Empire: Total War: reading list?
So I don't know much about the 18th and 19th centuries, militarily or historically speaking. I've done quite a bit of WWI and WWII reading so I'm hip to the 20th century, but rewind 100 years and I'm fairly clueless. Yet I'm enough of a history reader to be intrigued, and all this Empire: Total War talk is making me want to go to the source and learn who the fuck all these countries and armies are before I actually jump in and have to play them :-)
If you were going to pick three (say) books to orient a newb in the military, historical, and political terrain covered by Empire: Total War, what would you pick? Obviously it's waaaaay too much content to be easily summarized, I'm not expecting a "Guide to the Whole Fucking World of the 19th Century" here. Focusing on just a single area or a single war (or series of wars, they were apeshit for war back then) would be fine, if the book had enough detail to give some depth and resonance to the scenarios in the game. In fact, that's probably what I want the most: some books that have specific background on some of the specific scenarios (hopefully, the newbie-friendliest scenarios) in the game.
Help for the clueless, over here? PLZKTHX?
Holy crap. You don't ask for much do you... :)
It is probably the most written about era in history, because of the revolutions (French, American, industrial, enlightenment, financial, the great awakening) Second is probably the ECW.
Churchill's Volume 3 of his "History of the English Speaking Peoples" is a good overview, though obviously Anglocentric.
The Seven Years War is the most written about, as it was the first world war.
Hobsbawms' "The Age of Revolution" is superb, but covers 1789-1848. Note that in English histiography the American Revolution is not seen as a revolution, but an evolution of ideas from the ECW. Seen from this POV, it is the French Revolution that is the biggie.
The Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian cover the naval side of this era nicely!
Originally Posted by Chris Nahr
Those novels are great. They also touch on the politics, culture, and morals of the time.
Hmm, they are very late period though. 1740's UK was different from 1790's. Think Fielding rather than Austen!
"Rise and Fall of the British Empire" (Lawrence) is good. Again, it is very UK centric but for a game like Empire TW, the central theme is the 1688-1815 series of conflicts between France and UK, between centralising & modernising nation states rather than religious or cultural wars. HRE and papacy are now irrelevant. The expansions of Russia & Prussia are another theme, but not one I know much about.
Luck also has alot to do with it. At a crucial stage the British kings, weren't - they were Dutch or German instead. This allowed constitutional monarchy to evolve until it was irreversible, because, the British kings really didn't give much of a toss about what was going on in their name - allowing Walpole to create the position of Prime Minister. In France, French kings were micromanaging autocrats who very much gave a toss, until the system broke
True. I keep thinking of ETW as Napoleanic, which I suppose it mostly isn't. How different was Naval Warfare in the mid 18th century vs. the start of the 19th century though? HMS Victory was laid down in 1759, and HMS Britannia (also at Trafalgar) was laid down in 1751.
Originally Posted by Wisbechlad
I think that's much too high-level. It starts off at 1600 and goes all the way to present day. It's only got 100-page section going from 1689-1815.
Originally Posted by Wisbechlad
Last edited by ydejin; 03-17-2009 at 01:58 AM.
"WHY WON'T HE DIE!"
"Blenheim: Battle for Europe" by Charles Spencer is a good, fairly short account of that battle in 1704 and gives a fairly concise overview of the continental situation at the start of Empire's timeframe and explains the methods by which landwarfare was conducted, at least in its western sense.
For the same period but in the east probably just grab "Peter the Great" by Robert K. Massie. It is quite lengthy but it does an excellent job of being not only a biography but also a good overview of the Great Northern War that climaxed with the Battle of Poltava.
The first few chapters of "Supplying War" by Martin Van Crevald are also excellent for this period, though it's probably only about a third of the book in total with the rest being on the 19th and 20th centuries up until the end of the Second World War. Still its an excellent book all around and did much to educate me on how generals of the period would achieve concentration of force in a very complex manner due to the other complexity of keeping large bodies of men fed, clothed, and armed on the move in a preindustrial society.
You can also read "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History" by Alfred Mahan. I still haven't been able to get into it since it's fairly dry, but it is if I remember almost solely based on the games period though it of course doesn't focus on the Med. or Baltic to a great extent.
For Trafalgar itself I can't recommend Adam Nicholson's "Seize the Fire: Heroism, Duty, and the Battle of Trafalgar." Simply the best book I've read about the battle simply because it doesn't just go and describe the events of the battle, its leadup, and aftermath, but delves into deeper social thoughts relating to how the men in command acted and why conceptually they did what they did. Placing the battle in a wider late 18th century context in a way.
Last edited by CSL; 03-17-2009 at 02:18 AM.
Originally Posted by ydejin
There's a good BBC radio series (This Sceptred Isle) - and one of the series is: The First British Empire 1702-1760. And from what I have read from the AARs, most people have won by 1750/60 anyway!
Barry Lyndon (Kubrick) is a good film for getting look/feel of the period.
Last edited by Wisbechlad; 03-17-2009 at 02:21 AM.
Christopher Duffy's Military Experience in the Age of Reason is a good overview of the structure of armies, etc. in the period, while NAM Rodger's The Wooden World is a superb recreation of the workings of the Georgian navy. Neither is that useful as a way to understand the chronology of the period, but in filling in the detail they're both highly recommended.
The capsule reviews in the bibliography of the latter are wonders of concise single-sentence evisceration.
The most recent book I read on the period was Richard Holmes's Marlborough. That was quite entertaining (and Marlborough is really a character who gets too little attention).
Ending the French Revolution by Howard G. Brown. He's a professor of mine, really good stuff.
For a broad overview of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars I would recommend "War of Wars" by Robert Harvey. It covers the whole period in about 1000 pages, and doesn't get bogged down in details. For a morespecific book, "Rifles" by Mark Urban is fantastic - it follows 95th Rifles in the Wellington's Army during the Peninsular War. It does it by focussing on 5 real riflemen and officers who later wrote memoirs. Fantastic book.
"Washington's crossing" by David Hackett Fischer. It's about the the winter campaign in New Jersey at the start of the war of independence, and focuses particularly on the different cultural backgrounds and different styles of the American, British and German armies involved, and how this affected what happened.
The Line Upon a Wind: The Great War at Sea, 1793-1815, by Noel Mostert.
This does cover the later period, including post 1799, but is a great read, and gives you a good feel for the sea battles (and characters!) of the era.
I'm still hoping for an expansion that covers the Napoleonic Era. *sigh*
I really wouldn't. It's riddled with errors and facile over-simplifications. Russell Weigley's The Age of Battles is a better summary of the period 1630-1815.
Originally Posted by Larinson
Granted there are some fairly embarrassing mistakes, and it is clearly aimed at the popular market, but it is probably the most accessible opus on the period.
Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series (more then 20+ books now) is very enjoyable. Not sure or it covers the timeline all that well, but great to get you in the mood of the era for sure.
He also has one roman about the independence war called Redcoat form an English perspective. Also a good read.
Just wanted to second this recommendation (he's correctly spelled Martin van Creveld, by the way, if you want to search for his name). I have nearly all his books, and they're all worth reading, but Supplying War is particularly fascinating.
Originally Posted by CSL
I refuse to accept that that war extended past 1702 or so.
Originally Posted by CSL
World's End Supernova
I've always liked C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower books. A&E also did a really good miniseries adaptation of them a while back.