Brassey's Dictionary of Battles by John Laffin (1998, Hardcover)

Brassey's Dictionary of Battles by John Laffin (1998, Hardcover)

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The author claims to list 7,000 battles, campaigns, and wars over 3500 years in 501 pages. This would yield about 14 battles per page. My estimate is 10 battles per page, so let's call it 5,000 battles. The book was originally written in 1986 and he added an appendix in 1994. The main portion is arranged alphabetically, starting with Aachan, 13-20 Oct 1944, and ending with Zutphen, 22 Sep 1586. This is a book for military history students only. This is a reference book.

In some introductory text he discusses his criteria for selection (without ever calling it that), and it's pretty fuzzy. I've always said a battle is a war is a skirmish: if you or someone you knew spilled blood in it, it was a major event. He readily admits English authors' propensities to focus on English history. He states he will correct this by adding more emphasis to American and Australian battles; in other words, he is focused towards the English speaking audience. He includes obscure battles that took place on English soil, focuses heavily on Europe and the Americas, and goes lightly on China and India.

At the beginning of the book is a partial list of wars and battles in chrono order, starting with the Persian Wars (but some battles in the main portion start before that) and going through 1945. After 1945, he lists them in alpha order, which serves no purpose.

In the main portion, the format is the name of the battle, which is usually a place (good luck if you don't know where it is), the applicable war, and the date. There follows from one paragraph to two columns of text about the battle, and usually at the end he references one or two battles which followed or preceded; e.g. See Kut-al-Amara. He writes more information on more recent battles, which seems backwards to me. Hence the Iran-Iraq War -- which he calls The Gulf War because the US-led war against Iraq hadn't occurred yet when he wrote the main text in 1986 -- is the largest single entry. Of course, that one entry covers the entire war, whereas WWII or WWI has numerous smaller entries. The book includes about 90 maps.

It was intriguing to find cities which had entries hundreds of years apart, e.g.. Antioch, which has six battles from 272 to 1268. The city I've found with the most so far is that cross roads of the world, Constantinople, with XII. Furthermore, Byzantium got up to IV, so let's call it XVI. Second place is a tie: Jerusalem and Rome each got to IX. It's reasonably easy to think of battles / skirmishes that aren't included in the list.