top of page

The Worst Military Leaders in History



John M Jennings and Chuck Steele (Eds)

London: Reaktion Books, 2022

Hardcover   336pp   RRP $39.99


Reviewer: Neville Taylor, January 2023


Sixteen historians were asked to nominate who they thought was the worst military leader and justify their choice. As a result this fascinating record examines how these men failed their nation and those under their command or implementing their strategies.

The editors have arbitrarily classified the leaders as Criminals (read murderers), Frauds, Clueless, Politicians and Bunglers. They leave it to their readers to pass final judgement to their own classification. The subjects have been taken from 431 BCE (The Peloponnesian War) to 1945 and include a Royal Navy admiral and a United states Air Force lieutenant-general. [As one would expect, Major-General George Custer receives a mention.]

Many of these men had performed with distinction, had admirable personal traits, but failed at the ‘last hurdle’. Egos and other hubris were generally responsible for their failure(s) when it mattered most.

There are ample footnotes, a comprehensive bibliography, and CVs of all the contributors. An extremely readable collection of articles that look at the other side of leadership – a ‘what-not-to-do’ text. This is an area of military scholarship that has for too long been overlooked, and bears study by those with a military vocation.




The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.

bottom of page