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S. Mighton





Joined: 16 Aug 2007

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Tue 02 Oct, 2007 8:13 pm    Post subject: Accuracy of Osprey medieval military history books         Reply with quote

I like the format of the Osprey books and am considering ordering a bunch of them. As a community with an impressive level of knowledge, I would be grateful for your opinions concerning their historical accuracy. Also, have they improved over time (i.e. are the newer ones better than the older ones?) or is the quality consistent throughout all their published works?

Thank you for your time.
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Gavin Kisebach




Location: Lacey, Wa US
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Oct, 2007 9:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I own and have read or skimmed through dozens of Osprey books, and some I have read half a dozen times. Some of the statements would be considered debatable, others have been disproven. Sorry I don't have an example on hand, if I find one tonight I'll add it. There have been many occasions where various forumites will point out inaccuracies, but they are a good starting point for further reading, or for the casual historian.

The illustration plates are generally useful if you are trying to visualize artifacts in context, however the artists seem to have one overriding goal: to cram as many artifacts as they can into a picture as is possible. To this end each warrior is festooned with swords, knives, and spears that may be from the same era and culture, but might never have been anywhere near the other artifacts.

Overall I think they are great, and I look forward to getting my mitts on more, just be sure you follow up with further research.
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Chuck Russell




Location: WV
Joined: 17 Aug 2004
Reading list: 46 books

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PostPosted: Tue 02 Oct, 2007 9:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i think they are a great starting place. you can get one cheap, has relitively good info in it, some good period sources, period pictures, reproduction pictures etc. they let you get a glimpse of something to see if you want to dive into it further. i usually always grab a osprey when thinking of a new time period etc. then i look at teh plates then head to teh back to look at the sources for further readings.
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

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PostPosted: Tue 02 Oct, 2007 10:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I enjoy them a lot. The reading can give a great general introduction to a particular kind of soldier, era of warfare, etc. There are always dozens of photographs or line plates showing artifacts or original artwork that can be helpful. The color plate sections are a good way to visualize things, as mentioned. But all of the resources these books provide should be considered second-hand, because of the deadlines put on them, the information they "need" to contain, and the fact that all of the authors are generally not experts on the topics they cover. So, if you can keep Osprey books in context, they can be very helpful.

I currently own over 60 Osprey titles on Ancient and Medieval Warfare, and am continually expanding my collection of them. To me, one of the best uses they have is to check simple facts like dates or names, and also to help introduce other people to the eras I'm exploring when I carry them for research.

-Gregory-

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Alexander Borum




Location: Denmark - NykÝbing M.
Joined: 07 Feb 2007
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Oct, 2007 10:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

aye its a great starting point - i think the first books i got when i started on reenactment, was like 12 osprey titles.
as noted before, there are some debateable subjects in them, but in general, its a good indicator "on the way to go"
the plates are pretty good and is usefull when you try to pre-design your kit or simply want to find something to improve on your kit.

-/ Alexander K. Borum
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Oct, 2007 10:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are several reviews in our bookstore on specific Osprey titles. Maybe they will serve some benefit.
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S. Mighton





Joined: 16 Aug 2007

Posts: 19

PostPosted: Tue 02 Oct, 2007 11:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks all. I'm gonna go ahead and order some.
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Daniel Staberg




Location: Gothenburg/Sweden
Joined: 30 Apr 2005
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PostPosted: Wed 03 Oct, 2007 12:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Each Osprey book must be judged on it's own merits or lack of them. The end result result depends on the author and illustrator not on the Osprey lable as such. Some are quite good and worthy additions to any research library. Others are extremly poor and will harm rather than enhance the readers knowledge of history. Yet others are simply dated as they were written 20 or 30 years ago and new research have rendered their content obsolete.
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Martin Wilkinson





Joined: 05 Mar 2006

Posts: 155

PostPosted: Wed 03 Oct, 2007 3:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just to back up what most people have said, they're a good basic overview of a subject, which will lead you onto bigger and better sources. But, beware there are occassionally major inaccuracies, this is often due to the book being 30+ years old (point in case the one i read yesterday (English Civil War Armies from 1973)) and more modern research has disproved some of the authors opinions, or a new source has been uncovered which proves an idea wrong etc.

The more modern ones, will be full of the more modern research and ideas, and therefore more likely to be more accurate. Having said that even the older ones have some golden nuggets hidden in there.

"A bullet you see may go anywhere, but steel's, almost bound to go somewhere."

Schola Gladiatoria
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George Davidson




Location: Glasgow Scotland
Joined: 01 Mar 2004

Posts: 47

PostPosted: Wed 03 Oct, 2007 5:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:
Each Osprey book must be judged on it's own merits or lack of them. The end result result depends on the author and illustrator not on the Osprey lable as such. Some are quite good and worthy additions to any research library. Others are extremly poor and will harm rather than enhance the readers knowledge of history. Yet others are simply dated as they were written 20 or 30 years ago and new research have rendered their content obsolete.


Absolutely with dan on this although even recent ones neednt be that great. Latest one I bought (Byzantine infantryman 900-1200 ad by Tim Dawson) is excellent but the previous one to that (The Scandinavian Baltic Crusades 11th-15th Centuries) was pretty poor.

I've always treated Osprey as a starter for 10 sort of a book for an overview ... then go looking for specifically targeted subjects.
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Gavin Kisebach




Location: Lacey, Wa US
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PostPosted: Wed 03 Oct, 2007 3:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suddenly felt a twinge of sadness. Ah Angus, we hardly knew ye. His illustrations are still spitze. Clean and clear, but rich and lively.
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George Davidson




Location: Glasgow Scotland
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PostPosted: Thu 04 Oct, 2007 7:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
I suddenly felt a twinge of sadness. Ah Angus, we hardly knew ye. His illustrations are still spitze. Clean and clear, but rich and lively.


Angus McBride was definitely their best artist. I will miss his artwork.
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Ruel A. Macaraeg





Joined: 25 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Thu 04 Oct, 2007 7:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:
Each Osprey book must be judged on it's own merits or lack of them. The end result result depends on the author and illustrator not on the Osprey lable as such. Some are quite good and worthy additions to any research library. Others are extremly poor and will harm rather than enhance the readers knowledge of history. Yet others are simply dated as they were written 20 or 30 years ago and new research have rendered their content obsolete.


One categorical failing of the Osprey series as a whole is the editorial refusal to include running citations of sources. This imposes a very annoying burden on those of us who wish to confirm the origin of stated information. We can do it -- there are bibliographies -- but it would save a great amount of time and effort if they'd simply identify references in-text, the way all normal academic publications do.

http://ForensicFashion.com/CostumeStudies.html
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James Barker




Location: Ashburn VA
Joined: 20 Apr 2005

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PostPosted: Thu 04 Oct, 2007 9:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

George Davidson wrote:
Angus McBride was definitely their best artist. I will miss his artwork.


He was the best artist on the art factor but Turner and Embelton kicks his butt in accuracy.



Buyer beware when it comes to Osprey; many old titles are full of bad info and poor artistic representations.

James Barker
Historic Life http://www.historiclife.com/index.html
Archer in La Belle Compagnie http://www.labelle.org/
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Jared Smith




Location: Tennessee
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PostPosted: Thu 04 Oct, 2007 3:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:
Yet others are simply dated as they were written 20 or 30 years ago and new research have rendered their content obsolete.


This tends to be true of many history oriented books.

I was a little dismayed when I bought Norman Cantor's last book "Inventing the Middle Ages." I am quoting him pretty close to verbatim in stating that he said increased availability and study of translations, archeology, relaxation of prejudices, and other aspects of historian's had changed modern understanding of history so much that the most books written before 1985 should be "thrown away."

In fair context, I think Cantor only intended that to apply to books that characterize cultural norms, classes, chivalry, tactics and such. A museum style archival reference to weapons should still be good to my way of thinking. Similarly, some books written specifically about qualities or styles of medieval literature (Richard Barber's works from the late 1960's come to mind), are still very good for grasping appropriate context in which period statements should be interpreted.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Gavin Kisebach




Location: Lacey, Wa US
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PostPosted: Thu 04 Oct, 2007 4:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Victorian ideas on weapons still persist - I am reading a very enjoyable book on major battles from 1000AD to 1500AD. The author seems to have a very good grasp of the course of events, the layout of the field and so on, but the accompanying arms and armor illustrations are clearly outdated. This is not that old a book as far as I can tell.

It is true that Angus was "flexible" in some of his illustrations. Some byzantine lamellar armor springs to mind...
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