Big Wars and Small Wars

The British Army and the Lessons of War in the 20th Century

Edited by Hew Strachan

© 2004 – Routledge

200 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415545044
pub: 2009-01-30
US Dollars$54.95
Hardback: 9780415361965
pub: 2006-03-02
US Dollars$168.00

About the Book

This is a fascinating new insight into the British army and its evolution through both large and small scale conflicts.

To prepare for future wars, armies derive lessons from past wars. However, some armies are defeated because they learnt the wrong lessons, fighting new conflicts in ways appropriate to the last. For the British Army in the twentieth century, the challenge has been particularly great. It has never had the luxury of emerging from one major European war with the time to prepare itself for the next.

The leading military historians show how ongoing commitments to a range of ‘small wars’ have always been part of the Army’s experience. After 1902 and after 1918 they included colonial campaigns, but they also developed into what we would now call counter-insurgency operations, and these became the norm between 1945 and 1969. During the height of the Cold War, in 1982, the Army was deployed to the Falklands. Since 1990 the dominant tasks of the Army have been peace support operations.

This is an excellent resource for all students and scholars of military history, politics and international relations and British history.

Table of Contents


Introduction - Hew Strachan

Between the South African War and the First World War, 1902-14 – Edward M. Spiers

Big Wars and Small Wars between the Wars, 1919-39 – David French

Learning new lessons: the British Army and the Strategic Debate, 1945-50 – Paul Cornish

Lost and Found in the Jungle: the Indian and British Army Jungle Warfare Doctrines for Burma, 1943-45, and the Malayan Emergency, 1948-60 – Daniel Marston

Aden to Northern Ireland, 1966-76 – David Benest

The Unchanging Lessons of Battle: the British Army and the Falklands War, 1982 – Simon Ball

The Gulf War 1990-91 – Colin McInnes

About the Series

Military History and Policy

This series will publish studies on historical and contemporary aspects of land power, spanning the period from the eighteenth century to the present day, and will include national, international and comparative studies. From time to time, the series will publish edited collections of essays and ‘classics’.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
HISTORY / Military / Naval
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / General