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Book Title: A History of Warfare|
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 345 KB
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The author of the book: John Keegan
Date of issue: November 1st 1994
ISBN 13: 9780679730828
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Reader ratings: 7.7
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Brilliant. A cultural history of war from antiquity to the present day in a single volume. Keegan starts with the symbolic forms of war among the so called "primitives," including those from the neolithic, using much archaeological evidence to do so. He then moves on to the advent of the chariot by the ancient Thracians and Egyptians, and its eventual supersession by the compound-bow wielding horse peoples from the Eurasian steppes (Huns, Mongols, Magyars, et. al). Then the subsequent heyday of mounted cavalry whose hold over various cultures (Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, etc.) was so strong it meant their undoing once gunpowder arrived. That's a constant refrain here, warriors stuck in outdated modes of warfare that ensure their demise. For example, there's the discussion of fortification and its ability to sustain long seiges, and how this all changed in the gunpowder era and led to radically different designs. Much discussion too on the disposition of troops in the field (the Greek phalanx, the Napoleonic manouever, etc.), methods of logistics and supply, evolution of naval warfare (from the Greek trireme to the modern ironclad) etc. In the end the book constitutes a methodical disproving of Clausewitz. To wit,
War is not the continuation of policy by other means. The world would be a simpler place to understand if this dictum of Clausewitz's were true. Clausewitz, a Prussian veteran of the Napoleonic wars who used his years of retirement to compose what was destined to become the most famous book on war—called On War—ever written, actually wrote that war is the continuation "of political intercourse" (des politischen Verkehrs) "with the intermixing of other means" (mit Einmischung anderer Mittel). The original German expresses a more subtle and complex idea than the English words in which it is so frequently quoted. In either form, however, Clausewitz's thought is incomplete. It implies the existence of states, of state interests and rational calculation about how they may be achieved. Yet war antedates the state, diplomacy and strategy by many millennia.
Keegan's solution for moving beyond the culturally limited and blinkered view of Clausewitz is fascinating. I've read the book twice, which should be praise enough.
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Read information about the authorSir John Desmond Patrick Keegan, OBE, FRSL was a British military historian, lecturer and journalist. He published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime and intelligence warfare as well as the psychology of battle.
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