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Decisive Battles: Over 20 Key Naval and Military Encounters from 479 BC to the Present [Hardcover]

John Colvin

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Book Description

27 May 2003
Military historian John Colvin examines the battles throughout the centuries that can be said to be "decisive", in that they affected not just immediate events but also the final outcome of a war and even beyond. From Salamis in 479 BC, when Themistocles' Athenians defeated the Persians led by Xerxes, through Hastings, Saratoga and Trafalgar to the major conflicts of the 20th century, Colvin assesses the wider implications of each victory, or defeat, giving it its proper place in the context of human history. The Battle of Britain, for example, was not only a turning-point in World War II, but also prevented the invasion of Britain and German hegemony in Europe.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Book Publishing; UNKNOWN edition (27 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755310705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755310708
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.8 x 3.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,937,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Colvin has a gift for direct prose and factual compression' -- Sunday Telegraph --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

John Colvin is a former naval officer who later joined the Diplomatic Service and then became a banker with Chase Manhattan and Robert Fraser. His published works include several books as well as articles and reviews.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Is this the worst work of military history ever written? 30 Oct 2006
By Harry Eagar - Published on
The concept of 'decisive battles' is delusory to begin. Especially in recent times, outcomes are usually decided long before the battle, when the political decision to resort to war is taken. For example, although John Colvin thinks the decisive battle of the Pacific War was America's victory at Midway, the really decisive one was America's defeat at Pearl Harbor. Once Japan forced war, the outcome was never in doubt.

Nevertheless, ever since John Creasy in the mid-19th century, listing decisive battles has been a good way to sell books. Colvin's effort is at the bottom of this unimpressive list.

To begin with, the writing is atrocious, barely qualifying as English. Sentences and half-sentences wander around looking for the coherent paragraphs they might possibly belong to, like tourists lost in a subway looking for the right train.

Irrelevant factoids are dropped in. For example, Colvin tells us James Wolfe was paid 14 pounds per week during the siege of Quebec.

You might suppose that the factoids would at least be about decisive battles, but that would be wrong. The chapter on the Siege of Vienna has more about Polish King Jan III Sobieskis' harridan wife than it does about the siege of Vienna.

Is this the worst work of military history ever written? Probably not. It's a field that attracts cranks and incompetents. But Colvin's 'Decisive Battles' might make the bottom 10.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Where are the Maps? 13 Feb 2009
By Steven Dierks - Published on
I found the writing a bit better than another reviewer, although I still felt the text was a little thin. If you're looking for a book that gives a quick overview of these battles, then it's not bad. The one big complaint I have is that there are NO maps! Not one. How can you give me a sense of the historical importance of a battle with no maps.
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