Some recommended reading from the BBC’s Defence Correspondent

Joint-Strike-Fighter-006Those of us interested in politics and current affairs generally have particularly policy areas to which we pay closer attention and therefore develop greater knowledge of.

One of the vitally important areas of government policy which I don’t know enough about is defence. I read the Strategic Defence and Security Review when it was published, but its aim is not to act as a primer for the uninitiated, and it doesn’t do so.

Wishing to gain some knowledge (not least because the Lib Dems will shortly be voting on our future defence policies), therefore, I asked the BBC’s Defence Correspondent, Caroline Wyatt, for some recommendations of books and other publications to allow me to get up to speed. She kindly obliged, and has agreed that I can share some of her recommendations here on Lib Dem Voice.

The book which best fits the sort of primer I was looking for is probably Charles Heyman’s The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom 2010-2011. While this was published before many of the current government reforms, it looks like a good foundation from which to start. The same author’s book focussing solely on the Army is more up-to-date.

For a global perspective, Caroline recommends The Military Balance, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. At £280, it’s a serious investment, but looks like an invaluable resource.

For more technical detail, particularly on military hardware, Jane’s Defence Group is Caroline’s recommendation.

The United Kingdom National Defence Association produce regular pamphlets on a range of defence-related issues.

A more critical view of the state of Britain’s defence establishments is provided by Lewis Page in his 2007 work, Lions, Donkeys And Dinosaurs: Waste and Blundering in the Military.

Turning to the specific and often controversial issue of defence procurement, Caroline recommends the following books.

A slightly more historical perspective is provided by Allan Mallinson’s The Making Of The British Army and by the more expensive Oxford Handbook of War.

Thanks to Caroline for some fantastic recommendations. I’m going to start with Heyman’s overview then move onto some of the more focussed works.

If you’ve got any recommendations of your own, please do share them in the comments.

* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.

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  • Charles Beaumont 19th Apr '13 - 12:09am

    If people are interested in the future of warfare and Britain’s role in that I’d recommend anything from Oxford’s Changing Character of War programme ( Also a fantastic book called “War from the Ground Up”, just out. Small wars journal is also worth a look.

    One of the key questions is how wrong we get our procurement, still kitting ourselves for a Cold War and then unable to afford the current ones. Joe Roeber has written on this and the link to corruption.

  • Jim Duffield 21st Mar '14 - 4:38am

    Thank you for this, and to add to the list, to understand the nature of uniformed the beast, I’d recommend: “On the psychology of military incompetence” by (then) Dr Norman Dixon, MBE, RE, PhD, DrSci

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