I recently picked up a copy of Chinese Warlord Armies 1911-30 from Osprey Books as a reference and it succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. The warlord period of 20th Century Chinese history is fascinating, though it must have been rather horrible to live through, the overthrow of the last Chinese Empire and the establishment of the Republic, which was unable to maintain order or any sense of control and the country rapidly descended into a period of warlord rule.
The warlords fragmented China in their constant grasping for an ever bigger territories to rule until the Chinese Republic finally got its act together and slowly took China back from the warlord, often by co-opting the warlords who saw the writing on the wall, by allying with the Chinese Communists and accepting aid from the Soviet Union. Yes, history really is that strange.
This book is little more than an overview of the situation and the chaos of that era where warlords with colorful nicknames such as the ‘Dogmeat General’ and the ‘Jade Marshal’ using armies equipped with whatever weapons they could buy from the world market, steal from their enemies or (occasionally) have built. Where European, Russian (red and white) and Japanese advisers and mercenaries worked for various sides. What a model for a wild campaign, fortunes to be made (and lost), allies and enemies to make, deals and betrayals abound.
The book is well written with a variety of colorful anecdotes to leaven the basic facts of the situation but it is, of necessity, only a introduction to the complexities of this era but an interesting read and well illustrated both with Osprey’s color plates and a variety of photographs from the era.