Great Battlefields of the World, by John Macdonald - 1984

Forewords

Subject of the book

This book draws on the latest (at the time) developments in computer mapping technology to provide a new, three-dimensional perspective on the great battles of history. By today's computing standards, where film producers can imagine complete battlefields in incredible detail and man them with thousands of individual characters, the illustrations are static and limited in scope. Yet they do provide a fascinating new angle to understanding history-making battles such as Hastings, Omdurman, Culloden, Gettysburg and Arnhem.

Each 3D map is analysed in detail, with clear guidance showing how each battle developed and the crucial decisions made by the opposing generals. Hand illustrated and beautifully coloured by chief illustrator Harry Clow, the maps excel in allowing the reader to place the events in their geographic context.

Deighton's introduction

In a short introduction, Deighton highlights the importance of the development of new map designs in helping writers and historians to understand the decisions generals have made which have shaped the course of history. As a writer for whom research and detail are crucial to understanding and presenting the complexities of the battlefield clearly, Deighton welcomes the development of 3D computer modelling as a "brilliant new concept" which allows writers to look anew at well-known historical events.

Sample text

'"Take the high ground" is the best-known military order. Why? ask the uninitiated. Because from the high ground the low ground can be observed and fired upon. It is not easy to interpret a contour map to find the high ground and for this reason the army uses sand tables to reproduce the hills and valleys sor that bored subalterns can be subjected to those tedious extercises that used to be called TEWTs, Tactical Exercises Without Troops."

During my long years of researching Blitzkrieg (a book about the Panzer divisions in May 1940), I made a point of visiting the terrain through which the German fought. Then, a year or so later, I went back again, when it became clear that the weather, water levels, the 'going' of the land, and the visibility, in May is quite different from the cold leafless days of winter.'

Battlefields

Great Battlefields of the World
UK first edition, 1984