Customer Reviews: The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present
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on February 8, 2001
I originally bought this book in 1978 for $25. I only replaced it with the new addition in the year 2001. This book is the definitive one-volume work on military history---nothing else can compare to it. All the battles are there and there are many helpful diagrams. The opposing forces and casualties are listed for almost every battle. Included in the book is an excellent bibliography---if you read every work there you should come out with a thoughrough understanding of military history. I haven't, even after 22 years. If you are a wargamer this is a book you will use frequently. I also recommend it to college students and even graduate students majoring in history. The book is well worth the cost. All the great military leaders are highlighted at the beginning of each chapter. I also liked the author's "Comments" section which is usually given after very important battles and events. I read parts of this book on an almost daily basis and still find out new things. This is the one book I would want on a desert island.
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on July 28, 2002
I have owned this book, Harper Encyclopedia of Military History, for a number of years and have yet to come across a text of military history exceeding the former in sheer volume of information. Harper is essentially 1500 plus pages of a timeline covering events from 3100 BC to the beginning of the 1990s. Interspersing this timeline are articles analyzing military developments and personalities within each era of coverage. What makes Harper so comprehensive is its detailed inclusion of events beyond Europe. Regions of the world that would customarily recieve scant to no attention in more Eurocentric works dealing with this topic are focused upon with a dramatic vigor that sheds light on leaders and wars unfamiliar to the West.(Given the prevalent ignorance of history, Western leaders and wars may be just as unfamiliar to a disconcertingly large segment of the Western world). This book is a great reference for anyone desiring a concise, year by year account of military operations in any time period. Harper is a tremendous, tireless resource for scholars and military history aficionados in general.
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on September 26, 1996
One of the most comprehensive works of military history
available, this is a must-have for anyone interested in the
subject. Not only does this work detail every significant
recorded military conflict since 3500 BC, but it sheds light
on the methods, tactics, weapons, leaders, technologies,
great captains, and innovations with which these conflicts
were fought. Truly, R. Ernest and Trevor N. Dupuy's work
should be at the center of any military historian's library,
whether he be a serious scholar or just an armchair general.
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on October 5, 2001
Any understanding of history, especially anthropological history (i.e. the history of peoples) must have at its core a grasp of organized, mass violence. For it was the victors of those sometimes periodic, other times incessant, spasms of violence who told the story of the battles and who preserved the culture which spawned the combatants. The genesis, history, and culture of the Carthagenian Empire is obscure because the emergent Roman Empire completely immolated Carthage hundreds of years before the advent of Christ during the Punic Wars. The authors of this comprehensive, thoroughly engrossing chronology detail the story of the Punic Wars - and each and every other armed conflict from the dawn of history through to the 1990's. This reviewer is unaware of any other single-volume work which comes even close to this achievement.
The Encyclopedia of Military History is organized by chapters which cover each major era of military development. Each chapter contains an introductory section which outlines the broad development of weapons, military doctrine, and tactics during these eras. Particular emphasis is placed on the Greek and Roman systems and thereafter the military technologies and doctrines of the emergent european nation states and their colonies. After each chapter's broad introduction, the authors delve with intricate detail into the military campaigns of each era using a dual column per page format which packs dense amounts of information onto each page. Engrossing, if concise, histories of each war, campaign, and battle are organized chronologically and geographically (i.e. those fought in Eastern Europe, Western Europe, the Americas, the Far East, Near East, Africa, etc.).
It is difficult to fault this book. To pack any more detail would reqire an unyieldy, multivolume work. Certain multicultural types might complain about flinty coverage of their favorite cultures (e.g. warring clans in Africa or the Far East) but the mere fact that this Encyclopedia covers such relatively minor conflicts at all is somewhat suprising.
Anyone with any interest in history will be absolutely enthralled with the combination of broad scholarship and detailed retelling of the world's military history found here.
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on July 7, 2000
This book is one of the best additions to my bookshelf in a long time. It is humongous, but instead of tracing every important event in human history as so many of these types of books do, it traces the evolution of military and warfare, it records almost every single battle ever (a few are excluded for space reasons), it has pictures and all kinds of cross-referencing indexes at the back.
This book is divided into chapters for time periods, and the chapters are divided into sections that talk about different areas/nations. Each section starts with an overview of the people, their history, their tactics and strategies, and just generally adds some background. Then the authors give an extremely detailed and referenced timeline of military events.
Of course, in a work this size, there will be errors. In the introduction to this edition, the author acknowledges that, and apologizes. He notes that often there are inconsistencies from one history to the next, so while researching he had to pick which was most likely to use. Still, this is an extremely helpful, thorough, well-written and illustrated book that no one should be without.
And you can get some good excercise while reading it; it's somewhere around ten pounds.
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on January 18, 2013
I'm not an expert on military history, but this exhaustive and exhausting book would seem to be a very fine place indeed from which to start one's research into whatever piece of Military History was obsessing or vexing one. It covers the period from 3500 BC through to 1991 (my copy has a flyleaf date of 1993). I wanted it so I can dive in and get up to speed when one of my one-upmanning wargaming "friends" tries to baffle me with some obscure reference to a battle I never heard of in a country that no longer exists.

I've no doubt I'll be able to take issue with some facet of something that is written in it, but as a resource it would seem to fit the bill from where I'm sitting (partly crushed under the book).

I'm astounded at the scope of the work undertaken by the Dupuys.

There are diagrams where the authors deemed it useful, though one always wishes for more or for larger ones. There are maps, and the same can be said for them too. Such things are always in shorter supply than I could wish for in an ideal world, which is not to say that we get shorted in this book.

For what I paid for a used copy in reasonable condition (the body of the book is beginning o tear away from the front end-paper, probably because some clot dripped the book at some time, but it is otherwise in excellent nick) I'm extremely happy. Hardback, with stitched signatures, and I got a decent dust jacket too.

Now if I can just locate a properly reinforced section of flooring on which to store it ...
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on September 15, 2013
Amazon's description says that the book is 1376 pages, but actually my copy (1993 edition) is 1654 pages long. Of all the books on military history I've read, this is one of the few that gives extensive coverage to non-Western battles and wars: Southeast Asia, India, Central Asia, China, Japan, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East. The numerous wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Burma over the last 1000 years or so are unknown to most Westerners.

The entries are arranged in chronological format, and there are numerous maps. The modern period also focuses heavily on guerrilla wars, revolutions, military coups and related matters.
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on January 20, 2007
I can't really add much more than has already been written, but I agree wil the reviewers who call this work comprehensive or complete. This book covers so much it thoroughly deserves all the positive comments already said about it. This is another gem that is out of print, and I wish I had bought it when it was available. This book should be revised and re-released at some point, as it has too much to offer to let it become an obscure library reference section book. Wars will never end, so there will always be a reason and a need to revise it and put it on the market once again.
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on September 20, 2000
As a historian and army officer this is the first book I turn to when I want to know about a campaign or battle. After that I can look elsewhere for more information. This book has outstanding information on non-western battles and campaigns. It also rates the greatest leaders in each historical period. While one may not always agree with the authors, they are willing to take a stand and offer their evaluations.
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on March 27, 2012
Every serious history student knows Langer's Encyclopedia of World History which is a chronology of world history with a beautiful concise narrative under each date. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History is also a chronology but applied to military history around the world from 3500 B.C to the early 1990's. Throughout the book are essays recapping technological developments and trends in land, naval or air warfare. These essays on military trends are at the beginning of each chapter (except the last chapter). The 174 maps and additional drawings of weapons support the text.

As well as the general index, there is an index to battles and index to wars. To give one a sense of the book, Frederick the Great's famous Battle of Leuthen is described in about 300 words with a map. The Battle of Gettysburg is about the same length with a map. The Battle of Arnhem in 1944 is about 150 words including an editorial "Comment" and no map.

Although the book is set up as a chronology, it can be read as straight history with the authors giving their mature assessments. As the authors state, this reference book can never be complete because of archeological discoveries and new interpretations; such as, the excavated Chinese terra-cotta soldiers that shed new information on Chinese weapons.

A companion to this volume is the Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography by Trevor N. Dupuy. With both authors (father and son) now passed away, one hopes that other military historians will update both works.
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