MHM’s round-up of the latest military history titles

Paths of Fire: the gun and the world it made

The essential weapon of military campaigns for hundreds of years, the basic design and operation of the gun has changed very little: a chemical explosion at one end of a barrel causes a bullet to fire out of the other at terrifying speed. Yet the gun has also evolved greatly over time. Historian Andrew Nahum traces its developments, from origins in the time of Galileo through to the era of the first cannons and beyond: to the possible future of ray and beam weapons, the standard in sci-fi films but perhaps one day soon a battlefield reality.

Paths of Fire: the gun and the world it made, Andrew Nahum, Reaktion Books, hbk (£25), ISBN 978-1789143973.


Based on author Cecil Lewis’s own experiences as a World War I fighter ace, Pathfinders follows the crew of a Wellington bomber as they reflect on the paths their own lives have taken while undertaking a dangerous mission above Nazi Germany in 1942. One of several classic wartime novels to have been recently (and stylishly) republished by the Imperial War Museum.

Pathfinders, Cecil Lewis, Imperial War Museum, pbk (£8.99), ISBN 978-1912423378.

The Viking Great Army and the Making of England

In the winter of 865, a Viking army, having raided Britain opportunistically for decades, instead stayed permanently, forming a new hybrid Anglo-Scandinavian culture. Drawing on new research, including at the Viking Great Army winter camp at Torksey in Lincolnshire, this book offers a definitive account of the consequences of the Viking settlement in England.

The Viking Great Army and the Making of England, Dawn M Hadley and Julian D Richards, Thames & Hudson, hbk (£25), ISBN 978-0500022016.

SBS: Silent Warriors

Britain’s Special Boat Service was the world’s first maritime special operations unit. Founded in 1940, it grew from a small and inexperienced outfit to a ruthless global fighting force. Although not an official history, Silent Warriors is authorised: for the first time, the SBS Regimental Association have an allowed an exploration of the unit’s past activities.

SBS: Silent Warriors, Saul David, HarperCollins Publishers, hbk (£25), ISBN 978-0008394523.

The Confidence Men: how two prisoners of war engineered the most remarkable escape in history

Imprisoned in a Turkish POW camp during the First World War, two British officers tricked their captors into thinking they were mediums. If they were released, the pair claimed, they could lead the camp staff to a hoard of buried treasure. Award-winning writer Margalit Fox tells the thrilling story.

The Confidence Men: how two prisoners of war engineered the most remarkable escape in history, Margalit Fox, Profile Books, hbk (£16.99), ISBN 978-1788162715.

Blood and Ruins: the Great Imperial War, 1931-1945

Richard Overy, one of Britain’s most-distinguished historians, here argues that the Second World War was a great imperial conflict, the violent apotheosis of almost a century of imperial competition between Italy, Germany, Japan, and other rivals. Overy also delves deep into the bitter cost for those involved and how the war’s end fundamentally rearranged the world order.

Blood and Ruins: the Great Imperial War, 1931-1945, Richard Overy, Allen Lane, hbk (£40), ISBN 978-0713995626.