Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: Risings and Rebellions 1919-1939

Recently after being tipped off to a sale by Chris at The Raz File, I picked up Risings and Rebellions from Foundry, and got to read it during down time on my recent vacation.

Rather than just reiterate what's in their official blurb, here's the basics via Foundry:

Interwar Colonial Campaigns
in Africa, Asia, and the Americas

By Edwin Herbert
Political background and campaign narratives, organisation, tactics and terrain, dress and weapons,
command and control, and historical effects

A4 sized hardback with traditional linen
and glittering gilt binding, 192 pages.
Illustrations include 137 drawings of soldiers,
50 other illustrations and maps.

Interwar Colonial Campaigns in Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
Following on from the author’s highly-acclaimed Small Wars and Skirmishes, this volume covers the most significant ‘small wars’ of the interwar period up to the Italian occupation of Abyssinia in 1935–36. Coverage is also extended to include the activities of ‘social bandits’. Its title Risings and Rebellions reflects this change in emphasis compared with earlier colonial campaigns. Indeed, the sheer scale of such wars as the risings against the French and Spanish in Morocco and the Italian reconquest of Libya takes them out of the category of ‘small wars’ altogether.

There's a wide range of conflicts covered, from small ones involving a few hundred participants to massive undertakings like the Spanish and French unpleasantness in Morocco.

The book is split into three main sections.  The first has more in-depth descriptions of sixteen different events/campaigns ("The rise of resistance movements"), the second has thirteen shorter narratives ("A synopsis of other colonial incidents").  There's also a nice section at the end that discusses some of the common weapons, aircraft, and armored cars used during the period.  It's interesting to see some things carry over from the Great War, some lessons that are apparently unlearned, and some foreshadowing for WWII.

For anyone interested in 20th century history or colonial conflicts this would be a good read.  For gamers who want to recreate some of these conflicts it would be a great resource for scenario ideas and the parts of the summaries that detail uniforms would be very helpful for choosing and painting figures appropriately.  Each summary is also followed by suggested sources for further reading, should you wish to delve further into a particular event. 

I do have a few minor criticisms.  
  • At times the division between "resistance movement" and "other colonial incident" seems a bit odd; I don't know if such a division was really necessary.  
  • While I guess it qualifies as an "incident", the inclusion of the Amritsar massacre felt out of place as it was just that, a massacre, and doesn't fit with the rest of the examples which while they may have been asymmetrical, involved fire from both sides.  Instead a section on the anti-British action in general in India at the time, including but not focused on the massacre, would have fit better.  
  • The book itself is beautiful, and while that itself is not a criticism, I wish that it had come with a dust jacket to help protect it.  The gilt flakes off very easily which is a shame.  I imagine I can come up with something myself, but an official cover would have been nice.
 It's a good book, and I imagine it's predecessor, Small Wars and Skirmishes (apparently no longer available from Foundry's web store) is as well.  It is a bit pricey at its regular $63USD price.  For interwar enthusiasts looking for a good place to start or for a quick reference, it could be worth it.  For the more casual reader it would be well worth it if you can find it discounted, but I'd hesitate to recommend it unreservedly at full price for anyone who wouldn't use it as a springboard for more reading and exploration.  It also presumes a good bit of basic background knowledge that could be a hurdle for some.

At the discounted price I got it at, four askaris out of five.  At full price, I'd give it three askaris out of five. 

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