notorious of military history.

The scope of the volume is immense, from earliest recorded history to the present day. Flipping through the numerous categories, such as morale, chief of staff, loyalty and myriad others, reading the recorded wisdom of those who have hefted spear and shield, sword and buckler, shield and pilum, pike and musket, and musket and bayonet on battlefields from ancient Troy to Kuwait and Iraq. Each quotation is documented and the entire volume is a thorough study of both quotations and the minds of those who spoke the words. This book is vital to the study of military history. It is logically arranged, the quotes are pertinent both to historian and today's military professionals, and is loaded with interesting information and interesting, snap-shot glimpses into the minds of the authors, sometimes revealing their character.

Peter Tsouras is one of the outstanding military historians and authors that is writing today.  He is thorough and articulate, insightful and enlightening, and has repeatedly demonstrated that his knowledge of military history as both a discipline and an interest is both wide and deep.  In short, he is one of the best military historians writing today, and if his name is on a publication, it should be picked up and read-in this case repeatedly.

This volume is organized alphabetically by subject area, not by author.  For each topic (for example, the "Art of War," "Chivalry," "Old Soldiers," etc.) there are multiple entries by various commanders, theorists, and observers that give a wide range of opinions and observations from people who were there on the ground or were commenting on the performance of others.  All of the topics relate to military history, and this book is more than a mere collection of quotations, there is a point to it all.  It is a type of field manual for both the neophyte and the veteran, and all of the names quoted may not be readily recognizable, which should cause the reader to look that person up and increase their knowledge of military history and the people that made it.

The principles of war are of course covered in this volume, but that isn’t all.  The emotion, sadness, and disaster of having to fight our fellow man is also contained on the pages of this worthy volume.  The loneliness of command, the utter emptiness of loss and defeat, the elation and letdown of final victory in war can be found in the words of those who have led men, battalions, and armies in combat.  Because of the manner in which the author organized this volume, it flows more in story form than merely a listing of quotes.  It isn’t a dictionary, really.  It is the story of warfare, and of the men who waged it, told in their words, and in the great and lesser actions in which they fought-and died.

The names of the great and the near-great echo throughout this volume: Napoleon- the greatest soldier of his age, and perhaps of any age. Xenophon—the Greek subaltern who had to step up to the plate when his superiors were treacherously murdered. Washington—the would-be British regular who formed the touch, enduring Continental Army and led it to victory over the world’s greatest power. Hannibal—the Great Captain who made Rome tremble.  Churchill—soldier, journalist, politician, and a tough, unbending national leader who played a huge part in defeating an immoral enemy. Clausewitz—the shy combat soldier and general staff officer who experienced On War personally. Jomini—the renegade who became an icon. And, Liddell-Hart—the intolerant intellectual who helped influence, for good or ill, a generation of military thinking.  These and a legion of others can be found in this new, updated volume, and it is another winner from Peter Tsouras and Greenhill.

Reviewed by Kevin Kiley
Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2006

 

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