Just like in the tv commercial, this book does exactly what it says on the tin. Originally a two volume exercise, it has been recast as a single large format book by Frontline and I have to say it is as lavish as it is beautiful. Building up a collection of images like this takes more than just time and it is so impressive I am little lost for words, for once. Having just reviewed that stunning Great War photographs book produced for the IWM, this just adds to the glory of the archive photo books doing the rounds. The collection of images is amazing and I can just keep looking at this book and be quite happy. There is so much to see. But, of course, it has a practical side and acts as a guide to the uniforms and often the weapons and accoutrements of German soldiery. The attention to detail is impressive and although I’d be hard pressed to find holes from my indifferent knowledge level (who am I kidding?) it’s difficult to find fault with the structure – including the captions and the many appendices.

The author gives us an insight into the army of the Imperial era before setting out to illustrate the massive array of uniforms from that period. This includes a selection of colour images which are quite charming, being a mixture of art and the typical colourised imagery of the day.  The ubiquitous Charles Messenger pops up to explain the armies from the Weimar to the modern era before a repeat performance of archive gems ensues. Of particular note are the Weimer period photos which really appealed to me especially as we see the myriad private armies and organisations running in tandem with the official forces of the state. While the book avoids getting bogged down with the SS, the World War II era has much to offer and I would suggest there is a lot here for artists, collectors, living history exponents and model makers. Once again, we get some very nice colour stuff to look at. A solid section on the Bundeswehr and other forces within the Federal Republic bring us all up to date. We are treated to an excellent sequence on the GDR, much of this imagery derived from propaganda put out by the East Germans. I love this sort of stuff.

We are left with one of those books which can be a useful guide – its primary purpose – and as a brilliant collection of snaps to enjoy when the autumn rains part you from your lawnmower or whatever torture you save for dry days. The author sets out to educate and I think I can safely say I am a bit more sure of myself when it comes to Swedish cuffs and other details from the uniforms. So, he has succeeded… bravo! This is what a quality reference book should look and feel like. It’s a hefty bit of kit and I do like that in a book; none of your flimsy nonsense for me. I want books I can put legs on to make a table and this one has definitely got potential. Ten out of ten.

Review by Mark Barnes for War History Online

Buy from Amazon

An Illustrated History from 1870 to the Present Day.
By Alejandro M De Quesada
Published by Frontline Books
ISBN: 978 1 84832 693 4


Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.