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Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice (Third Edition) Paperback – April 1, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0803263666 ISBN-10: 080326366X Edition: 3rd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 579 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; 3 edition (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080326366X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803263666
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #486,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Douglas Porch is a professor of strategy at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island. His most recent book is The French Secret Services.

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Customer Reviews

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Every career soldier and military "expert" should read Callwell's book and absorb its lessons.
Steven L. Donaldson
Maintenance of morale, intelligence gathering, difficulties of logistics, battle tactics, the leadership of small units and much more are addressed in great detail.
fitzalling
The breadth of his knowledge is shown by the range of examples that illustrate the principles laid down in his book.
E. T. Veal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By E. T. Veal on April 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Written early in the 20th Century to teach British officers how to wage war against non-European armies in Asia and Africa, "Small Wars" retains its fascination at century's end. In fact, many of its lessons could well be applied to conflicts today.
The author served in the Second Afghan and both Boer Wars, was an assiduous student of warfare around the globe and retired as a Major General after heading the British Army's Intelligence division during the Great War. The breadth of his knowledge is shown by the range of examples that illustrate the principles laid down in his book. The chapter on "Feints", for instance, draws on actions from the Zulu Wars, the Indian Mutiny, the 1821 Wallachian insurrection against the Ottoman Empire, the Second Afghan War, the Kaffir War of 1878, the French occupation of Algeria, the British expedition against Abyssinia in 1868, the siege of Khartoum, the suppression of Riel's revolt in Canada, the war against the Mahdi and a couple of Indian campaigns. Elsewhere, we are presented with the Russians in Central Asia, the French in Tonkin, Dahomey and Madagascar, the U.S. cavalry against the Indians of the Great Plains, the British and French in China, and many more now-obscure imbroglios.
The first several chapters lay down broad strategic principles, most of them flowing from the key insight that regular armies enjoy great tactical advantages over forces inferior in organization, arms, training and discipline but suffer equally great strategic handicaps.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Barr on August 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Long before the term "insurgent" entered the military vocabulary the British had developed a long experience in fighting them during much of the 19th century. Colonel Callwell's book is an excellent source if you want to understand the roots of counterinsurgent warfare in the 20th and 21st centuries. Callwell covers the topic completely from strategy to tactics used against different fighting styles e.g. mounted troops, fanatics, etc. hill and bush warfare, the use of infantry and mounted troops as well as night operations. Callwell supplies good examples accompanied by nice action maps for his subjects. Before reading this book I found it helpful to read "Queen Victoria's Little Wars" by Byron Farwell which gave me a much better appreciation of entire small wars from which Callwell takes his examples. If you are doing an indepth study of insurgent warfare this is a must, but if your time is limited you might want to come back to it and move on to more contemporary readings first.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on May 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
The author is one of the earliest and most influential writers on counter-insurgency. He was a British military officer writing to teach junior officers on how to defeat non-European forces. While many of his tactics seem rather tough and barbaric, one must be careful to judge him by the standards of his time (early 20th century), not by the whims of today. If one is able to look past many of tougher stances, like destroying the food and water sources of uncooperative local citizens, there is quite a bit worth learning. The Marine Corps Small Wars Manual of 1940 owes much to this work. While more modern counter-insurgency writers have overshadowed Caldwell's teachings, he still deserves credit for being one of the first to record the lessons and basic tenets of counter-insurgency. It is amazing the see how little has changed and how well this book holds up. I understand why this book is still required reading at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I bought this book because it appeared to fill in the void of my knowledge on colonial wars. The author has clearly stated that all of his examples used to illustrate his principles will be that of properly formed armies versus irregular native troops (the Boers are an exception). Thus, the American War of Independence is excluded but surprisingly, several examples from the European Vendee rebellion are also included. The author's style is to state principles, followed by a litany of examples to illustrate his point. He cites many unknown engagements as examples but many of these examples lack firm details. A textual description apparently suffices as examples. The same examples could be used to illustrate other points. I found this approach rather boring and it began to read like a manual to me. On the plus side, there were some examples with more details given, including a sketch map which livened the proceedings somewhat. Douglas Porch provides a neat introduction into the background of Col Callwell, including the fact that he had numerous entries selected for the Encyc. Brittanica. Except for the one on Guerrilla warfare for which the editors selected TE Lawrence. I can see why - Callwell wrote from the perspective of the formed troops - Lawrence wrote from that of the guerrillas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By fitzalling on July 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author reviews the strategy and tactics largely of European colonial powers in what he calls irregular, and we now call asymmetric, warfare. First off, he refers to the European's local opponents as "semi-civilized, savages, Asiatics", etc. So, if you are possessed of a strong dose of political correctness, I predict that you will have difficulty with the book.

With this observation duly noted, Major Callwell sees the basic strengths of the western forces arising from their discipline and generally superior weaponry. Their opponents' basic strengths lay in superior knowledge of the territory in which the western forces must operate and a general ability to avoid battle on unfavorable terms. Indeed, bringing local opponents to battle must be the chief objective of the colonial forces. Aggressively forcing battle, even when facing great odds, is, in the author's view, essential to success.

The book is very detailed on the issues of warfare, even including a short section on the use of camels. Maintenance of morale, intelligence gathering, difficulties of logistics, battle tactics, the leadership of small units and much more are addressed in great detail. As I read the book, I thought of what has changed and what remains a constant. Communications in the 19th century was a constant challenge with the ability to contact troops or forces sometimes almost non-existent. Communications may still fail today, but communications should generally be much improved. Automatic weapons were just coming into use at this time and the author notes both the advantages of these weapons and their limitations. I don't believe that the author fully appreciated the incredible impact these weapons would have just a decade or two later in the First World War.
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