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War in the Nineteenth Century: 1800-1914

War in the Nineteenth Century: 1800-1914

Jeremy Black

ISBN: 978-0-745-65526-0 April 2013 Polity 264 Pages




This book provides an accessible and up-to-date account of the rich military history of the nineteenth century. It takes a fresh approach, making novel links with conflict and coercion, and moving away from teleological emphases. Naval developments and warfare are included, as are social and cultural dimensions of military activity.

Leading military historian Jeremy Black offers the reader a twenty-first century approach to this period, particularly through his focus on the dynamic drive provided by different forms of military goals, or "tasking". This allows echoes with modern warfare to come to the fore and provides a fuller understanding of a period sometimes considered solely as background to the total war of 1914-45. Alongside state-to-state warfare and the move toward "total war", Black's emphasis on different military goals gives due weight to trans-oceanic conflict at the expense of non-Europeans. Irregular, internal and asymmetric war are all considered, ranging from local insurgencies to imperial expeditions, and provide a deliberate shift from Western-centricity.

At the very cutting edge of its field, this book is a must read for all students and scholars of military history and its related disciplines.

Preface viii

1 Introduction: Framing the Problems 1

2 Napoleonic Background 5

3 1815–1849 27

4 The 1850s 60

5 Naval Power and Warfare 71

6 Outside Europe, 1815–1860 96

7 1860–1871 107

8 1872–1902 135

9 The Victory of the West, 1860–1913 151

10 Towards the First World War, 1903–1914 172

11 War and Society 187

12 Conclusions 204

Notes 208

Further Reading 232

Index 236

"This first-rate survey should appeal to general as well as academic readers. The focus on irregular, internal, and asymmetric war, ranging from local insurgencies to imperial expeditions, is a welcome shift from the standard western-centric emphasis on campaigns and battles. The inclusion of such "out of area" conflicts as the War of the Pacific adds a valuable perspective. And the footnotes by themselves are worth the purchase price as a bibliography."

Dennis Showalter, Colorado College


"Jeremy Black has given us a masterful overview of the period 1800-1914, not just for the West but for the world as a whole, analyzing the role of military power as an agent of change in history, and historical experience as an agent of change for armies and navies. Black considers the domestic significance of armed forces as well as their international role, using the concept of tasking to take a fresh approach to his topic."

Lawrence Sondhaus, University of Indianapolis


"Jeremy Black offers an alternative reading of military history, eschewing the linear teleology of most modernization theses in favour of explanations based on contingency and a multi-track approach placing western development alongside that elsewhere in the world. The result is a refreshingly clear, crisp and succinct overview of warfare from the end of the eighteenth century until the First World War."

Peter Wilson, University of Hull

  • The first in a new Polity series of volumes which, taken together, will provide a history of war from ancient times to the present day.
  • This first volume deals with the rich military history of the nineteenth century and is written by an internationally renowned military historian.
  • Takes a fresh “twenty-first century” approach, making novel links with conflict of the period in the broad sense, including irregular, internal and asymmetric war.
  • Maintains a judicious balance between major state-to-state warfares and smaller conflicts which provide a deliberate shift from Western-centricity.