Military History Matters has curated a list of 2021’s best military history titles: the nominees for this year’s MHM Book Awards. Our selection includes some of the best-researched, most-insightful, and most-readable titles reviewed and featured in the magazine over the last year. But we need your help to select the winners!
Gold, silver, and bronze prizes are up for grabs in the race for MHM Book of the Year, which will be awarded to the title our readers feel has made the greatest all-round contribution to the study of military history.
Come and have your say at www.military-history.org/awards, or fill in the form at the bottom of this page. Voting will close on 8 March 2022, and the winners will be announced later that month.
The MHM Book Awards are sponsored by Thomas Del Mar Ltd, one of the world’s leading auctioneers of militaria, and its partner London’s Olympia Auctions. For more information, visit www.olympiaauctions.com/departments/arms-armour/.
HOW TO VOTE
The MHM Book Awards recognise the best military history titles, as voted for by you. Please pick your favourite from the selection above and opposite, write your choice on the line below, then return this form to: MHM Book Awards, Military History Matters, Office 120, 295 Chiswick High Road, London, W4 4HH. Alternatively, you can vote online at www.military-history.org/awards.
BOOK OF THE YEAR:
Given the high calibre of books featured in MHM over the last year, selecting the final shortlist was no easy task. After much deliberation, the team at MHM has narrowed them down to a dozen of the very best. Our nominations are:
The International Brigades: fascism, freedom, and the Spanish Civil War
Giles Tremlett, Bloomsbury
Around 35,000 foreign fighters served in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. Not all were heroic. Some were simply escaping the dole queues and slums at home. Some turned out to be rapists and sadists. But in this beautifully written, immensely moving, and deeply disturbing book, Giles Tremlett describes the Brigades ‘warts and all’.
Philip & Alexander: kings and conquerors,
Adrian Goldsworthy, Head of Zeus/Basic Books
The story of Alexander the Great is a familiar tale but one that remains frustratingly incomplete. The dashing prince conquered vast swathes of the world before his mysterious death at the age of just 32. In this book, Adrian Goldsworthy takes a fresh approach to the well-worn tale, dealing with the gaps in our knowledge with candour and resisting the urge to fill them with speculation.
The Reckoning: the defeat of Army Group South, 1944
Prit Buttar, Osprey Publishing
The Eastern Front remains the forgotten child of Western histories of the Second World War. Yet, as Prit Buttar argues in The Reckoning, the conflict here was existential. Two nations, with diametrically opposed ideologies, each fought not just for victory, but for the complete extinction of the other. His well-argued thesis is that 1944 was the pivotal year in hostilities between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht.
Jet Man: the making and breaking of Frank Whittle, the genius behind the jet revolution Duncan Campbell-Smith, Head of Zeus
In this deeply researched book, Duncan Campbell-Smith examines the life of pilot and engineer Frank Whittle, whose brilliant ideas were ignored by the established aero-engine manufacturers and dyed- in-wool mandarins of the 1930s. Had they listened to him sooner, the Battle of Britain would have been less intense and much more easily won.
Blood and Iron: the rise and fall of the German Empire 1871-1918
Katja Hoyer, The History Press/Simon & Schuster
In this excellent book, Katja Hoyer charts the history of Germany from its founding by Bismarck in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War to the disastrous leadership of Kaiser Wilhelm II. As Hoyer shows, while Bismarck was militarily cautious, fearing a Germany surrounded by hostile neighbours, Wilhelm was clumsy, leading his country almost accidentally into the First World War out of a desire to be a true dictator.
The Western Front: a history of the First World War
Nick Lloyd, Viking/Penguin/Liveright
This is the first of a planned three-part history of the First World War organised by theatre. Although it is difficult to say anything new about the conflict, Nick Lloyd sifts out the myths and misconceptions to leave us with a fast narrative driven by an intelligent understanding of what actually happened and why. His lucidity and panache make the book a page-turner.
At Close Range: life and death in an artillery regiment, 1939-45
Peter Hart, Profile Books
The direct experience of the gunners has long been a neglected aspect of World War II history. We have had plenty on life in a tank unit, or a fighter squadron, but there is a sense in which the role of the artillery has been seen as more mundane, perhaps less glamorous. Peter Hart insightfully addresses this imbalance.
River Kings: a new history of the Vikings from Scandinavia to the Silk Road
Cat Jarman, William Collins
The English village of Repton seems like an unlikely starting point for a global voyage. But it is here that Cat Jarman begins her new history of the Vikings. The story unfolds like an adventure novel, with Jarman displaying an ability to explain the complex tech that a bioarchaeologist such as herself would use on a daily basis.
The Viking Great Army and the Making of England
Dawn M Hadley and Julian D Richards, Thames & Hudson
In this superbly well-written synthesis, academics Dawn Hadley and Julian Richards present an archaeological investigation that substantially increases our knowledge of a military campaign, revealing the movements and campsites of the army, and much about its size, organisation, and general character.
Sean McMeekin, Allen Lane/Basic Books
In Stalin’s War, Sean McMeekin covers the German invasion of Russia in June 1941 and the subsequent campaigns with skill, while his analysis of the Soviet leader’s out-negotiating of Roosevelt and Churchill is also excellent. But he is even more convincing when arguing his main point: that Stalin’s war really began as far back as the late 1920s.
The Making of Oliver Cromwell
Ronald Hutton, Yale University Press Oliver
Cromwell was the pivotal figure of the English Revolution. He emerged from obscurity to become Parliament’s greatest commander, and, eventually, the military strongman who attempted to impose a permanent political settlement on the country. Quite apart from Ronald Hutton’s biographical insights, his analysis of Cromwell’s military campaigns is outstanding.
The Pathfinders: the elite RAF force that turned the tide of WWII
Will Iredale, Ebury Publishing
‘The Pathfinders are the aces of Bomber Command,’ a British newspaper wrote in 1944.This well-written book tells the remarkable story of an extraordinary team of aviators and their support personnel who – to quote the book’s subtitle – turned the tide of the RAF’s bombing campaign over occupied Europe.
Vote online at www.military-history.org/awards