Cover image for Warrior race : a history of the British at war
Warrior race : a history of the British at war
James, Lawrence, 1943-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2003.

Physical Description:
xv, 864 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Little, Brown, 2001.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DA50 .J36 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Modern Britain is a nation shaped by wars. The boundaries of its separate parts are the outcome of conquest and resistance. The essence of its identity are the warrior heroes, both real and imagined, who still capture the national imagination: from Boadicea to King Arthur, Rob Roy to Henry V, the Duke of Wellington to Winston Churchill. It is a sense of identity that grew under careful cultivation during the global struggles of the eighteenth century, and found its most powerful expression during the world wars of the twentieth.

In Warrior Race , Lawrence James investigates the role played by war in the making of Britain. Drawing on the latest historical and archaeological research, as well as numerous unfamiliar and untapped resources, he charts the full reach of British military history: the physical and psychological impact of Roman military occupation; the monarchy's struggle for mastery of the British Isles; the civil wars of the seventeenth century; the "total war" experience of twentieth-century conflict.

But Warrior Race is more than just a compelling historical narrative. Lawrence James skillfully pulls together the momentous themes of his subject. He discusses how war has continually been a catalyst for social and political change, the rise, survival, and reinvention of chivalry, the literary quest for a British epic, the concept of birth and breeding as the qualifications for command in war, and the issues of patriotism and Britain's antiwar tradition.
Warrior Race is popular history at its very best: incisive, informative, and accessib≤ immaculately researched and hugely readable. Balancing the broad sweep of history with an acute attention to detail, Lawrence James never loses sight of this most fascinating and enduring of subjects: the question of British national identity and character.

Author Notes

Lawrence James was born in Bath and was educated at the University of York and Merton College, Oxford. After a distinguished teaching career, he emerged as one of the outstanding narrative historians of this generation

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

James' sweeping survey of two millennia of British martial history is not a dreary litany of battles and bloodshed. Instead, the events of 1066 and all that are briefly summarized, for James pursues less obvious aspects of the subject: the psychology and sociology of soldiering and the place of military experience in the British consciousness. This endows a thematic unity to James' narrative, linking the world of Roman Britain or Arthurian legend with that of the twentieth century, using commonalties like the fascination with war, its brutalizing actualities, styles of command, and prosaic but vital organizational matters of raising and paying for fleets and armies. Almost seamlessly linking eras, James perceptively develops how warfare has summoned ordinary people onto the historical stage, imposing on survivors experiences subsequently transmuted into the British social mentality: the Levellers of the English Civil War as precursors to the World War II generation's socialists. With added sinews like the felt memory of wars in Ireland, James capably steers this hefty history from the perils of sprawl and toward the popular track. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

This imposing history of is less a recounting of British feats of arms than of the creation of a British nation by the wars in the British Isles-England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Beginning with the Roman conquest, James (The Rise and Fall of the British Empire) proceeds through the Anglo-Saxons and Normans into the Middle Ages, and then marches through the civil wars, the continental wars from 1689 through 1815 and the colonial conflicts (mostly won, except for the American Revolution). The entire second half of the book covers the two world wars and their aftermath, where the United Kingdom assembled in the first half of the book exhausted itself (though not without valuable results) in two global conflicts and the twilight of empire. While a valuable summation throughout, the real splendor of the book is in its illustrative examples of the context in which the fighting men (and eventually women) were raised, and the impact of their experiences on the larger culture. Consider that a medieval knight's warhorse cost far more than his armor, that the author's mother-in-law had rationing brought home to her by bloaters (a fish) for breakfast and that residual patriotism accounts for the current seller's market in works on the Special Air Service. Less charming are the tragedy of Anglo-Irish relations and the outrageous racism of Allied soldiers in England during WWII. The book's comparative emphasis on ground forces will rankle those who believe, justly, that it was the Royal Navy (and later the Royal Air Force) that transformed the nature of British military power. While not for people who insist on narrative and not for beginners on the subject, this big book will be worthwhile for everybody else with an interest in history. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Drawing on an extensive range of resources, James (The Rise and Fall of the British Empire) offers a graphic-if somewhat anecdotal-account of the British experience of war from the time of the Roman occupation to World War II. The author presents a two-part thesis. First, he argues that until modern times, Britain's fleet and armies were led by representatives of a ruling class that drew political and territorial power from carefully tended chivalric concepts blended with "Christian ideals of social responsibility and Renaissance notions of virtue." He then contents that in the 20th century, the economic, political, social, and psychological repercussions of the two world wars have not only "impoverished and shaken" the British spirit but also done much to reveal "an astonishing tenacity and intensity of purpose" in the national character. Unfortunately, the very breadth of this massive survey results in truncated and sometimes facile history (e.g., James uses D.H. Lawrence's fictional gamekeeper, Mellors-commissioned from the ranks after the heavy losses of 1918-to exemplify the growing number of officers coming from working- and lower-middle-class backgrounds). Still, the carefully documented resources at the back of the book may well be worth the price of admission. Recommended for larger public libraries and all military collections.-Robert C. Jones, formerly with Central Missouri State Univ., Warrensburg (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. ix
Introductionp. xi
Part 1 Conquests, AD 43-1100
1 A Warlike Province: Britain, AD 43-410p. 3
2 Stern in Contest: Arthur and After, 410-800p. 30
3 A People Accustomed to be Conquered, 800-1100p. 55
Part 2 Disputed Lands, 1100-1603
1 Just Quarrels: Britain at War, 1100-1603, an Overviewp. 85
2 So Haughty a Spirit: Chivalry and Commandp. 111
3 The Small Folk: Infantrymen and Technologyp. 139
Part 3 Civil Wars, 1637-1800
1 Sharp Sickness: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, 1637-60p. 169
2 The Highland Bagpipes Mak' a Din: Rebellions, 1660-1746p. 197
3 A Parent's Hand: North America, 1775-83p. 224
4 By Jesus, We Have Dirks and Arms A-Plenty: Ireland, 1798-1800p. 244
Part 4 Overseas Wars, 1660-1870
1 You Fight For a Good Cause: Patriotism and the Pursuit of Powerp. 269
2 A Wild Rattling Man: Recruitment and Disciplinep. 292
3 Honourable Danger: Command, Courage and Rewardsp. 317
4 Duty Must Be Done: Killing, Dying and Survivingp. 338
5 Each Honoured Name: Memories and Attitudesp. 367
Part 5 Total War, 1914-19
1 For Civilisation: The Nature of Total War, 1914-18p. 397
2 Their Officers' Example: Preparation For Command and Civil War Postponed, 1870-1914p. 426
3 The Stern Business of War: Command and Disciplinep. 447
4 The Intensity of the Moment: Survivors and Casualtiesp. 474
5 Same as the Lads: Women, Work and Wagesp. 501
6 Ramsay MacDonald and his German Comrades: Objections to War, 1914-19p. 525
7 The Cemetery of All that Is Best: Remembering and Counting the Costp. 540
Part 6 The People's Wars, 1919-2000
1 Britannia's Huns with Their Long-range Guns: Civil Wars in Ireland, 1919-23p. 563
2 A War of Peoples and Causes: Duties and Ideals, 1939-45p. 594
3 Only Scratches: Invasion Fears and Blitz Realitiesp. 613
4 You May Go for a Burton Next Time: Attrition in the Air and at Sea, 1939-45p. 638
5 Don't Fence Me In: Women, GIs, Black Men and Evacueesp. 665
6 Tactful Handling: Command and Combatp. 685
7 It's All For You: Peace and Perceptions of the Warp. 699
8 A Normal Hazard: Cold War and Hot War, 1945-98p. 727
Envoi: What Next?p. 753
Notesp. 760
Bibliographyp. 810
Indexp. 839