Book Review: Arms and the Man: Military History Essays in Honor of Dennis Showalter


by Martin S. Neiberg, editor

Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2011. Pp. viii, 276. Notes, biblio., index. $151.00. ISBN: 9004206687

Arms and the Man is a festschrift, a collective work by several notable historians who both honor one of their most distinguished colleagues and take a fresh look at some seemingly well-known events or people in military history.  It is “revisionism” in the most positive sense of the term, exploring new ideas and examining existing accounts of events on the basis of those ideas and newly uncovered evidence, to clarify the work of earlier historians, rather than an attempt to rearrange history to serve a political agenda.

Neiberg, well-known for his extensive work on the First World War, opens the volume with a warm introduction  to Prof. Showalter’s life and work, which has been particularly concerned with German military history.  The essays that follow are all by well-known historians.  They fall into several categories.  Most are analytical or theoretical, covering such topics as the U.S. Army’s infatuation with a German Army that not only lost two world wars but proved itself morally bankrupt in the process (by William J. Astore), law versus security in World War II Britain (Mary Kathryn Barbier), the utility of military history to contemporary global conflicts (Jeremy Black), “professionalism” in medieval armies (Kelly DeVries), the concept of “total war” (Eugenia Kiesling), and England’s “Blue Water” strategy during the seventeenth century (Robert McJimsey).  Two essays deal with specific campaigns, Alsace-Lorraine in 1914 (Holger Herwig) and those of the Marne in 1914 and 1940 (Robert Doughty), and two with notable commanders, August von Mackenson (Richard DiNardo) and Erich von Manstein at Kharkov (Robert Citino), both of which address our perceptions of the German command system, which is not necessarily the same as the reality of command in the German Army.  The final essay in the book is rather appropriately by Showalter, who takes a thoughtful look at the uses of history, particularly military history. 

A volume in the noted Brill series “History of Warfare,” Arms and the Man will prove a rewarding read for anyone interested in military history and historiography, and particularly for the specialist in the subjects covered by the individual essays.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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