Customer Reviews


22 Reviews
5 star:
 (13)
4 star:
 (1)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (5)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely Ambitious
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...
Published on 13 Jan 2011 by Historyline

versus
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but fundamentally flawed.
This book is not a history of warfare at all, but a political-military treatise, heavily biased to a single point of view. However, it is an interesting read and also thought-provoking - so I gave it 2-stars.

Keegan makes a range of claims in this book which are fundamentally incorrect. Three such lines of argument are discussed below, but there are many...
Published on 7 Aug 2008 by Ron Labbatt


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hugely Ambitious, 13 Jan 2011
This review is from: A History Of Warfare (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, wide-ranging and thought provoking, 18 Aug 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: A History Of Warfare (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sustained brilliance, 7 Dec 2010
This review is from: A History Of Warfare (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious in scope, engaging in style, 19 May 2006
By 
T. P. Ang (Singapore) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A History Of Warfare (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A History of Warfare, 15 Dec 2007
By 
Spider Monkey (UK) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A History Of Warfare (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but fundamentally flawed., 7 Aug 2008
This review is from: A History Of Warfare (Paperback)
This book is not a history of warfare at all, but a political-military treatise, heavily biased to a single point of view. However, it is an interesting read and also thought-provoking - so I gave it 2-stars.

Keegan makes a range of claims in this book which are fundamentally incorrect. Three such lines of argument are discussed below, but there are many others and I wonder if Keegan has even misinterpreted some of the 'facts' he suggests about tribal warfare in South America.

1. He claims that there is no Clausewitzian way of interpreting, or applying, nuclear force. Nuclear force is applied to give weight to political and military bargaining. The threat of use provides its power. In the case of the Cold War, the East-West military balance in Germany was primarily ensured through the West's nuclear armament offsetting the East's conventional armament. The lack of use of a weapon does not make it irrelevant.

2. He over-simplifies the role of the castle. He contends that the use of gunpowder made the castle obsolete. This is again incorrect. The castle approach may be no substitute for mobility, but the principle has been applied widely (if poorly), even in the 20th Century. Further, his claim that it was impossible to take a castle prior to the arrival of the cannon is also flawed - as history shows a range of methods which were applied successfully (such as at the successful seige of the 'impenetrable' Rochester castle in 1215).

3. He denegrates the role of citizen armies. This flies in the face of 20th Century and 21st Century history and is, quite frankly, dangerous. The proof of history is that citizen armies are vastly more trustworthy and loyal to their homeland than their alternatives.

This book is very anti-Clausewitz, which is not helpful at all. I suspect that it was Keegan's intention to make an impact by attacking a giant of the genre. This is rather like the Clausewitz vs. Sun Tzu debate - which I also find counter-productive.

A true premier work on this subject would be one which could take existing theories and meld them into something new. This book neither attempts nor succeeds in doing any such thing. One for the vaults...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A readable history of warfare!, 1 Sep 2006
By 
This review is from: A History Of Warfare (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Very Readable History, 25 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A History Of Warfare (Kindle Edition)
The author has combined detailed knowledge of his subject with readability. Well worth reading. A clear insight into why and how mankind has developed warfare.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive academic text that should interest anybody, 4 Feb 2000
By 
H. Callaghan "Alice in Wonderland" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A History Of Warfare (Paperback)
Extremely literate, well-constructed consideration of the history of warfare, which advances the argument that contrary to von Clausewitz's mis-quote, "War is the continuation of policy by other means", that war is actually culturally determined, often irrational, and the subsuming of it as an almost legal means of the advancement of global policy is not only undesirable but potentially terrifying.
Also fascinating were the insights into Oriental idioms of warfare, the role of technology in battle, and the consideration of the anthropology of war amongst so-called "primitive" peoples. Keegan speaks about "primitive" war without really examining the ideology behind calling the peoples involved "primitive", which is probably my single quibble.
In all respects, however, the scholarship has the vast breadth that a history of world warfare requires and the style is readable while being eminently authoritative.
I think any thoughtful person would find this book interesting.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weak on Mesopotamia, 12 Jan 2010
This review is from: A History Of Warfare (Paperback)
He's very good on the technical side. I'm grateful to learn so much about fortifications, horses, chariots, armor and the like. But he is quite confused and slipshod about the one subject I know in some detail, Mesopotamian history, and this makes me wonder about the accuracy of his statements concerning other periods.

His worst mistake is ignoring, or being ignorant of, the entire Ur III Empire period, and the subsequent Isin-Larsa period, to which we owe what has survived of Sumerian records. There is a gap of 6 to 8 centuries in his account. He conflates the penetration into Mesopotamia of the Guti, around 2300 BCE, with the invasion of the Kassites, in the 1500's BCE. The former was a gradual incursion, which destabilized and eventually disintegrated the late Akkadian Empire. The Guti did not win any known pitched battles, but moved here and there and were chiefly interested in cattle-raiding. The Kassites poured into the gap left by the Hittite razzia of c. 1595 BCE when Mursilis II sacked Babylon and then hurried home to Asia Minor to squash a palace rebellion. The Kassites easily conquered the prostrate Amorites thereafter. The author thinks that Hammurabi founded the Amorite dynasty, whereas he was really a later figure in it. He also thinks that Hammurabi's chief difficulties were dealing with the Gutians and Elamites. We have already seen how far off he was with the former, whereas the latter sacked Ur around 2000 BCE, ending the UR III Empire. Hammurabi's chief problem was rivalry with Rim-Sin, the king of Larsa in southern Mesopotamia.

He also says that the Hurrians spoke an Indo-European tongue. Apparently he is ignorant of the symbiotic relationship that existed between the Hurrians, whose royal house and common people spoke an Asianic (that is, unknown) language, and their mounted military aristocracy the Mitanni, who spoke an Indo-European tongue akin to Sanskrit.

He lays too much emphasis on the effectiveness of chariots in riverine lands like Mesopotamia and Egypt, which were criss-crossed with numerous canals and therefore not amenable to wheeled traffic. Invaders would have had to operate either from horseback or on boats.

A remark on p. 136 is probably a typo, but it is a serious one. He states that chariots came into their own as field weapons at the end of the 2nd millenium. By then chariots were becoming obsolete; he obviously meant to write 'at the end of the 3rd millenium.'

There are numerous other more minor errors, but those listed give me grave misgivings over his accuracy in fields of which I am partially or wholly ignorant.

Sources:

Ancient Mesopotamia, Portrait of a Dead Civilization, by A. Leo Oppenheim.
Ancient Iraq, by Georges Roux.
The Sumerians, by Samuel Noah Kramer.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 3 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

A History Of Warfare
A History Of Warfare by John Keegan
£5.03
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews