London: Batsford, 1975.
As an historian, I’m far more interested in social movements and the evolution of material culture than in grand political strategies and great military confrontations, and to that end I have long been interested in early photography, which captures a moment in time as it really was. Action photos, the equivalent of sports photography, weren’t generally possible in the 1850s, but even people in relatively stiff poses — in this case, men in uniform, often with the tools of their trade — reveal more to us now than they would have expected.This lengthy series is British so the focus in this volume is on Victoria’s military, the army that doubled the size of the Empire. Actually, the Queen understood the usefulness of a photographic record and commissioned the coverage of the war in the Crimea in 1854. From that point, through the Zulu wars and the Indian mutiny and Afghanistan and South Africa to the cusp of the Great War, you’ll find more than 150 black-and-white photos of soldiers at fatigue duty, regiments on parade, sergeants playing cards over their beer, formal portraits of decked-out officers with pounds of braid and medals, cartes-de-visite of private soldiers in plain khaki, cavalrymen with their horses and artillerymen with their field guns and infantrymen with their rifles. And while the exposure times required by early cameras means many of the photos are, indeed, posed, there are a surprising number in this volume taken in action, especially in the Afghan mountains and the Orange Free State. The captions vary from a brief identifying sentence to a capsule history on the story behind a particular photo and the individuals featured in it. Anyone with an interest in the past couple of centuries of military history will find this one of interest.