The 2008 RUSI Duke of Westminster Medal for Military Literature will be awarded to Professor Christopher Bellamy for his book, Absolute War (Macmillan, Knopf).
Professor Michael Clarke, Director of RUSI and chair of the judging panel said:
Absolute War provides a wonderful contemporary interpretation of the Soviet Russia’s part in the Second World War. This year saw an exceptionally strong field of books submitted to the competition and Absolute War is a worthy winner that does honour to the Duke of Westminster Medal and to RUSI. It is a big book in many ways. It not only represents a significant work of military history; it is the best sort of military history which integrates the economic, social and cultural contexts of war into a narrative that, in the case of the ‘Eastern Front’, is at once both thrilling and appalling.
It is a big book in another sense too. Professor Bellamy’s achievement is to write a history that compels us to rethink the tapestry of the Second World War. That was a total war. Societies geared up in their totality to fight each other. But for the Soviets, defeat would not just have meant failure and subjugation: it would have meant death on an unimaginable scale – far exceeding the 27 million deaths that occurred in the event. It would have meant personal and societal death for the USSR. It was as absolute as that, and they fought as if it was. Christopher Bellamy’s book shows us how to understand that obscenity properly.
Absolute War was written between 1997 and 2006 and published in hardback by Macmillan in July 2007 and by Knopf, New York, in October. The Pan paperback appeared in March 2008. It is being translated into Estonian, Czech and Italian.
The award was presented on 22 July 2008.
About the Author
Chris Bellamy, author of Absolute War, is Professor of Military Science and Doctrine and head of the Security and Resilience Group, Cranfield University, based at the Defence Academy of the UK at Shrivenham. He now heads the Cranfield MSc programmes in Global Security, International Security and Resilience. Born in 1955, he read history at Oxford under Army sponsorship and served briefly as an officer in the Royal Artillery. He completed the MA in War Studies at King’s College, London, and then the new part-time honours degree in modern languages (Russian) at the Polytechnic of Central London, now the University of Westminster. From 1987-90 he completed his PhD on The Russian View of Future War at Edinburgh University under the supervision of the late Professor John Erickson.
From 1990 to 1997 he was Defence Correspondent of the Independent and reported from the 1991 Gulf war, from Bosnia many times in 1992-96 and from Chechnya in January 1995. He was shortlisted for foreign reporter of the year in the 1996 British Press Awards for reporting from Chechnya.
He became one of the first Fellows of RUSI in 1996 for a series of articles in RUSI Journal from 1979 to 1987 on continuity in Russian and Soviet military theory and practice. In 1997 he joined Cranfield University at the then Royal Military College of Science, Shrivenham. In 1999, he designed and implemented the MSc in Global Security and has since run it as Academic Leader. He was made Professor in 2000 and head of the expanded Security and Resilience Group in August 2007.
His previous books are: Red God of War (1986), The Future of Land Warfare (1987), The Evolution of Modern Land Warfare (1990), Expert Witness: A Defence Correspondent’s Gulf War (1993), Knights in White Armour: The New Art of War and Peace (1996,1997) and a monograph, Spiral Through Time: Beyond Conflict Intensity (1998). He was consultant editor, Eastern Front for The Times Atlas of the Second World War (1989) and Associate Editor of, and a principal contributor to, The Oxford Companion to Military History (2001). He maintains his media contacts and wrote the daily Military Analysis column for the Independent during the 2003 Iraq War. He also broadcasts frequently on defence and security issues on the BBC, ITN, Sky News and GMTV. In 1992 he married Heather Kerr, whom he met at the Independent. Heather is now Country Director for Save the Children UK in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa.
About the RUSI Duke of Westminster Medal for Military Literature
Created with the support of The Duke of Westminster, the Medal for Military Literature has been awarded annually since 1997. The award is given to a book by a living author, regardless of nationality, gender or age, which makes a notable and original contribution to the study of international and national security and defence.
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