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Cavalry The History of Mounted Warfare.
by John Ellis Published by Pen & Sword

Book Review.

Cavalry The History of Mounted Warfare, is a real gem of a book. The text is very easy to follow, and covers the subject well and in depth.

The Sections covered are;
1. The Coming of the War Horse, the Beginnings to 750 BC.
2. Rome and her Enemies 750 BC to AD 476.
3. From the Ruins of Empire 476 to 1071.
4. The Medieval Knight 950 to 1494.
5. War and the State, 1494 to 1797.
6. Beyond Europe 1096 to 1800.
7. The New Mamluks 1789 to 1914.
8. Guerrilla Horsemen the Nineteenth Century.
9. The Last Years, 1914 to 1945.

The book is well illustrated throughout.
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Contact details for Pen and Sword Books:
Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 47 Church St, Barnsley,
South Yorkshire, S70 2AS
Tel: +44 (0)1226 734555
Fax: +44 (0)1226 734438

I was fascinated by the depth and breadth of material covered, and it is clear that the author not only enjoys this subject, but has a real understanding of it and this is conveyed by the text. As I read the first few pages, I found I was learning from this book, and that the author is a competent educator and not just a military historian.

The first chapter covers the evolution of the horse, and then the historical evolution of the use of the horse, from being an animal that could draw a carriage, to becoming a mount, and then on into the history of mounted warfare.

For readers of this we b site, it can be noted that the emergence of the Medieval Knight is covered in good detail, and the illustrations are not just restricted to pictures, and the book is replete with quotations from original sources. For example the demise of the mounted armoured knight is predicted in a quote from a twelfth century German Emperor 'amour protects the wearer, and prevents him from injuring others' (page 63). As the Chapter on the medieval knight ends, the author notes an epitaph by James I, reflecting the much earlier judgement of the German Emperor; 'Armour was an admirable invention, for a while it protected the wearer from being hurt, it effectively prevented by its weight, his causing injury to others' (page75).

Throughout the book, the cavalry's relationship with other forms of military service, especially on the battlefield. Noted is the English victory over the French, with the slaughter of the French Knights by the English Bowmen.

Despite the romanticism which surrounded the cavalry, its days in terms of mounted warfare were number. The author notes; "During the nineteenth century many factors combined to render European regular cavalry next to useless" (page 156). Despite this fact, the mounted soldier continued to enjoy a diminishing role well into the twentieth century, especially where the terrain suited such warfare, such as in Russia against the Germans. The author notes that the very last British cavalry action took place in 1953, near Isolio, Africa when a detachment of the North Frontier Tribal Police came across a guerrilla camp and successfully rode it down (page 185).

I must confess, that I have had to pick the book up several times, to continue to read it, such have been the demands of my duties of late, but this book is not only a good book to read, it is a real reference work. I suspect, if the book had been bound in hardback, it would easily demand and deserve three times the price of the paperback edition in which it is published. Even so, the pages are stitched and not glued, and so it is a durable book, offering more than excellent value for money.

The Reverend Dr Michael Foster.
Rector Chase Benefice, Salisbury Diocese, Church of England.

Created 12th December 2004
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