Articles on Non-Western Warfare?

Jonathan Epstein's picture

Dear fellow H-Warriors,

I am working to decolonize the syllabus for my modern military history course (approximately 1648 to the present). Can anybody out there please recommend some good articles on non-Western warfare, especially, but not limited to, African warfare?

Thanks in advance!

Jonathan Epstein, Ph.D.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

Categories: Query

Dear John,

I use the following in a unit on the history of war:

Inga Clendinnen, “The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society,” Past and Present 107:1 (1985), 44-89; and Daniel K. Richter, “War and Culture: The Iroquois Experience,” William and Mary Quarterly 3rd series 40:4 (Oct 1983), 528-559.

Killingray, David. "African voices from two world wars." Historical research 74.186 (2001): 425-443.

Baaz, Maria Eriksson and Maria Stern, “Making Sense of Violence: Voices of Soldiers in the Congo,” Journal of Modern African Studies 46 (2008): 57-86.

Andrade, Tonio. The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History (Princeton, 2016)

Clulow, Adam. The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan (Columbia, 2014).

De Groot, Joanna, '"Brothers of the Iranian Race": Manhood, Nationhood and Modernity in Iran c.1880-1914'. In Masculinities in Politics and War, edited by Stefan Dudink et. al. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004.

Vigh, H.E., Navigating Terrains of War: Youth and Soldiering in Guinea-Bissau (Gerghahn Books, 2006).

Killingray, David. “Colonial Warfare in west Africa, 1870-1914,” in J.A. DeMoor and H.L. Wesseling, Imperialism and War: Essays on Colonial Wars in Asia and Africa (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989), 146-167.

Best wishes/

Highly recommend this new-ish book - "Our Beloved Kin: A New History of the King Philips War" by Lisa Brooks.

Students embrace her "plausible scenarios" and it invites productive methodological conversations around colonized and decolonized sources.

I recommend Pekka Hämäläinen, "The Comanche Empire" (Yale, 2009).

It's an extraordinary account of how a native people actually became militarily dominant over European settlers, and I'm setting one of its chapters to my students this semester.

Can you be more specific? I teach a Conflict in World History class and there are loads of titles. Ancient or Modern, Asian, Indian, Middle East, etc. Thanks,

I'd recommend my edited volume (now in a 2nd edition) Warfare and Culture in World History. It has several non-western chapters across time, see table of contents at ( Also, my sub-chapter on war in late 19th century Africa in Waging War is pretty reasonable (examines both Dahomey and Ethiopia)
Wayne Lee

If you're interested in articles/chapters on warfare in Southeast Asia,

I have several online Oxford Online Annotated bibliographies that cover the field for precolonial and colonial Southeast Asian Warfare

Kathy Wellen and I co-edited a volume a few years ago, Warring Societies of Southeast Asia with 7 chapters on warfare in different parts of the region before colonial rule:

Chapter 1: Warfare and Depopulation of the Trans-Mekong Basin and the Revival of Siam’s Economy
Puangthong R. Pawakapan (Chulalongkorn University)

Chapter 2: La Maddukelleng and Civil War in South Sulawesi
Kathryn Wellen (KITLV)

Chapter 3: Kinship, Islam, and Raiding in Maguindanao, c. 1760-1780
Ariel C. Lopez (Leiden University)

Chapter 4: The Age of the Sea Falcons: Naval Warfare in Vietnam (1771-1802)
Vu Duc Liem (University of Hamburg & Hanoi National University of Education)

Chapter 5: Expansion and Internalization of Modes of Warfare in Pre-colonial Bali
Hans Hägerdal (Linneaus University)

Chapter 6: Armed Rural Folk: Elements of Pre-colonial Warfare in the Artistic Representations and Written Accounts of the Pacification Campaign (1886-1889) in Burma
Michael W. Charney (SOAS University of London)

Chapter 7: Military Capability and the State in Southeast Asia’s Pacific Rimlands, 1500-1700
Gerrit Knaap (Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands)

I edited a special issue of South East Asia Research on warfare in the region in 2004:

Barbara Watson Andaya, “History, Headhunting and Gender in Monsoon Asia: Comparative and Longitudinal Views,” South East Asia Research 12.1 (2004): 13-52.

Leonard Andaya, “Nature of war and peace among the Bugis-Makassar people,” South East Asia Research 12.1 (2004): 53-80.

John K. Whitmore, “The two great campaigns of the Hong-duc era (1470-97) in Dai Viet,” South East Asia Research 12.1 (2004): 119-136.

Hägerdal, Hans. “War and Culture: Balinese and Sasak Views on Warfare in Traditional Historiography.” South East Asia Research 12.1 (2004): 81-118.

Barbara Andaya edited a special volume in 2003 as well in JESHO

Some other articles:

John Fernquest has published a lot, google his name and SBBR

Laichen Sun, “Military Technology Transfers from Ming China and the Emergence of Northern Mainland Southeast Asia (c. 1390–1527),” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 34.3 (2003): 495–517.

Jiri Jakl has a lot on Malay warfare, one of them here

Vu Duc Liem on Vietnam, google search his name

Angeles, Jose Amiel. “The Battle of Mactan and the Indigenous Discourse on War.” Philippine Studies 55.1 (2007).

Some more of my own:

Charney, Michael W. “Shallow-draft Boats, Guns, and the Aye-ra-wa-ti: Continuity and Change in Ship Structure and River Warfare in Precolonial Myanma.” Oriens Extremus 40.1 (1997): 16-63.

Charney, Michael, “A Reassessment of Hyperbolic Military Statistics in Some Early Modern Burmese Texts.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 46.2 (2003): 193-214.

On Indian warfare, many many things by Kaushik Roy

also Nath, Pratyay, “Siege Warfare in Mughal India, 1519-1538.” In Kaushik Roy (ed.), Warfare and Politics in South Asia from Ancient to Modern Times (New Delhi: Manohar, 2011): pp. 121-144.


Mike Charney
Professor Michael W. Charney
SOAS, University of London

Professor Epstein,

Thank you for the question, as I appreciate learning of more recommendations from everyone. I know more about pre-1648 and specialize in Japan and East Asia, but will also try to add what I can from my own list and syllabus development.

First let me second the recommendations for Tonio Andrade and Adam Clulow, as well as for Professor Lee's Warfare and Culture in World History.

On Edo Period (1600ish~1868) Japan, there isn't a ton out there as, well, there's just not a whole lot of war (1638 being the last major mobilization prior to the Meiji revolution).

Wilson, Noell, Defensive Positions: The Politics of Maritime Security In Tokugawa Japan. 1st edition. Cambridge (Mass.): Harvard University Asia Center, 2015. Pairs well with Clulow for discussion on Tokugawa security.

Challenging the false trope of "the Japanese banned guns," we have:

Howell, David L. “The Social Life of Firearms in Tokugawa Japan.” Japanese Studies 29, no. 1 (May 1, 2009): 65–80.
Lauro, Daniele. "Displaying Authority: Guns, Political Legitimacy, and Martial Pageantry in Tokugawa Japan, 1600 - 1868." Order No. 1538041, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2013.

The latter is actually an MA thesis, but surprisingly good.

Moving from early modern to just modern, there's more out there (Conlan, G. Cameron Hurst III) on the Bushido myth, but these are the best:

Friday, Karl F. "Bushidō Or Bull? A Medieval Historian's Perspective on the Imperial Army and the Japanese Warrior Tradition." The History Teacher (Long Beach, Calif.) 27, no. 3 (1994): 339-349.

Benesch, Oleg, Inventing the Way of the Samurai: Nationalism, Internationalism, and Bushido In Modern Japan. First edition. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2014.
Full disclosure: I wrote the JMH review of Benesch's book, but to summarize most medievalists like Friday (and, well, myself) have always tried to disassemble "Bushido" by pointing to a lack of it in the medieval perriod; Benesch actually examines the creation of the notion in the 19th C. and it's metamorphosis, and each chapter is easily assigned as a stand-alone.

There's more on 20th C Japan that has been debated here in the past, but I'll throw in anything by Edward Drea re: the Imperial Japanese Army and
Hotta, Eri, Pan-Asianism and Japan's War 1931-1945. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
And of course there is the A Military History of Japan by our esteemed list grenade thrower, Prof. John Kuehn.

Other areas:

East Asia:

Andrade, Tonio, Hyeok Hweon Kang, and Kirsten Cooper. "A Korean Military Revolution?: Parallel Military Innovations in East Asia and Europe." Journal of World History 25, no. 1 (2014): 51-84.

Lorge, Peter A. The Asian Military Revolution: From Gunpowder to the Bomb. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Porter, Patrick, Military Orientalism: Eastern War Through Western Eyes. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

Perdue, Peter C. China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Asia. Harvard University Press, 2005.

Waley-Cohen, Joanna. The Culture of War In China: Empire and the Military Under the Qing Dynasty. London: I.B. Tauris, 2006.

Clark, Hugh R. “Frontier Discourse and China’s Maritime Frontier, Journal of World History, 20:1 (March, 2009)

Thornton, John K. Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800. London: Routledge, 1999.

Willis Jr., John. (ed.), China and Maritime Europe, 1500-1800: Trade, Settlement, Diplomacy, and Missions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Worthing, Peter M. A Military History of Modern China: From the Manchu Conquest to Tian'anmen Square. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Security International, 2007.

Elliott, Mark C. The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity In Late Imperial China. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2001.

Di Cosmo, Nicola. “Did Guns Matter? Firearms and the Qing Formation.” In The Qing Formation in World-Historical Time, ed. Lynn Struve. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press (2004), pp. 121-166.

Flannery, Kristie Patricia. “Battlefield Diplomacy and Empire-Building in the Indo-Pacific World During the Seven Years’ War,” Itinerario 40:3 (2016), 467-488.


Jasanoff, Maya Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850 (Knopf, 2005)

Lynn, John A. Ch. 5, “Victories of the Conquered: The Native Character of the Sepoy,” in Battle: A History of Combat and Culture. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 2003. 145-177.


Parker, Geoffrey, Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe In the Seventeenth Century. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

Ágoston, Gábor. “Firearms and Military Adaptation: The Ottomans and the European Military Revolution, 1450–1800.” Journal of World History 25, no. 1 (2014): 85–124

Darwin, John. After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009.

Thornton, John K. Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800. London: Routledge, 1999.

Roy, Kaushik. “Horses, Guns and Governments: A Comparative Study of the Military Transition in the Manchu, Mughal, Ottoman and Safavid Empires, circa 1400 to circa 1750.” International Area Studies Review 15, no. 2 (June 1, 2012): 99–117.

Apologies for any and all formatting or other errors, not sure how to italicize, etc. on the board here.
I look forward to seeing even more recommendations!


Nathan Ledbetter
PhD Candidate, East Asian Studies (Japanese History)
Princeton University
MAJ (ret), US Army

In addition to Wayne's suggestions already, I would quickly note the following for sub-Saharan Africa up until about 1900. If you are looking for more the World Wars or postcolonial I'll happily offer those as well:

Alpers, Edward A. “Warfare in Northern Mozambique, Late Sixteenth to Late Nineteenth Centuries: The Makua of Macuana.” Journal of African Military History 1, no. aop (September 17, 2020): 1–30.

Dunn, John. “‘For God, Emperor, and Country!’ The Evolution of Ethiopia’s Nineteenth-Century Army.” War in History 1, no. 3 (November 1, 1994): 278–99.

FitzSimons, William. “Sizing Up the ‘Small Wars’ of African Empire: An Assessment of the Context and Legacies of Nineteenth-Century Colonial Warfare.” Journal of African Military History 2, no. 1 (June 22, 2018): 63–78.

Heywood, Linda M. Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen. Reprint Edition. Harvard University Press, 2019.

Jonas, Raymond. The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire. Illustrated Edition. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press, 2015.

Lamphear, John, ed. African Military History. 1st Edition. Aldershot, England ; Burlington, VT: Routledge, 2007.

Reid, Richard. “War and Militarism in Pre-Colonial Buganda.” Azania: Archaeological Research in Africa 34, no. 1 (January 1, 1999): 45–60.

———. War in Pre-Colonial Eastern Africa: The Patterns and Meanings of State-Level Conflict in the 19th Century. 1st Edition. London ; Nairobi : Oxford : Nairobi : Kampala Uganda : Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2007.

Thornton, John K. “The Art of War in Angola, 1575-1680.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 30, no. 2 (1988): 360–78.

Thornton, John K. Warfare in Atlantic Africa, 1500-1800. Burlington, VT: Routledge Press, 1999.

Vandervort, Bruce. Wars of Imperial Conquest in Africa, 1830―1914. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

Vendervort, Bruce. "War in the Non-European World." in Palgrave Advances in Modern Military History 195-213. London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2006.

I always recommend folks working with non-European/non-Western military work read Bruce's chapter in the Palgrave volume above. Once you are past that I would say for precolonial warfare the Lamphear volume is a collection of slightly dated articles on various subjects and would be useful for a touchstone. Thornton and Heywood are great for late precolonial work in West/West-Central Africa. Bruce's additional work on Wars of Imperial Conquest offers a good discussion of both the colonial forces and the local ones and their methods and organization. It's supplemented well with Will FitzSimon's piece which complicates the picture a little. Reid is great for both the Great Lakes region and Ethiopia. Alpers' piece is great and I was proud we were able to get it pre-printed.

I would also note that African military history seems to finally be getting pretty well organized in a global community. I would recommend checking back in with the Journal of African Military History from time to time ( as well as Ohio University Press' new War and Militarism in African History series which should have a book coming out on Martial Race/Martial Identity that should have some chapters that fit your work sooner rather than later!

Charles G Thomas
Co-Managing Editor
Journal of African Military History

Dear H-Warriors,
Thanks for all the great suggestions!
Dear Dr. Eysturlid,
I am mainly looking for modern African or Latin-American warfare.