Books about wars throughout history offer a rare and uncensored glimpse into humanity. Politics and cultures govern sentiment and mass action. Resource pressures and even plain greed can see the call to arms heralded all across the globe. The reasons for conflict are many; the reasons to alleviate it even more.
There are indeed plenty of lessons and insights to be learned by these particular books. World war, civil war, the Romans in conquest, and The Holy Wars are just a few of the many actions to be covered here. Students, scholars, hobbyists, and the inquisitive alike – these are the 50 best books about wars throughout history.
#1 – The Trojan War: A New History
The Trojan War: A New History is an excellent and scholarly take on the Trojan War as well as Homer’s accounting of it through the world-famous “Iliad.” In this new history, however, new archaeological evidence and historical findings lay dispute to some of Homer’s great accounts. What really happened here? A combination of history and scientific search combine to give just that answer.
#2 – The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War
Few moments of opposition between commander and subordinate rival that of Achilles and Agamemnon. This is the story of that epic confrontation and the resulting return to the field by Achilles to reap sweet revenge. What were the consequences of this, and how was society ultimately affected by this conflict? Find out inside The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War.
#3 – The Trojan War: Literature and Legends from the Bronze Age to the Present
Diane P. Thompson
For those generally interested in the aligns of the Bronze Age and its infamous Trojan War, this impressive collection of works on these subjects is sure to please. From the ancient eyes of the time, to today’s great thinkers, these are the many accounts of these epic times. Additionally, a special and very rich, concluding focus is provided on the ancient city of Troy itself.
#4 – In Search of the Trojan War
Hector, Achilles, and Helen – for over 3000 years, these figures have graced the imaginations of popular culture and the historic realm alike. This piece by author Michael Wood seeks to explore the exact details of who these legendary people were in real-life. Also, explore what is now known as “The Mound of Troy” as researchers attempt to piece together the long-lost truth.
#5 – The History of the Mongol Conquests
J. J. Saunders
The History of the Mongol Conquests is the tale of a military and political movement never before or since seen. The Mongolian Conquests were to be feared by the enemy and held up by the Mongolian nation. This is the telling of those incredible conquests, the reasons behind them, and a very central character to it all – Genghis Khan.
#6 – Warriors of the Steppe: A Military History of Central Asia, 500 B.C. to A.D. 1700
The military history of ancient Asia is one of great curiosity and mystique. Honor codes, fierce allegiances, unique weapons and strategies, and a whole host of other unique qualities are what separate the military history of this region from that of the rest of the world. Learn about the Manchu, the Scythians, and the many others to have made an impact here.
#7 – Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia
Thomas T. Allsen
This is the latest installment from famed Mongol Empire historian Thomas T. Allsen. Here, we take a deep look at the cultural effects of Mongolian conquests at that time. The Mongolians were quite interested in the knowledge and ways of the kingdoms they conquered. The result was a mass exchange of Eurasian culture and information that leads straight to the premises of today.
#8 – Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
Genghis Khan was the single ruler that shaped a time period, continent, and people. This is so much so that the aligns of culture and civilization in the region today are still heavily influenced by this long-passed man and era. This piece dives into the story of this momentous leader and how his personal goals came to shape the world the rest of us live in today.
#9 – The Taeping Rebellion in China
This particular piece is coveted among scholars as a necessary and classic addition to the telling of the Taeping Rebellion of China. This is much to do with its close relation to the original artifact it’s meant to represent. As its title implies, we are taken on an in-depth accounting of this history-changing event in China. Learn the entire history of the rebellion here.
#10 – Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War
Stephen R. Platt
China’s Taiping Rebellion was one of the world’s most divisive civil wars ever seen. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War is the complete history of this terrible struggle. Readers will become familiar with central figures, strategies, and reasons for the conflict as a whole. The greater implications on an entire future world are also explored.
#11 – What Remains: Coming to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China
The Taeping Rebellion cost millions of lives and has been dissected by historians, scholars, and other experts in many ways. Avoiding a classic telling of the conflict, author Tobie Meyer-Fong sets out to report on the individual element of survival during the war. How did the individual and the family live from day to day during the conflict? Discover the deepest, most dramatic grasps at survival during terrible times.
#12 – The Civil Wars: A Military History of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1638-1660
John Kenyon, Jane Ohlmeyer
This is a rather unique book about war in history. Here, we take a look to the many military conflicts that took place in Ireland, Scotland, and England from 1638 to 1660. It was a time of kings, life-dependent allegiances, exertions of political power, and lands for conquer. Richly illustrated and deeply researched, this blended history is a must.
#13 – God’s Fury, England’s Fire: A New History of the English Civil Wars
British history is one that is known to be rich, deep, and full of royal mystique. This book on history’s battles and conflicts specifically addresses the British history and the tumultuous times it faced during the seventeenth century. Civil wars raged one after another, and peace was anything but a reality. Author Michael Braddick shows how us how and why this was all so.
#14 – Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, 1638-1660
From 1638 to 1660, England was engulfed in conflict. This is author Trevor Royle’s excellent reporting on this time period also known as The Wars of Three Kingdoms. Find out why the fighting was so constant and severe at this point. Find out how it all lead to the shaping of Ireland, Scotland, and England as we know them today.
#15 – The Ashgate Research Companion to the Thirty Years’ War
Olaf Asbach, Peter Schröder
The Ashgate Research Companion is a known and highly respected line of publications that documents various historic events. It’s therefore quite appropriate that this companion to the Thirty Years’ War be bound to the list of best books about war throughout history. Here, the Thirty Years’ War is explained in detail, from its causes, to its finality.
#16 – The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy
Peter H. Wilson
Seventeenth century Europe is the setting. Constant combat, political action, and civil strife are the unfortunate norm in Germany and the surrounding areas. Author Peter H. Wilson saddles up and takes us on a remarkable telling of this extended period of great conflict. The ensuing power struggles would go on to shape the modern maps as we know them today.
#17 – The Thirty Years War: A Documentary History
The Thirty Years War: A Documentary History provides a fascinating and historically rich explanation of the Thirty Years’ War. As opposed to simply telling the chronological sequence of events, author/editor Tryntje Helfferich has put together a collection of original documents from figures of the time. Truly understand what was happening with trial records, official edicts, letters, public statements, diaries, and more.
#18 – Capital, the State, and War: Class Conflict and Geopolitics in the Thirty Years’ Crisis, 1914-1945
Capital, the State, and War: Class Conflict and Geopolitics in the Thirty Years’ Crisis, 1914-1945 is a deep analysis of The Thirty Years’ Crisis. Beyond analysis of the conflict itself, this piece seeks to understand the societal reasons behind such conflicts. Explore the political, geographic, social, and other less-than-tangible yet extremely powerful elements at work here.
#19 – The Thirty Years War
C. V. Wedgwood
Three royal representatives to the Roman Empire were literally thrown through a window in a castle in Prague. The swift result was something that could be very much likened to a world at war. This was the scene at the start of The Thirty Years’ War. What would subsequently develop would draw in many adversaries, religions, and purposes.
#20 – The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It
David A. Bell
Author David A. Bell provides us with a scholarly and ever-so respected take on war in the twentieth century as we know it. Surprisingly to some, this later century of war was actually completely shaped by conflicts and personalities of times long passed. Among those found to be most responsible for the shape of modern war is Napoleon Bonaparte.
#21 – Fighting Techniques Of The Napoleonic Age 1792-1815
Robert B. Bruce
In what is now known as “The Napoleonic Age,” Napoleon Bonaparte was a revolutionary in terms of tactics, strategy, and political maneuvering. His radical new methods turned the world’s attention to Europe and subsequently shaped the globe’s future in many ways. This is author Robert B. Bruce’s highly respected reflection of this age of radical new approach under a legend’s guidance.
#22 – Scipio Africanus: Greater Than Napoleon
B. H. Liddell Hart
Napoleon is often lauded as one of the world’s foremost guiding leaders in military greatness. Before Napoleon, however, there was the legendary Scipio Africanus. This often forgotten hero to history led his forces in an undefeated and almost impossible campaign. Hannibal, his adversary, is more often recognized by name, but it was Scipio Africanus that every great leader could rightly strive to mirror in success.
#23 – Napoleon’s Infantry Handbook
For those wanting an intimate, up-close-and-personal look at the armies serving under Napoleon, Napoleon’s Infantry Handbook is unbeatable in form and substance. Discover what these troops ate, packed, practiced, and even thought. What made Napoleon’s forces so capable, after all? No detail is lost in this intriguing historic reference guide.
#24 – The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme
In this classic piece, author John Keegan takes a critical look at some of the specific battles and campaigns of the legendary commander Napoleon Bonaparte. What were the strategies, weapons and equipment, and even field conditions at the time? Explore all of the elements that made up these decisive battle scenes and understand their eventual outcomes.
#25 – The Age of Napoleon
J. Christopher Herold
For those looking to be introduced into the basics of the Napoleonic Age, J. Christopher Herold’s The Age of Napoleon is a must. Widely regarded as a sort of biography for the man and the age named for him, this piece highlights all of the important elements that made it all happen. From social contexts, to military strategy and the mind of a leader, this account will bring anyone up to speed.
#26 – The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land
This is the extremely vivid telling of the Crusades, or Holy Wars of 1095 to 1291. Two belief systems dominated the age, and coexistence was not at all an option. Learn what started these terrible campaigns of war and chaos and where they ultimately left off. The Middle Ages and what is known as The Holy Land were all at stake here.
#27 – A History of The Crusades, 3 Volume Set: The First Crusade, The Kingdom of Jerusalem, The Kingdom of Acre
This classical telling of the Crusades is formidable and expansive, encompassing three information-rich volumes about the period. Christianity and Islam, two mass religions would come to great conflict at this time. Beyond conflict, author Steven Runciman makes sure to cover areas of art, culture, and other accomplishments as related to these two, dueling belief systems as well.
#28 – God’s War: A New History of the Crusades
The image of “godlinesss” is one of great ambiguity. That ambiguity is the exact subject that author Christopher Tyerman confronts in his thorough account – God’s War: A New History of the Crusades. Tyerman takes the approach of covering how perceived godliness shaped the actions that, in turn, shaped the Crusades as a whole. The Middle East, Europe, Africa, and others would all be affected.
#29 – The Glory of the Crusades
Much of the glory, trial, and tribulation attributed to the Crusades have been found to be a stretch of truth in modern times of research. The Glory of the Crusades seeks to cut straight through the mystique and tall tales, providing the reader with factual, proven moments of true glory during this era. Unadulterated and direct, Steve Weidenkopf gives a valuable look here.
#30 – The New Concise History of the Crusades
Thomas F. Madden
Another straight and great cut to the truth, The New Concise History of the Crusades is author Thomas F. Madden’s respected offering to the subject. Excellent narration and subject coverage assure all readers of a clear understanding to these years of conflict. Find out where campaigns were waged, who was affected, and why it was all destined to be.
#31 – The Crusades: The World’s Debate
For anyone wanting to glean a better understanding as to the conflict at the heart of The Crusades – Islam and Christianity – this piece is a great choice. Author Hilaire Belloc details the Crusades for the general purposes of understanding. However, the analysis goes a step further into the question at the heart of the conflict then and going into the future: What is the big problem between these two religions?
#32 – Battles of the Bible: A Military History of Ancient Israel
Chaim Herzog, Mordechai Gichon
The Christian Bible is a book of great history in addition to religious value. Battles of the Bible: A Military History of Ancient Israel is an important offering in the line of explaining just what happened in these epic events and battles spoken about in the Bible. Learn about the Invasion of Canaan, the split of the Kingdom of Judah, the Maccabees’ Rebellion, and more.
#33 – Indian Wars
Robert M. Utley, Wilcomb E. Washburn, Robert M Utley, Wilcomb E Washburn
Indian Wars is a comprehensive look at the unfortunate and many conflicts between Native Americans and a growing nation. From the very beginnings of contact and subsequent trouble, to the climaxes of hostility such as seen at the Trail of Tears, this piece provides appropriate coverage. The reader will find a deeper understanding, if not peace, about the summation of these events.
#34 – The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West
Westward expansion and Manifest Destiny were some of history’s greatest drivers for change. The changes particular to this action would go on to be played out in the terrible plight of the Native American of the time. Author Peter Cozzens reports on the westward campaign of America and its violent meeting with the Native American desire to defend what had always been home.
#35 – Daily Life during the Indian Wars
Clarissa W. Confer
The “Indian Wars” is the name attributed to the fight between westward emigrating Americans and the Native Americans already occupying these lands. Daily Life during the Indian Wars provides the telling of this conflict through the eyes and words of Native Americans during the time. Great clarity to the entirety of these historic events is gleaned when a close look at the individual stories within is taken.
#36 – The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story
Considered widely as the last official Native American conflict of the Indian Wars, The War of the Nez Perce was a dramatic one, set to take place in the year 1877. Desperation, life-and-death drama, and courageous ingenuity ensue as the telling of the plight of the Nez Perce is laid bare and raw for all to see here.
#37 – Savage Frontier, 1835-1837: Rangers, Riflemen, and Indian Wars in Texas
Stephen L. Moore
The Texas Rangers are a group of great legend, mystique, and of course, historic significance. In this book about conflict, justice, and war throughout history, the reader will come to understand the pivotal history of the Texas Rangers – a hybrid law and order system still alive and well today. An entire, mesmerizing and thorough history is portrayed here.
#38 – 1776
Author of the #1 National Bestseller, 1776, David McCullough offers a definitive and remarkable history of the year that changed it all. A passionate new nation would come to resent its overbearing parent state across the sea. The Declaration of Independence would result, and a fight for the ages would eventually determine the future of the entire world. Here is the epic story of it all.
#39 – Washington’s Crossing
David Hackett Fischer
Not too long after the issuing of the Declaration of Independence, the American cause was quickly deteriorating. George Washington, however, was in control, and as a result, things would miraculously change for the Americans. Author David Hackett Fischer provides us with a clear and thorough rendition of Washington’s specific actions and overall intervention to change the tide of the war for America.
#40 – The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789
The Revolutionary War is the single event that gave birth to a free and individual, new nation and forever changed the world to come. Why did this war take place, and what were all of the most critical elements to its conclusion as we know it now? This war history publication leaves the reader fully educated on the revolution that changed it all.
#41 – These Were the Hessians
Bruce E. Burgoyne
The Hessians were a group of military troops provided to the British by the Germans during the American Revolution. This supposed help, however, may have actually been the ultimate undoing of the British fight against the rebellious Americans. Explore the specific role and arguable results of the Hessians during the war.
#42 – Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West
The time was 480 BC. It was an epic time of ancient gods, people, and technologies. Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West dives right into this unique time period, as well as Xerxes and the Persian path to war and conquest under his reign. In the end, Greece would defend itself successfully, but what if it had not?
#43 – The Greek Wars: The Failure of Persia
The Greek Wars: The Failure of Persia is the heralded report that became known as “The Greek Wars.” Persia and its militaristic leader Xerxes were hell-bent on invading and taking over ancient Greece. Persia ultimately failed in this endeavor, but why did this happen? This one is a brilliant challenge to historic orthodoxy.
#44 – A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War
Victor Davis Hanson
In this wartime great, author Victor Davis Hanson treats the reader to a scholar’s view on the Peloponnesian War. The Athenians and Spartans would battle for eventual supremacy of a region. Experience the end of a Golden Age with the epic conclusion of Athens as well as many more game-changing events of the time.
#45 – The Rise of the Roman Empire
Countless scholars have tried to cover and embody the movements of the ancient Romans. It’s hard to come closer in this endeavor than by way of the accounts of Polybius, an ancient Greek scholar of the time. Follow along as eyes of the actual time report on what all is happening in Rome, Greece, and other nearby nations.
#46 – Roman Empire at War: A Compendium of Roman Battles from 31 B.C. to A.D.
Author Donathan Taylor provides us with this important record of the many battles of the Roman Empire. Every battle within the covered date range is documented with regard to battle methods, strategies, causes, outcomes, and more. One could almost consider this a chronological scoreboard of sorts for the Roman military efforts of the times.
#47 – The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453
For many years, France was attacked by the British as part of a declared right to their wealth and lands. Not taking this lying down, France would fight back in what would later become known as the very epic, Hundred Years War. Nobles and peasants, kings, queens, and bloodline heirs – this is the story of conquering thy neighbor during the Middle Ages.
#48 – The Guinness Book of Decisive Battles
Whether you wish to learn about the Salamis or even the Dien Bien Phu, the battles contained within these pages are brought to life with rich explanation. Why did each battle take place? Who fought in each and how? From start to finish, understand each battle contained herein like a true military historian.
#49 – The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: From Marathon to Waterloo
Edward Shepherd Creasy
This highly respected piece of military history comes to us courtesy of author Edward Shepherd Creasy. Here, Creasy seeks to detail 15 of the world’s greatest military battles. Learn about Waterloo, The Battle of Hasting, and other world-changing confrontations. This is a necessity in any war history book collection.
#50 – The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present
R. Ernest Dupuy, Ernest R. Dupuy, Trevor N. Dupuy
Perhaps the most complete, overall history in this list, The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present covers a bit of it all. This is an improved and updated version of the scholastically significant original edition. Readers can expect to become familiar with the overall order of military value and utilization throughout the world’s regions and history. This is also an absolute necessity to any worthy collection of books about wars throughout history.
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