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Moment of Battle Hardcover – 14 May 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 492 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press (14 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034552697X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345526977
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.2 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,058,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A MAIN SELECTION OF THE HISTORY BOOK CLUB AND THE MILITARY BOOK CLUB "Two world-class historians present, eloquently and persuasively, twenty battles that fundamentally changed the course of history. "Moment of Battle" is a "must "acquisition for anyone seeking to understand the nature of human development--and its turning points."--Dennis E. Showalter, professor of history, Colorado College, author of "Armor and Blood"" " "In a single volume, James Lacey and Williamson Murray have distilled a lifetime of learning and insight into the most influential battles in world history. This is a readable and compelling primer and a feast for the student of military history."--James D. Hornfischer, author of "Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal" ""Moment of Battle" is an exciting account of important battles in history from Marathon in 490 B.C. to Baghdad in 2003. Its authors are excellent military historians with personal experience in modern warfare and a command of the character of warfare throughout the ages. They write in clear and lively prose in a way that will capture the reader's interest even as they communicate their own learning and excitement with the subject."--Donald Kagan, Sterling Professor of Classics and History, Yale University "Lacey and Murray have performed a signal service by reminding readers of the transcendent importance of major battles in shaping history. Readers can disagree with some of their selections, but that is part of the fun of a work like this: It makes you think even as it entertains and informs. This is an invaluable primer on military history."--Max Boot, author of "Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present"" " "The world's greatest battles are common book themes; but Lacey and Murray offer two twists to the well-known genre. First, they focus on mostly unappreciated encounters such as Yarmuk, Vicksburg, Kursk, and Dien Bien Phu. Second, their accounts are not mere strategy and tactics, but human stories of the soldiers that won and lost these horrific battles. The result is a riveting human story about how 2,500 years of history were changed by a few remarkable individuals."--Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution, author of "Carnage and Culture" and "The Savior Generals" ""Moment of Battle" is a more than worthy successor to Sir Edward Creasey's classic, "The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World." It has extraordinary value because it accomplishes three things unusually well: It has a necessarily largely tactical (and operational) organizing idea and focus that is executed superbly; it is written with a strategic sense that is ever alert to the vital strategist's question 'So what?'; and it is accessibly written. It is a really good read."--Professor Colin S. Gray, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Reading "From Marathon to the Iraq War, "Moment of Battle" offers an unflinching account of the reality of conflicts that have shaped human history. Its wise and crisp chapters make ancient history fresh and put current events in perspective. This is a book for every student of military history to read and learn from."--Barry Strauss, author of "Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership" "At last, two eminent military historians have explained how the world's most critical battles affected the course of civilization. "Moment of Battle" is a fresh, lively, and remarkable explanation about how the power of armies has shaped history."--Bing West, co-author of "Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War"" " "Undeniably successful . . . Literate narratives and balanced conclusions should attract a deservedly large readership."--"Booklist" "Will open interesting doors for casual readers and provide plenty of debate fodder for military-history buffs."--"Kirkus Reviews"" " "Engaging, well written, and thoroughly researched, this book will appeal to amateur and professional historians alike."--"Publishers Weekly"

About the Author

James Lacey is the author most recently of "The First Clash, " about the battle of Marathon, and is a widely published defense analyst who has written for "Time, National Review, Foreign Affairs, " and other publications. He currently teaches at the Marine Corps War College and Georgetown University. Williamson Murray is the author of a wide selection of articles and books, including, with Allan R. Millett, the acclaimed "A War to Be Won, " an operational history of World War II, and has held numerous distinguished academic chairs. He is presently a defense analyst at the Potomac Institute and teaches at the Naval War College.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Although I am by no means a military historian nor even as well-read in history as so many others are, I remain keenly interested in the great battles and the great leaders engaged in them. You can thus appreciate my excitement when working my way through James Lacey and Williamson Murray's lively as well as erudite narrative as they examine twenty battles that "changed the flow of history in profoundly fundamental ways that still echo through out world." I agree with them that "wars and battles have had a direct and massive impact on the course of history, one that is essential to understanding the world in which we live."

As they explain, "As with much of history that attempts to ask the larger questions, our choices of those battles that we believe have been decisive are idiosyncratic...In the end, the battles that we have discussed in this volume were wretched, miserable, and bloody affairs even for those on the victorious side. But what narks them as special, we believe, is the fact that they changed the flow of history in profoundly fundamental ways that still echo through pour world."

Of the twenty, I found these of greatest interest and significance: Hastings (1066), Trafalgar (1805), Vicksburg (1863), the Battle of Britain (1940), and Dien Bien Phu (1954). Of the dozens of passages that caught my eye, I now provide brief excerpts that suggest the thrust and flavor of Lacey and Murray's style:

o After the Battle of Hastings, "Saxon England was gone. In its place, a new country and people were forged, as Norman England slowly became just England. There is little doubt that the change had a profound effect on the future of Europe and world...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 86 reviews
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By Historian - Published on
Format: Hardcover
TO ALL REVIEWERS -- Thank you very much for your comments. I am very pleased that the overwhelming number of you appear to have really enjoyed the book. I am even more pleased that the almost everyone who gave MOMENT OF BATTLE less than four stars did so because of quibbles over our selection of battles, or over maps. That means that almost everyone enjoyed our writing and stories we told. --- This is very pleasing to both of us.

When we sat down to write this book my co-author and I discussed - with a minimum of threats and violence upon one another - one or two hundred battles before selecting the 20 we included. From the start we knew we would get beat up over our choices... there is just no way to make everyone happy. If we had done 50 battles, I am sure that we would have included all the ones our reviewers say we missed (maybe not Manzikert). Moreover, if we ever do a second volume, I think we will draw most of our selections from the Amazon reviews of Moment of Battle. We did actually consider making a list of 100 battles at the end, with a short explanation of why each did not make our final selection list. In retrospect, we should have done that.

Why no Asian, African, or South American Battles? For a number of reasons. For one, both authors are experts in Western military history, and was there is a natural tendency to play to our strengths. Next, we go into great depth describing historical backgrounds, as well as the battles themselves. The historical material necessary to do the same for many non-Western battles does not, unfortunately, exist in anything near the volume available to those researching Western battles. Moreover, this is a commercial publication... not an academic book (though we stand by our scholarship in each chapter), as such it is always wise to select battles that English speaking readers have an interest in.

As for maps. We both talk to a lot of persons who publish military history books, and the map issue upsets us all. For, we all love maps... richly detailed maps... for every phase of a fight. It really is impossible to have too many maps. Unfortunately, in almost all circumstances, maps are commissioned and paid for by the author. My co-author and I paid many thousands of dollars out of pocket for the almost two dozen maps in the book (authors pay for picture/photo rights also... many thousands more dollars). So, if all of you will just buy 50 or more copies of this book, and then hand them out as Christmas presents, we promise to commission more maps for our next book. In the meantime, given a choice between food, mortgages, and more maps... we were forced to opt for postponing starvation.

In closing... we really are grateful for the reviews posted here. We could not be happier that so many of you enjoyed the book. It helps us as we begin our next work - GODS OF WAR: WHEN GREAT CAPTAINS CLASH - we are sure that our selection of great captains will disappoint a few folks... but it is going to be a rousing read.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Popcorn for Newcomers to Military History 15 April 2013
By Severian - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
No one really reads Creasey any more, but a need remains for newcomers to military history to have a good starting point that can set them on the road to learning about various periods and conflicts. Moment of Battle (hereafter MOB) is a good replacement for Creasey, at least for newcomers or single period specialists just branching out (e.g. you like WW2 and want to start to read about other eras). More experienced military lit buffs will find little new here, which is a mild disappointment given Murray's name on the cover. I loved "A War to Be Won" and expected the same "intermediate level" approach here, but the subject and / or the different co-author keeps things a bit more basic.

As can be predicted, some of the choices of battles are cliched. Midway, Normandy, Marathon, ho-hum. If you've ever read anything about these battles, you will find little new here. As might also be predicted, there are a few odd choices that fans of the various conflicts might disagree with: Vicksburg rather than Gettysburg, Trafalgar rather than Waterloo, Kursk rather than Stalingrad or Moscow. The authors do not make much of an effort to justify why one battle rather than another was selected, so its kind of take it or leave it as far as selection rationale goes. There are some inexplicable exclusions (Lepanto) and at least one inexplicable inclusion: "Operation Peach" in the Second Gulf (Iraq) War which seems to be in here solely because one of the authors fought in it. The Peach chapter goes on about how the Iraq War was probably significant one way or the other, triumph or failure, and then goes right into detail with no further analysis. With no disrespect at all intended for the brave soliders who fought in the Iraq conflict, I think it is far too premature to call the war or any battle in it the equivalent of a "clash that changed the world".

Some of the work herein is sloppy. Three battles lack maps, a big no-no. At least two other maps are abstract to the point of silliness (Adrianople and, inexcusably, Kursk). If the primary sources for the battle are limited, we get the same old same old (Marathon, Teutoberg Forest). And if the primary sources for the battle contain nonsensical folktales (Yarmuk), then these are trotted out as fact, with angry Muslim women first intimidating their menfolk into returning to battle and then facing down Byzantine troops themselves. Call me a skeptic, but I think this was just as likely to have happened as the angels at Mons... To call Yarmuk significant is fine, but just admit the historical sources are limited and discuss comparative Muslim / Byzantine tactics and strategy rather than bringing out the tall tales.

Some of the analysis is also a bit fast and loose. If the Romans had won in the Teutoborg Forest, would the 20th Century World Wars have really been averted? (As later Roman history itself shows, Latin cultures do not necessarily get on well with each other...) Would Napoleon or Hitler really have been able to invade England if Trafalgar or the Battle of Britain panned out differently? It seems sometimes that the writers are striving for drama as opposed to probity.

There also appear to be a few scholarly lapses. We have the "thoughts of the great general" trend mocked by Keegan in Face of Battle "Alexander must have thought xyz as he gazed out at the ranks of his cavalry". This isn't a Jeff Shaara novel, guys. We also have a denunciation of intellectual historians who minimize the destruction caused by Germanic raiders in the Roman Empire in the Adrianople chapter; it would be interesting to have a cite as to who these callous eggheads were / are, and it would also be interesting to hear some historical evidence rebutting their views. Instead, in the section notes, we get neither! We also have some odd colloquialisms like "The forces arrived higgledy piggledy" in the text.

These seem like a lot of criticisms, but it can also be seen that these critiques are from a military history fan perspective. If you are new to the field, or are branching out, this is a fun read and the faults are less obvious and meaningful. Grognards can always get this book by Paul Davis which has a greater number and variety of battles in it: 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present and / or Hanson's meatier more ideological "Carnage and Culture" if they want some controversy in their great battle reading. If you are a relative newbie to the field, this is a good survey with decent intros to many great campaigns that gives you at least some idea as to what conflict in varying periods felt like. I would call this a three and a half star book, which I am rounding up due to the nice added campaign histories for many of the battles that give the novice a goodly amount of extra historical perspective.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Superb Update to Creasy 13 Jun. 2013
By James V. Di Crocco III - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an outstanding work by two renowned military historians that updates Creasy's 19th century classic, "The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World." Each of the battles described and dissected are well chosen and set in proper context. This work is highly recommended and should find a prominent place on the bookshelves of all military officers.
21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Not bad, but there are better books out there 6 May 2013
By Aaron C. Brown - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ever since Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy published The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World in 1851 amateur historians and professional military men have produced their own versions. The best of the lot, in my opinion, is Fletcher Pratt's The Battles that Changed History but there are other strong entries. Unlike almost all the rest, Paul Davis' 100 Decisive Battles goes outside the ancient Greece-Roman Empire-Medieval Europe-Modern Europe lineage to consider important historical events in other eras and cultures, but the coverage is shallow. Jeremy Black's The Seventy Great Battles in History has marvelous illustrations and professional history, but a bare minimum of military description. 50 Battles That Changed the World by William Weir is the best-written and most entertaining, emphasizing the viewpoint of battle participants, but is weak on scholarship. So depending on your interest: history, military affairs, people, entertainment, you have a wealth of choices.

While this book is a respectable effort, clear and accurate, I can't think of a reason someone would prefer it to the available alternatives. Its list of battles is slightly different than others, but I have little patience for arguing about lists. Perhaps any battle, for that matter any event, could change the course of history entirely; or perhaps the tide of technology and culture ebbs and flows regardless of the minor disturbances of the breaking waves that seem so important to humans. I don't think anyone knows, and to the extent there are serious discussions of the subject, you won't find them in capsule military histories. So as long as someone picks a reasonable and representative list, arguing about the selections is like arguing about your favorite color.

It is important that the book pack a variety of information into a short, easy-to-read chapter. We need to know the political stakes and personalities, the historical context, the technological considerations; leading up to the blow-by-blow evolution of the battles; and followed by some informed speculation about the consequences and alternative histories. We need precise description without extraneous jargon. The authors must present clear, simple views without undue bias. This book does all that adequately, and has fewer factual errors than the other books mentioned above.

Unfortunately, it does nothing more. As a military history, the battle descriptions are too short and general, with a single low-resolution map for each battle. The collateral material is conventional and unimaginative. The writing is frequently repetitive and some simple points are explained with tedious thoroughness, as if the authors assume an inattentive or stupid reader. There is a fondness for redundancy, "the last and final," "ruthless, with few scruples," "immediate present" and many others. The phrase "In effect," precedes sentences that are meant entirely literally. While these may be minor stylistic lapses, they detract from the reading pleasure.

If this were the only book of its type, it would merit four stars as a pleasant, easy way to gain a broad overview of important topics in military history. But given the crowded field, I suspect most people will prefer one or another of the alternatives.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent "light" military history for the casual reader or the military history lover who has everything! 20 May 2013
By P. Eisenman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really enjoyed MOMENT OF BATTLE. Eminently readable, it's general enough to appeal to anybody that's even the least bit interested in military history. Covers a time span from the plains of Marathon in 490BC to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

My first thought after starting this book was that it would make a great gift for that hard to buy for history nut! It's not so detailed as to be a tome to casual readers, yet contains enough technical information to keep the interest of more well-read individuals. In short, I'd think it would appeal to just about ANYBODY who likes military history. Being well read myself, I still found enough "new" things to keep me interested technically, while entertaining enough to qualify it as "light" reading.

Well-researched, with numerous notes at the back containing either sources or more details. A map for each battle as well as some photographs make things "come alive." Each chapter also contains a short conclusion by the authors as to WHY they felt these twenty battles changed the course of world history. For the most part, I found their justifications for inclusion in the book to be well thought out and they don't pull any punches. I didn't agree with everything authors Lacey and Murray postulated, but I also didn't find anything that was so outrageous as to be beyond reason! If nothing else, they'll make you reconsider your own analysis of things.

All in all, I'd give a hearty FIVE STARS to MOMENT OF BATTLE. As I said, I found it thought provoking and entertaining. Not at all a ponderous tome, yet still scholarly enough to be considered a serious work of history. So, whether you're a history buff looking for some "light" reading or a casual reader who likes a wide variety of history--military or not--I'm sure you'd enjoy MOMENT OF BATTLE as much as I did.
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