French, David 1954–
French, David 1954–
Office—Department of History, University College London, Gower St., London WC1E 6BT, England. E-mail—[email protected]
University of London, University College London, London, England, history department faculty member.
Arthur Goodzeit Prize, New York Military Affairs Symposium, and the Templar Medal, Society for Army Historical Research, both for Raising Churchill's Army; Templar Medals, for The British General Staff and Military Identities.
British Economic and Strategic Planning, 1905-1915, Allen & Unwin (Boston, MA), 1982.
British Strategy & War Aims, 1914-1916, Allen & Unwin (Boston, MA), 1986.
Britain and NATO: Past, Present, and Future, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Washington, DC), 1990.
The British Way in Warfare, 1688-2000, Unwin Hyman (Boston, MA), 1990.
The Strategy of the Lloyd George Coalition, 1916-1918, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1995.
(Editor, with Michael Dockrill) Strategy and Intelligence: British Policy during the First World War, Hambledon Press (Rio Grande, OH), 1996.
(Editor and contributor, with Brian Holden Reid) The British General Staff: Reform and Innovation, c. 1890-1939, F. Cass (Portland, OR), 2002.
Military Identities: The Regimental System, the British Army, and the British People, c. 1870-2000, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.
David French is a historian whose primary interest centers on British military history, especially the military since the late nineteenth century. Many of his books focus on the history of British military strategy. For example, in The British Way in Warfare, 1688-2000, French discusses the notion popularized by other historians that the British relied on their superior maritime and economic powers to reach their goals with less of an emphasis on continental military warfare. Focusing on such factors as military spending budgets, the author comes to the conclusion that the ‘British way,’ as the strategy came to be called, was really only followed during the eighteenth century. Most of the time, according to French, this generalization did not apply as the British military powers focused on being adaptive to pursue various aims in a cost-effective manner. ‘The author strongly defends the policy of ‘muddling through,’ noting that of twelve major wars fought between 1688 and 1945 Britain lost only one, drew three, and won the remainder,’ commented C.J. Bartlett in the English Historical Review.
French discuses British policy decisions in World War I in The Strategy of the Lloyd George Coalition, 1916-1918. According to the author, Lloyd George, who was prime minister of England during the war, and others were not just concerned with winning the war. They were also intent on securing the peace by further strengthening the British government's world-leadership position as they emphasized manpower and economics in establishing the terms of the peace when the war was over. F. Coetzee, writing in Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, noted that the book is ‘readable and more comprehensive than its title implies."
Raising Churchill's Army: The British Army and the War against Germany, 1919-1945 focuses primarily on how the British prepared their army for World War II following World War I, and then how the British military functioned and performed during the war. The author, furthermore, discusses how the British military went from a relatively poor performance in the first few years of the war to ultimately helping to defeat Germany. ‘French attributes the flaws in British military strategy to the memory of heavy casualties in World War I, the problems of the British social structure, the dangerous parochialism of the regimental system, and superior German tactical command,’ according to John P. Rossi in History: Review of New Books.
French served as editor, with Brian Holden Reid, of The British General Staff: Reform and Innovation, c. 1890-1939. In a review of the book in Albion, W. Michael Ryan noted: ‘This series of essays, a volume in the Cass Series of Military History and Policy, covers the evolution of the British General Staff from its embryonic emergence as a mere idea in the 1890s, to its formal establishment in the decade before the First World War, to its dilemma-racked era on the eve of the Second World War.’ Overall, the editors present twelve chapters that look at various aspects of the British General Staff (GS), including British war planning at the very beginning of the twentieth century, how the establishment of the GS ultimately helped lead to the creation of Great Britain's Ministry of Defence, how selection to the GS was very political in nature, and how the GS operated in the years leading up to World War II. French is also author of the book's introduction and contributed a chapter to The British General Staff. ‘This is a very useful book,’ attested Keith Neilson in the Canadian Journal of History. ‘The British General Staff serves as a valuable guide to the state-of-the art of British military history for the period under review."
In Military Identities: The Regimental System, the British Army, and the British People, c. 1870-2000, French focuses on what military historians consider to be the central component of the British army, beginning with military reforms instituted during the 1870s on through to the modern army. The author presents his research in linked thematic and primarily chronological chapters that look at subjects such as recruitment, training, barrack life, officers, and military discipline. He also discusses the people in the army and how regiments functioned during war. ‘These narratives provide elegant architecture for a structure built on bricks of telling details and wry anecdotes, drawn from a ninety-year period,’ reported John Ferris on the H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online.
According to French, the British Regimental System was designed to link regular and auxiliary forces made up of local community populations. Bolstered by their local traditions, these populations would fight and follow their leaders primarily because of their loyalty to both their traditions and their families. Overall, French describes how several regimental systems eventually evolved over the years. ‘Military Identities is one of the strongest studies in the social history of any army, or in British military history as a whole,’ wrote Ferris on the H-Net Reviews Web site. Ferris went on to recommend the book, which ‘rests on extraordinary research, and unparalleled knowledge of the breadth and depth of the topic."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Albion, summer, 2004, W. Michael Ryan, review of The British General Staff: Reform and Innovation, c. 1890-1939.
American Historical Review, February, 1983, review of British Economic and Strategic Planning, 1905-1915, p. 118; April, 1988, Lorna S. Jaffe, review of British Strategy & War Aims, 1914-1916, p. 419; April, 1997, David R. Woodward, review of The Strategy of the Lloyd George Coalition, 1916-1918, p. 460; June, 2001, review of Raising Churchill's Army: The British Army and the War against Germany, 1919-1945, p. 1048.
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, January, 1983, review of British Economic and Strategic Planning, 1905-1915, p. 168.
Canadian Journal of History, August, 2005, Keith Neilson, review of The British General Staff, p. 359; winter, 2006, Antoine Capet, review of Military Identities: The Regimental System, the British Army, and the British People, c. 1870-2000.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, March, 1996, F. Coetzee, review of The Strategy of the Lloyd George Coalition, 1916-1918, p. 1194; January, 2001, I.M. Roth, review of Raising Churchill's Army, p. 970.
English Historical Review, July, 1989, Keith Wilson, review of British Strategy & War Aims, 1914-1916, p. 764; April 1994, C.J. Bartlett, review of The British Way in Warfare, 1688-2000, p. 492.
Historian, summer, 1997, Nicoletta F. Gullace, review of The Strategy of the Lloyd George Coalition.
History: Review of New Books, summer, 2000, John P. Rossi, review of Raising Churchill's Army.
History: The Journal of the Historical Association, February, 1988, D.J. Dutton, review of British Strategy & War Aims, 1914-1916, p. 177; February, 1992, John Childs, review of The British Way in Warfare, 1688-2000, p. 74; April, 1997, J.M. Bourne, review of The Strategy of the Lloyd George Coalition, 1916-1918, p. 361.
History Today, June, 1982, John Campbell, review of British Economic and Strategic Planning, 1905-1915, p. 55.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, July, 2006, John Ferris, review of Military Identities.
International History Review, March, 2003, B.J.C. McKercher, review of Raising Churchill's Army, p. 179.
Journal of Military History, January, 2001, Brian P. Farrell, review of Raising Churchill's Army, p. 221.
Journal of Modern History, September, 1989, Trevor Wilson, review of British Strategy & War Aims, 1914-1916, p. 605; September, 2002, review of Raising Churchill's Army, p. 641.
London Review of Books, May 11, 2006, Geoffrey Best, ‘So Long as You Drub the Foe,’ review of Military Identities, p. 32.
SciTech Book News, March 2003, review of The British General Staff, p. 191.
Times Literary Supplement, February 22, 1991, Hew Strachan, review of The British Way in Warfare, 1688-2000, p. 22; March 23, 2001, Alex Danchev, review of Raising Churchill's Army, p. 31.
University College London History Department Website,http://www.ucl.ac.uk/history/ (September 22, 2007), faculty profile of David French.
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