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A History of Warfare Paperback – Nov 1994


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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (Nov. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679730826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679730828
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,401,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Masterpiece...one of those rare books which could still be required reading in its field a hundred years from now." (The New Yorker)

"Our finest military historian has produced a book of breathtaking scope...A tour de force." (Niall Ferguson Daily Mail)

"The best book I read in 1993 was A History of Warfare...a dazzling display of historical pyrotechnics." (Paul Johnson Sunday Times, Books of the Year)

"Magnificent" (Sunday Telegraph) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

WINNER OF THE DUFF COOPER PRIZE In this magisterial and brilliantly readable and controversial book, Britain's most distinguished and widely-read military historian provides not merely a history of warfare but an analysis of world history, and the role that man's impulse to war has played in it. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Historyline on 13 Jan. 2011
Format: Paperback
As the title suggests this is a hugely ambitious work. Strangely, it begins with Clausewitz and devotes the best part of the first chapter to the life and times of this admittedly highly influential writer and theorist. It then goes back to the beginning, to an account of warfare from the earliest `primitive' warfare of inter-tribal conflict (so far as it is known) and continues through to the atomic age. In the process, it describes the effects of socio-political and technical developments on the practices and consequences of war, and includes some graphic and gruesome examples of man's inhumanity to man. The book is primarily concerned with land warfare but also covers war at sea and, latterly, in the air. The logistics of warfare and the limitations they impose, are also covered; constraints such as - how far a man can march in day, how far he can march before he must be resupplied, the socio-economic impact of attempting to raise and then maintain a large citizen army, and, not least, the constraints that terrain, climate and regional resources impose on military ambition. A not insignificant portion of the book is devoted to a consideration of the causes of war, to its psychological and sociological underpinnings, to the motivations of those facing death on the battlefield, and to the psychology of face-to-face combat.

In areas of the topic where I have some knowledge, I spotted a few, albeit relatively minor, errors of fact. Assuming that the rest of the book contains no greater errors, the ambitious nature of the title would seem to have been broadly achieved.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Aug. 2001
Format: Paperback
The book is structured around an examination of the Clausewitzian definition of war. Keegan compares forms of warfare from other cultures and across history in order to test the definition's validity.
We are treated to a wide-ranging and intelligent discussion of various forms of warfare written in an engaging and accessibl;e academic style (so no... it's not populist). I cannot recommend this book highly enough, it's a must for most students of warfare.
HOWEVER, Keegan, by trying to be accesible relies enormously on secondary texts which are often swiftly dealt with in passing. For serious academics this might be dissapointing but I am sure that the comments he makes on secondary sources are valid and insightful.
So it's a superb book but experts might find it a little light.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Emperor on 7 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
Even though I didn't always agree with him I found this book to be fascinating.
It give a great rundown of warfare through history and he also studies how it stands alone as warfare for its own stake and also how it integrates into the rest of human life.

I think that possibly he exaggerates his disagreements with the work of Clausewitz but as he is such a great writer this book is always interesting and a pleasure to read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Spider Monkey HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Dec. 2007
Format: Paperback
This is an interesting look at warfare throughout human history. It looks at the various developments from primitive ritualised warfare, the use of horses and chariots, the growth of iron weapons, the building and development of forts and the discovery and implementation of gunpowder and more besides. It is fascinating to read, but fairly dry in places (hence the 4 stars). It takes some perseverance, but the dividends from sticking with it are worth the extra work. Overall a good read with some interesting information to give you a deeper insight into human society and the development of warfare.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By T. P. Ang on 19 May 2006
Format: Paperback
Few books in the market provide a better general overview of the history of warfare since the dawn of war-making. In this ambitious piece of work, Keegan ranges effortlessly across epochs and continents to tell the story of more than four millennia of world history. If all this sounds a little daunting, the book is written in an accessible style that constantly engages the reader and ensures that you'd probably not need to go over a paragraph twice.

One of the great strengths of the book is its thematic layout. What might have been a long and humdrum narrative is enlivened by intelligent chapter divisions that deal with the different `ages' in warfare according to specific themes. This breaks the account into more manageable portions. The overall structure and coherence of the narrative is always preserved.

Keegan offers something more for the informed reader through the inroads he makes into military philosophy. Notably, he highlights the limitations of Clausewitz's `war is merely a continuation of politics' by demonstrating the intimate connections between war-making and culture.

This book is a must-read for any military history enthusiast, or anyone else interested in a first taste of this genre.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Bugs on 1 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is simply excellent. The narrative is well-written, never stuffy and pitched for a level above beginner. Keegan places the development of armies, arms, materials and transport in various sections. This makes for easy reading, learning and entertainment. I find this combination unusual in books about war. At almost every page I wanted to know more about the history of the particular tribe, nation, war or armaments being described. I like his personal slant; though he does give fair credit to other views. Recommended.
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