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Certain aspects of military history, such as the American Civil War or World War II, have a great deal of readily accessible information available about them. For other, more obscure parts of military history, information, both in print and on the Internet, can be extremely hard to find.
The purpose of this pathfinder is to provide a useful starting point for anyone wishing to find quality information about general military history, either for serious research or just looking up a quick fact.
The amount of literature available on general military history is apparent in the Library of Congress classification system employed by many academic libraries. Books about this topic can be found under “Military Science”, U. Under the Dewey Decimal Classification favored by most public libraries, books about general military history are also classified under “Military Science”, the actual Dewey number being 355.
The main Library of Congress subject heading under which to search for literature on military history is Military history. In addition, History, Military is used as a subheading under the names of individual countries or cities. For example, France—History, Military. Also, the names of particular wars, battles, or sieges are often used as subject headings in their own right. Finally, you can also search under names of individual armies, such as United States. Army—History.
If looking for general reference sources on military history, the best place to start is with The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 B.C. to the Present (R. Ernest Dupuy and Trevor N. Dupuy, 4th ed., HarperCollins, New York, 1993). This work “consists of a series of chronologically and geographically organized narratives of wars, warfare, and military affairs.” It is organized into 22 chapters, each constructed around a specific period of time. Each chapter begins with an introductory essay, and then offers brief descriptions of the major wars, campaigns, and battles that occurred in that period. The work also contains a bibliography, a general index, and indexes of wars and of battles.
Another very useful general reference source is A Dictionary of Military History and the Art of War (Edited by Andre Corvisier, English ed. edited by John Childs, Blackwell, Oxford, 1994). Unlike the Dupuy work, the entries in this book are organized alphabetically. The entries include biographies of influential military figures, descriptions of important wars and battles, and discussions of military concepts such as “maneuver warfare”. The other main difference from Dupuy is one of emphasis. Dupuy seeks to provide an exhaustive source for all of military history, while this work includes only those items deemed to be important in describing the overall development of warfare and military history.
If you are looking for sources on military biography, there are two main sources we recommend:The Harper Encyclopedia of Military Biography (Trevor N. Dupuy, Curt Johnson and David L. Bongard, HarperCollins, New York, 1992) offers brief biographical sketches of hundeds of important figures in military history, mostly famous generals. It is organized alphabetically, and each entry includes a list of sources. The second work to consult for such information is Who’s Who in Military History: From 1453 to the Present Day (John Keegan and Andrew Wheatcroft, 3rd ed., Routledge, London, 1996). This item contains fewer entries than does Dupuy, and it’s not as thorough, but it’s still a useful work to consult.
Finally, if you need to look up a military or war related quotation, a good place to start is with Warrior’s Words: A Quotation Book (Peter G. Tsouras, Arms and Armour Press, London, 1992). This work contains thousands of quotations organized into nearly 350 subject areas. All of the quotations are from military men.
There are a number of resources available on the Internet dealing with military history. Here are six that we recommend:
- Naval Historical Center: (http://www.history.navy.mil/) The official US Navy historical web site, offering articles, bibliographies, links to other resources, and information about the NHC and its services. An excellent starting point for researching American naval history. Browsable by topic.
- U.S. Army Center of Military History: (http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/) This site is an essential starting point for research in American military history. It offers a number of online reference texts and documents, online finding aids for US Army archives, FAQs, links to other relevant sites, and a how-to page for people seeking historical information about American military history.
- U.S. Army Military History Institute: (http://carlisle-www.army.mil/usamhi/) The USAMHI web site offers a number of online bibliographies that can be both browsed and searched. Also contains a telnet link to their full catalog, and links to a number of other useful web sites. Finally, it offers an e-mail reference service for questions concerning historical research or about its collections. An excellent site for finding relevant print sources or for serious research.
- Yahoo’s Index of Military History Sites: (http://dir.yahoo.com/Arts/Humanities/History/By_Subject/Military_History/) The main index for Military History web pages listed in Yahoo. A number of different categories are listed, of both historical and commercial interest. Like all Yahoo collections, this one is both browsable and searchable. Another good resource to keep in mind.
If you have a question that needs to be answered by an expert, you might try the H-War listserv (http://h-net2.msu.edu/~war/). This is an e-mail discussion group for professional scholars of military history.
This pathfinder created by David Durant