This Part of this list previously ran on the Fencing Frog Blog but I felt it might be useful to include it here again in part because these are the history books that have influence my thinking when I design game scenarios and have played a role in the construction of the Imagi-nation of D’Artgent. This list is by no means definitive please make your own suggestions, I’m always on the look out for a good book.
Duffy, Christopher: Military Experience in the Age of Reason. If you can only read one book on this subject this is the one to read. it touches on every subject of importance, Tactics, equipment, logistics, personal and leadership. Duffy also includes an appendix giving you a quick overview of the 18th century’s wars great and small with the name of major battles and an out line of the campaigns of necessity these are thumbnail sketches but they provide a starting point for further reading.
Duffy, Christopher: Frederick the Great a Military Life an excellent military biography of one of the centuries most influential generals and kings. If you can also read Duffy’s books on the Prussian and Austrian Armies.
Duffy, Christopher: Fire and Stone: The Science of Fortress Warfare 1660-1860 Battles are not the only aspect of war in the 18th Century often Sieges were as or more important.
OK before you think I am getting Paid by the Duffy fellow, he can make me an offer if he likes, though I would recommend any book he has written concerning 18th century warfare.
Browning, Reed: The War of the Austrian Succession This is without question the definitive English language work on this War. Browning captures the scope of the war and you can really see the competing grand strategies of the warring powers. Battle descriptions are a bit spare unfortunately but its a great book to get you thinking about a campaign rather than a battle. If you can read only two books on the wars of the 18th century this should be the second one.
Lynn, John: The Wars of Louis XIV Give a good perspective on the early wars of late 17th and early 18th century. The section on the War of the Spanish Succession provides a good counter point to the Anglo-centric coverage of this war.
Chandler, David: Warfare in the Age of Marlborough An excellent look at war in the early 18th century. While somewhat Anglo centric it provides a good place to start with understanding the composition of armies in this period.
Wilson, Peter H. German Armies War and German Politics 1648 to 1806 A must read for the imagi-Nation crowed and the pure historical gamer a like. The book covers the little armies of the Holy Roman Empire. No details on uniforms but a lot of details about numbers of troops, organization and how a decentralized group of states tries to organize collective defense. It show the Reich as a living political organism not a doomed and dead feudal hold over as its detractors would classify it.
Simms, Brendan, Three Victories and a defeat: The rise and fall of the first British Empire A very large and involved book but one that sheds a lot of light on the continental side of British politics. While I don’t fully agree with the author on all points he fully demonstrates how Britain viewed itself as a European Nation and was deeply concerned with the balance of power in Europe.
Dull, Jonathan R. The French Navy and the Seven Years War One of the best single volume histories of the seven years war available in English. Dull does a great job of showing the connection between European and colonial conflict and how one supported the other for both France and Britain. Dull also partly redeems Louis XV who is so often maligned by historians.
Dull, Jonathan The Age of the Ship of the Line: The british and French Navies 1650 to 1815 While not nearly as good as his study on the French Navy in the Seven Years War this is an excellent book covering the two most important navies of the 18th century and looks at how developments in one effected practices in the other.
Szabo Franz AJ The Seven Years War in Europe 1756 to 1763 This book covers military operation in Europe with a focus on the struggle in central Europe. The Author is not a fan of Frederick the Great or Prussia so the book provides a different perspective on the war.
Kennett, Lee The French Armies in the Seven Years War: A study in Military Organization and Administration An excellent book for one who is seeking a deep dive into the French Army of the period its a bit dry but worth pursuing for the very serious student. The author has also done a similar study on the French Army in the American War of Independence but I have not read that.
Ward, Christopher The War of the Revolution two volumes An excellent (though dated) study of the American Revolution as a military conflict. I do not believe I have ever read a book on the AWI that did not have this book in the bibliography. The work is readable with lots of flavorful antidotes and hard facts that illuminate things for a reenactor or war-gamer. War also did a book on the Delaware Continentals (arguable the best regiment in the continental army) though they are well covered in the two volumes so the second book is rather unnecessary.
Nosworthy, Brent The Anatomy of Victory Lots of great information in here about the tactical minutia of the 18th century battle field. The book is very broad mostly dealing with how armies planned to fight not actual battle descriptions still a good book for understanding how the armies of the period “intended to fight.”