The Mavericks by Robert Harvey

A work that suggests that it is going to look at “military mavericks in the golden age of military history” but it is overly focused on Anglo – American commanders while dismissing the claims of others. The list of twelve “mavericks” (in chapter order) :-

Clive of India












While many on the list are quite deserving, others such as Washington and Macarthur are questionable. Furthermore the inclusion of naval commanders Nelson and Cochrane in a work on military commanders was a surprise. Certainly these two are worthy of inclusion but the author, Robert Harvey, needs to expand his definition.

The introduction entitled “the golden age of military leadership” raises a number of significant issues such as defining the “golden age” and arguing why each “maverick” was included. What was intriguing was the time spent praising the work of Frederick the Great, Napoleon and Sir John Moore yet spends little time effectively presenting the abilities of Washington, Grant and Macarthur. This makes the reader question why Frederick, Napoleon and Moore were not included in the list of “mavericks” even if it is to take out the Anglo – American bias in the list. Even so American commanders such as Sherman and Lee could be effectively argued as being more “maverick” commanders than say Grant and Washington.

Other issues that touched a nerve with the reviewed were the continued promotion of the concept that the British maintained strict “Prussian” tactics during the War of Independence against American guerrillas and the implication victory in Papua and New Guinea was purely a Macarthur led American victory. In response to the first issue Harvey ignores the fact that most battles fought during the war were pitched European style battles with little role for guerillas. Granted small actions in the south at Kings Mountain and the work of Morgan’s riflemen at Saratoga are not being denigrated here their role was certainly significant but we need to remember that the British adapted to these tactics and used them against the Americans especially in the South. On the second point Harvey ignores the efforts of the Australians in the defeat of the Japanese in New Guinea including the first defeat of Japanese land forces at Milne Bay. Furthermore failure to understand the conditions in New Guinea can be blamed on his remoteness from the frontline. The defeat of the Japanese on land in New Guinea can be credited to Australian leadership on the ground in New Guinea.

The intentions of this work are noble presenting twelve individuals who are seen to change the course of military history. Certainly it is well written by an experienced writer but the choices of “mavericks” can mainly be criticised for its Anglo – American focus. The claims of Frederick the Great and Napoleon are well presented but there exclusion is rather baffling.


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