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on 13 January 2011
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.