De Re Militari | Book Reviews

Kelly DeVries

A Cumulative Bibliography of Medieval Military History and Technology

Brill History of Warfare, vol. 8 (Leiden: Brill, 2002) xx+1109 pp. ISBN: 9004122273. $244.00

(note, this book has also been released on CD-ROM)

The conceptualization and publication of this bibliography greatly assists the advance of medieval and early modern military historical research. It should aid related areas of military history. It is an ambitious and difficult task. It will be widely consulted by diverse groups. I cannot adequately emphasize the utility of this work and the enormity of the achievement. It will enable scholars to begin to get a handle on bibliography of military history. Its publication greatly stimulates military history as a discipline. DeVries continued to add entries until some point in 2001. Already every scholar can add newly published entries. I shall avoid pointing to new entries after a cutoff at the start of 2001, even though I know of numerous additional titles. The compiler of the bibliography repeated several entries under different categories. I have followed his precedent here although others might prefer mere repetition of a common control or index number.

This bibliography is primarily of use to the scholar and graduate student, but undergraduates and instructors can also consult it for pedagogical purposes, for example, to assist in the preparation of courses on military history. Scholarly libraries and institutes should purchase it. Scholars whether young or old need to know about it.

The bibliography's greatest strength lies in late medieval and renaissance (or if you prefer, early modern) military history. Especially valuable are the detailed subcategories for the Hundred Years' Wars and for weaponry and early firearms and artillery and other aspects of military technology.

The index to authors is very helpful for investigators. The publisher has produced an attractive book, for the typefont is easy to read and the binding is firm and strong.

Problematical and uneven and almost predictably so, is the thoroughness of coverage of areas more geographically and temporally removed from Western Europe: Eastern Europe and especially Russia, late antiquity (yet where does one draw the line for inclusion and omission?), and topics of Byzantium, Islam, Ottoman. How much bibliography in Arabic, Romanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Russian, Turkish, and modern Greek do you include? With respect to Islamic history one must decide whether to restrict entries to those that refer to Muslim engagements with Europe, whether western, southern, or eastern. What about Timurid, Safavid, and North African topics? I have no simple solutions for these bibliographical challenges.

Categorization or organization was a problem in constructing the bibliography. Judgmental decisions determine the inclusion of a topic as military or exclusion as purely or primarily administrative or intellectual. Scholars may well disagree. The bibliographer made his decisions as he saw fit. But there also are subcategories of problems and omissions. Hence primary sources (printed ones) on military topics often are omitted, but their inclusion would have enriched but complicated the bibliography. Likewise unpublished U.S. and foreign doctoral dissertations are sometimes cited but often are omitted. Everyone agrees that dissertations that the author revised and published in book form do not warrant inclusion in this bibliography. It is not fair to the authors of the dissertations who chose to update and revise their dissertations. The issue of dissertations was not easy to decide or solve. I list below some additional dissertations on military history known to me but I do not pretend to list all missing dissertations here. Likewise important reviews of some books are missing but the problem might be that it is unrealistic to list every review. Major review articles certainly deserve citation. An important missing old one is F. Pall's devastating 1942 review article of A. Atiya's book on the Crusade of Nicopolis, in which he lists many errors and cases of carelessness. My own late Professor Robert Lee Wolff at Harvard used Pall's review of Atiya as a methodological object lesson for introductory graduate students in his seminar on the Crusades. He wished to show and warn through Pall's review just how many historical errors can creep into a book even though it is published by an eminent university press.

Some encyclopedia articles on warfare find a place in this bibliography, while others do not. This is eclectic. But uncited articles in the Dictionary of the Middle Ages include, for example, Beeler, John. "Warfare, Western European" Dictionary of the Middle Ages, (publ. by Charles Scribners' Sons, New York, 1989) XII: 554-569; Brett, Michael. "Warfare, Islamic," Dictionary of the Middle Ages, XII: 551-554; Kaegi, Walter. "Warfare, Byzantine," Dictionary of the Middle Ages, XII: 546-550.

The Encyclopedia of Islam (2nd edn.) has quite important articles on military subjects and individuals. Many more of them could be cited in this bibliography, for example missing items include: Cahen, Claude. "Djaysh," vol. 2: 504-508, Tyan, E. "Djihad," 2: 548-540. Likewise there are many noteworthy but omitted military entries in the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium.

Another very incomplete category, yet difficult to handle in full, is archaeology. However archaeology presents a challenge, for there is no precise way to decide which archaeological publications to cite that include important material on military topics but not are not pure publications on military topics. I refrain here from citing additions to subcategories of fortifications, for that would require immense time and space. Readers probably need to consult archaeological bibliographies. Let us hope that archaeologists will develop convenient and handy bibliographies to which military historians can turn. The same remark applies to epigraphical, sigillographical, and papyrological articles on military topics and individuals. I shall refrain from citing them in detail, but readers should know that these are numerous albeit very specific. Another category raises questions. Some international or local conference or congress proceedings contain abstracts that may be valuable. However it is difficult to sift through all of these for the valuable ones. The proceedings of the International Congress of Roman Frontier Studies usually contain some important articles about Late Roman military subjects. Many do not find citation here. It is also a matter of judgment whether to include or omit broad or popular publications on military history. And how does one handle publications for games, or even comic books?

A major technical question arises: should this bibliographical material be put online so it can be updated and corrected more easily and more frequently? Should each entry receive a permanent master control or index number? The bibliography deserves the hardback printing that has appeared, and fortunately the publisher will be issuing annual updates in the form of a CD-ROM. So this is core of an expandable electronic database. There are serious financial and other issues connected with putting the bibliography on-line but in the future I anticipate that, as in other disciplines, and not necessarily ones associated with military topics, there will be pressures to create an on-line version, not merely as CD-ROM. There is little incentive for publishers to sponsor on-line versions. This is a problem that exists across many specialties.

Corrections are necessary for the following entries:

For the sake of accuracy it is necessary to identify the Center for Hellenic Studies as Harvard affiliated on p. 6 for the Raaflaub/Rosenstein citation.

Let me now turn to bibliographical omissions. I know certain specialties better than others.

Classification: Late Antiquity

It is tough to decide how much to include from the third century CE. In general, it may be impractical to list everything from Late Antiquity (for example, how much hagiographical material, for there were many military saints?), but there are some significant omissions:

Classification: Barbarian Invasions

Classification: Byzantium

An initial cautionary note: numerous publications on Byzantine military manuals by Alphonse Dain are missing.

Classification: Medieval-Crusades-Fourth Crusade and Latin Kingdom of Constantinople

Classification: Medieval-Italy

Classification: Medieval-Islam 

Classification: Medieval-Spain and Portugal

Classification: Medieval-Early Modern. Crusade of Nicopolis

Classification: Medieval-Later Crusades

Classification: Medieval-Early Modern. Fall of Constantinople

Classification: Medieval-Early Modern. Ottoman Turkish Wars

Classification: Early Modern. Spain and Portugal

Classification: Hundred Years' War-England

Classification: Medieval Eastern Europe

Classification: Military Technology-Premodern. Fortifications-Byzantine

In conclusion, it is difficult to do justice to such a vast and welcome bibliographical endeavor. We all owe gratitude to the compiler and we shall use this bibliography and its future updates. However other specialists will no doubt find additional lacunae and suggestions.

Walter E. Kaegi

University of Chicago <email>

Page Added: January 2004