Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/October 2013/Book reviews

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Austro-Hungarian Battleships 1914–18 - Ryan Noppen

4/5 stars

By Nick-D

Austro-Hungarian Battleships 1914–18 is the 193rd book in Osprey Publishing's huge New Vanguard series, and covers the technical specifications and service histories of these ships (which are also the subject of an excellent series of Wikipedia articles). Its author, Ryan Noppen, is described as "independent author and analyst" who has previously written a "major work on the history of Dutch aviation".

Despite being only 48 pages long (the fixed length for this series), this is a very useful book. Noppen packs in lots of detail on the background to the decision to build these ships, how they were designed and their characteristics. While he provides a generally positive view of the battleships, he also notes that they included what seem to be an unusually large number of design compromises driven by a need to keep costs down, and suggests that the uncomfortable conditions endured by their crews contributed to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Navy towards the end of World War I. This material is supported by lots of excellent photos and drawings of the vessels. The accounts of the combat actions the battleships were involved in (which make up about half the book) are well written, but would have benefited from some supporting maps. The book concludes with a handy bibliography of academic and other very serious-looking works.

All that said, it's a shame that the book couldn't have been longer. Noppen appears to know his stuff, and probably would have produced a genuinely excellent book if he'd had more space to work with. I would have liked to have seen more coverage and analysis of the decisions to build these ships (which seems a somewhat ill-advised action for a struggling land-based power to take, even allowing for the large Austro-Hungarian merchant marine), as well as information on their peacetime careers and non-combat actions during the war. While Noppen's decision to not include the usual tabular summaries of the ships' characteristics was a bit of a disappointment, this is easily available online (not least from the Wikipedia articles) and so isn't a major omission.

Publishing details Noppen, Ryan. Austro-Hungarian Battleships 1914–18. New Vanguard 193. Botley, Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781849086882. 

Recent external reviews

Stern, Julia A. (2010). Mary Chesnut's Civil War Epic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226773280. 

Paxman, Jeremy (2013). Great Britain's Great War. London: Viking. ISBN 0670919616. 

Kinnunen, Tiina & Kivimaki, Ville, ed. (2012). Finland in World War II : History, Memory, Interpretations. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9004208941. 

Overy, Richard (2013). The Bombing War: Europe 1939‑1945. London: Penguin. ISBN 0713995610. 

Robinson, Linda (2013). One Hundred Victories : Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare. New York City: Public Affairs. ISBN 1610391497. 

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