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Acts of War: The Behaviour of Men in Battle (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) [Paperback]

Richard Holmes
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
Price: 10.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description


This ambitious, wide-ranging, exhaustively researched book is a compelling attempt to grasp the very nature of war. It takes us through the soldier's experience in its entirety - from the humiliation of basic training and the intense comradeship of army life, to the terror, isolation and exhaustion of battle. What does it feel like to be in the firing line? How does killing change a man? And what do the extreme conditions of war reveal about a man's basic instincts, his courage or his fear, his urge for self-preservation or self-sacrifice?

Covering several centuries of warfare, and including the personal recollections of veterans from two World Wars, from Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands and the Arab-Israeli conflicts, Richard Holmes gives us a powerful picture of what motivates the soldier and enables him to maintain the struggle in conditions of extreme degradation and danger.

Frequently Bought Together

Acts of War: The Behaviour of Men in Battle (CASSELL MILITARY PAPERBACKS) + On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society + An Intimate History of Killing: Face to Face Killing in Twentieth Century Warfare
Price For All Three: 32.55

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; New Ed edition (2 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0304367001
  • ISBN-13: 978-0304367009
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Holmes was one of Britain's most successful historians and television presenters. Author of the best-selling Tommy, Redcoat and Wellington: The Iron Duke, he has also written and presented television series for the BBC. As well as serving in the TA, he taught military history at Sandhurst and, latterly, as Professor of Military and Security Studies at Cranfield University and the Royal Military College of Science. Richard Holmes died suddenly on 30 April 2011 from pneumonia, aged 65.

Product Description


'... a powerful, thought-provoking picture of how the conditions of war affect a man. His sources are several centuries of warfare and the personal recollections of veterans of conflicts across the world. Holmes presents the results of his ambitious and exhaustive research in a very readable form, carefully balancing fact and emotion, detachment and compassion which adds considerable depth to the wisdom expressed.' (ARMOUR (Nov/Dec '03) )

'Mr Holmes makes a convincing case that the human being remains the central weapon of military conflict, technology notwithstanding. What emerges is a compelling and very human portrait of war.' (THE ECONOMIST (21/2/04) ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The reality of what it is to be a soldier, by Britain's foremost military historian.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling and compassionate book 5 Dec 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An excellently well thought out and impeccibly researched book from Prof Holmes. He deals with the effects of war on the individual from what motivates prople to fight and forms the cclose bonds of soldiers,as well as dealing with their feelings on and after battle.It is a very revealing book and one that certainly stands up to re-reading and is as relevant (if not more so if considering Prof Holmes conclusions and updated intorduction) in late 2005 as it was when written in 1983. Excellent
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A 'War Walk' through familiar ground? 23 Dec 2009
You may well have seen Richard Holmes presenting a history programme on TV, and his urbane, measured, somewhat earnest style is on display here again in an attempt to capture "the soldier's experience" from training to battle and on into what sustains morale or causes it to collapse. The book is arranged around ten chapters covering these different themes (among others) and the style is general introduction, followed by more specific points backed up by quotes or examples from memoirs or survey questionnaires. But is it any good?

At its best it is very interesting, notably when it is uncovering things not reported in official histories or in most memoirs. The statistics on desertion or how many men admitted to losing control of their bladders or bowels in acute stress was new to me but too much was familiar. Yet despite being generally very easy reading I also found it unsatisfying.

Why? In part, while Holmes communicates clearly, the message isn't always memorable. Each chapter is probably written around 7-8 themes or issues if I think hard about it but these are not clearly drawn out (e.g. by giving each a section heading). Holmes doesn't volunteer any hypotheses to be tested or advance a different line of argument, nor does any section reach any striking conclusions.

This makes for an undemanding read but this narrative style, the tendency to take an example and draw a generalisation from it, starts to come unstuck as the examples begin to contradict each other.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Library must have. 3 Aug 2010
Richard Holmes has done it again, another fascinating and absorbing read from start to finish. This was one of those books you devour in a couple of sittings (much to the chagrin of my unhappy wife and children as I zone out completely) and immerse yourself in varied and amazing anecdotes. More more more.
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