Official military history geminated from the unique combination of military professionalism and the prevalent historizism ideology of german science in the 19th century. Basically every famous general since ancient times read of Alexander and Ceasar to learn how to wage successful wars. Officers were – with few exceptions – drawn from the gentry and relied on experience and instinct.

The French Revolution also revolutionized warefare, by combining several earlier reforms and new ideas to create mass armies capable of rapid advances, big enough to bypass and ignore the established fortress networks of Europe. the flexible organisation into divisions and corps enabled vast armies to be controlled in one operation, and an imperial staff, headed by the brilliant mareshall Berthier, made it possible to keep everyone supplied and fed, from Egypt to Lissabon to deep into Russia. Well, not all the way, but close.

Having suffered defeat at the hands of the Grande Armée, Europes rules and armies started quickly to copy as many french inventions as they could, France setting the pace of development for the last time. The Prussians, humiliated, defeated and partitioned, were especially zealous and burning for revenge. In 1814, during the fierce “Wars of Liberation” that most of Europe fought against the French Empire, the Prussians organzized their own general staff. Combined with the educational reforms of 1812, it practically redefined the concept of being an officer. Formerly the hereditary career position of a landed prussian Gutsherr, and officer now became defined to be an alumni of a military college, a professional defined by academic and military excellence more than court manners and concepts of honour. The following years were to turn this around, as the gentry successfully absorbed the challenge into its self-image. Taking over the military academies, the Prussian landed gentry made sure that the despised bürgerliche remained a minority amonst officers all the way to the end of the Empire – and beyond. But they could not undo the impact of the idea of professionalism and education. With the founding of the general staff, knowledge, education and achievements slowly replaced connections, wealth and family names as means for advancement in the Prussian military.

The new staff colleges aimed at educating officers based on the now accepted scientific method. Text books replaced elective reading of ancient classics, staff tours replaced riders training, scientific rigour replaced etiquette, and artillery range charts replaced family trees. Past campaigns were and are still seen as the best examples on which to study the conduct of war, so the unbiased analysis of every aspect of past campaigns was necessary to enable future generations of offivers to learn from them. The nascent general staffs began preparing official histories of various campaigns, aimed at educating officers, but at the same time as some way of keeping a public record on the wars fought.

Of course,  unbiased did not mean to dwell on the horrors of slaughtered men (and women and children), and the psychological traumas and injuries battles caused for soldiers and civilians alike. Training officers also meant motivating them and instilling a proper spirit against democrats, revolutionaries and the French. Additionally, these official histories were mostly written by officers, which were loath to criticize their comrades openly or harshly. Official military histories of all nations have a strong tendency to shine a positive light on their own forces and gloss over errors. Over such a wide range of countries and times, of course quality varies considerably. But generlly spoken, official histories are always a good companion for anyone interested in a topic they cover. They are written usually by people who participated in the combat personally, they contain a high level of detail and are often based on sources since lost, and they give a professionals view on the struggle at hand.

After this rather lengthy introduction, here are the official military histories:

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