I have a lot of Osprey books, especially from the Campaign Series.  I have so many that one of my bookshelves collapsed under their weight.  But I still buy more, from just about every series except the Men at Arms series.  I have some of them, but the Campaign, Battle Orders, New Vanguard, Duel, and Raid books predominate.  I have some on my Kindle account too, which relieves the stress on my book shelves, and makes them readily available on my iPad and Android smart phone.  But I buy very few in this format, as the maps and sometimes illustrations are not rendered as well as in print, and are harder to view in their entirety.

I do recognize their value.  I took the title on Messine Ridge 1917 to the battlefield, just outside of Ieper (Ypres), and it was a very good guidebook as well as a useful overview of the battle.  Further, when I develop or design a game, I make it a practice to refer to the Osprey volumes on the subject.  They provide a succinct history, and for the most part useful maps and order of battle information.  They are not the only sources that I consult, and are starting points rather than the last words on their topics for me.

I also recommend them in the history classes that I teach at La Roche College, especially the military history classes.  Then too, most of my history classes are on wars.

This is not exactly a unanimous.  While some of the professors who teach the courses that I take at American Military University like the Ospreys, I've known others who hated them.  They describe them as terribly superficial, not advanced enough for graduate studies, and one of the more damning descriptions rendered by some professors, "popular history."

My personal opinion on the last is that I'd rather have popular, readable, and useable history, especially for game design and development.  I find them good too for research papers too, even at the graduate level.  The ones on naval warfare, especially by Mark Stille, are excellent sources for the weapons, capabilities, and operational histories of warships.

Basically, I am not about to give up on Ospreys, though I will avoid using them for work for classes taught by professors who don't like them.  Still, I will encourage my own students to look into the Ospreys.

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Comment by Chuang Shyue Chou on February 16, 2014 at 10:27pm

I think Osprey Publishing does a wonderful job helping people visualise wars in eras where there were no cameras. 

Secondly, Osprey Publishing provides numerous maps in colour which I find is lacking in many books on military history and studies.


For that it is well-worth the cover price.

Comment by Jim Werbaneth on February 16, 2014 at 12:29pm

Hi Steve,

I agree with you on the Compass volume -- It is the weakest in my collection.  The early books in general had questionable editing, and that established some a negative reputation in some people's eyes.  As an old commercial said, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression.  The later ones though seem to have much better quality control.

My own practice is very similar to yours.  I don't use Ospreys as the first step or the last word on anything.  But the good ones can be used as valid supplements to other works.

Comment by Steve Trauth on February 16, 2014 at 5:58am

However I should add that I am using some in the research of a project (however they are being used in conjunction with a lot of other material).

Comment by Steve Trauth on February 16, 2014 at 5:55am

And at the same time there is some legitimate 'snobbery' I think - basically where I am coming from -take the Pearl Harbor title for one - there are several photos of the German light cruiser Emden (the interwar one) and it is being passed off as a USN cruiser docked at Pearl Harbor.

Considering that the German ships of that period had a pretty distinct look -editing like that is ... well frankly it is not acceptable. What's worse is they did this at least twice in this title.

But wait... it gets worse - take the Operation Compass title, and set aside the fact that their description of the attack on Bardia (as well as the map) is not attributed to any sources -and is at odds with the pretty detailed (and one with attributions) to the ones in the book 'To Benghazi' which was published well before that -and is part of the official Australian Army history of the war ... but it actually gets worse - they have a photo in that title ( a pretty famous one in fact) of the German pocket battleship being scuttled off Montevideo - and call it an Italian light cruiser burning in Tobruk Harbour.

You will find other silliness in their wargaming magazine as well -and mind you while I do enjoy the books -and they can be a lead to other books -to rely exclusively on them for research -I guess it depends upon the title. The ones by Richard Brezinski seem pretty good... I guess the series' are hit and miss for me -and you have to do some work some times in order to determine which is whch.

To be honest, I don't really consider dismissing them as 'snobbery' -but probably consider these books a lot like I considered the Ballantines Illustrated series when I was growing up - a nice introduction.

Comment by Jim Werbaneth on February 5, 2014 at 9:41pm

As a sidenote, I talked about this with my World War I class at La Roche this afternoon, and gave them a link to  this post.

Comment by Wayne Rotella on February 5, 2014 at 5:21pm

Love the books, and have for years. Sorry to hear some find them "too simple". OK don't read them. As a teacher in a struggling urban school who has many students who do not read on grade level I LOVE resources that open doors. If not for the "simple" books that introduced me to history I may not have moved on to more comprehensive works. It's a shame educators scoff at anything that may be a pathway to greater understanding.

Comment by Roger Morley on February 5, 2014 at 5:06pm

It is a shame. Maybe their mindset is like that because they like to think they have literary and historical knowledge.

They may also think that Osprey books are of no use to graduate studies, but they provide a wealth of information and detail to the rest of us.

Comment by Jim Werbaneth on February 5, 2014 at 9:09am

I think there is an awful lot of pseudointellectual snobbery at work.  If something is affordable, concise, readable and readily available at Barnes and Noble, then it has to suck.  It's part of the mind set that uses the term "popular history" as a pejorative, or for that matter separates mystery and science fiction from "literary novels."

Comment by Roger Morley on February 5, 2014 at 8:17am

I too have found them very useful, and they are always the first books I go for when I need to read up about anything specific.

Those people who do not like them are entitled to their opinion, but they should not lay such scorn on books which provide a wealth of knowledge and education, especially for those wanting to learn.

Comment by Ian Schofield on February 4, 2014 at 11:12pm

I've always found them useful resources and they often have some decent bibliographies as well. I used to buy a lot when I painted minis - not as many now. I certainly don't have enough to collapse a shelf - now I feel inadequate  :-)

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