By the Sword: Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai Warriors, Swashbucklers and Olympians Paperback – 4 Mar 2010
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'Carefully researched and written with sense and wit . . . it's not often you come across a man equally at home with both sword and pen' --Sunday Telegraph
'An endlessly engrossing history of the sword and those who wielded it . . . Cohen's pen is equally as mighty as his sword'
--Independent on Sunday
From the Inside Flap
"By the Sword is an epic history of sword fighting--a science, an art, and, for many, a religion that began at the dawn of civilization in ancient Egypt and has been an obsession for mankind ever since. With wit and insight, Richard Cohen gives us an engrossing history of the world via the sword. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
As such, the main goal is the concept of one-on-one combat, first as duels, then, progressively, as a sport.
While the book devotes some pages to swords in general, their military use, and their role in other cultures (like Japan) the majority of the text is devoted to the west and to non-military uses of the sword (including staged fights for movies and theatrical plays).
What the book excels at is a vivid portrait of fencing, with hundreds of historical figures, episodes and little-known facts. As such it is pretty entertaining even for people (like me) who know little or nothing about fencing.
On the other hand, I feel that after having read it I have absorbed a lot of trivia on the subject, but I still feel pretty ignorant about fencing. The author often uses technical terms (tierce, fleche...) which I am unable to visualize in my mind, and this somehow diminishes the experience: lots of the fights described in the text would probably be more striking if I were able to understand what happened.
In a sense, is like reading an history of chess, including the various quirks of famous historical masters, without actually know anything about the game itself.
Perhaps what I wanted is too difficult to express on paper, or would have required too much dry pages with drawings and pictures. The book is still pretty accessible to the layman, and is fun to read, anyway, and I understand why the author prefers to go for the historical episodes and short portraits of famous fencers instead of drab technical pictures.
Somebody wrote recently in the Times that fencing is the new rock and roll. Its comeback in the film business, and particularly the work of Bob Anderson on -- among others -- the Lord of the Rings and others gets due treatment in this book.
Whether you are a fencer, or a former fencer, or a lover of interesting stories and interesting characters, this is a book to linger over long winters evenings or bright spring mornings.
Being a sport fencer since the age of 13 myself, I share Mr Cohen's lifelong love of the sport. I have taken part in international fencing (epée though) and have met (and fenced) many of the persons mentioned in the text. My own fencing master, Bela Rerrich, is being mentioned (p. 403) as well as my ideal as a fencer and boyhood hero Hans Jacobsson. I also have a strong interest in general history as well as fencing history. Of course my background and my insight into fencing gives me another perspective than that of an ordinary reader when I review the book.
My first impression is that Mr Cohen has tried to cover everything about fencing. Such an ambition of course means that the author has to handle parts of the subject where he is not an expert. It also takes its toll of the reader. Sometimes I think the text loses focus and find myself turning a few pages ahead, to see when the chapter ends and what comes next. It is as if Mr Cohen is too much in love with the subject to let go of any part of it. Even though himself a publishing director, I think he would have benefited from the eyes of a critical editor who could have cut down the total text with at least one fourth.
The weakest parts are in the beginning of the book where the history of fencing is described. As example: one, in the history fencing, very important incident is the duel called the "Coup de Jarnac" in 1547, after which French kings never again granted duellists a field for fighting a duel and thus forced duelling to be an all illegal act. This also of course had implications on fencing and how it was being regarded.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent. The most comprehensive book on fencing I have come across.Published 18 months ago by Mary Burton
It's a great book to read especially on the history of fencing. It can be referred for fencers either beginners or professionals of the details of origin for fencing. Read morePublished on 13 Dec. 2013 by L'homme du Arma
I picked this up as a fencer of mid-level ability, and reading it has doubled my enthusiasm for the sport. Read morePublished on 25 May 2012 by Hideo
I was bought this book some years ago and have only just picked it up (I'm an avid book acquirer, but don't read as much as I would like!). Read morePublished on 31 Dec. 2010 by Mark
As a huge fan of fantasy I've always been fascinated with the whole sword play angle, be it the old fashioned hack and slash or the more refined duelling. Read morePublished on 30 July 2010 by Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog
The author clearly knows nothing of the history of western martial arts beyond his own specific and limited field which is predominantly sports and stage orientated. Read morePublished on 15 Mar. 2010 by Mr. P. B. Saddington
This is a perfect book for people interested in miscellaneous trivia on sports, history / cultural history, anecdotes on fascinating people and happenings you never heard about. Read morePublished on 5 May 2007 by Elina H.
This book is proberly one of the best i have read on the history of the sword and fencing in general. Each section is carefully wrighten and the hole book is very hard to put down! Read morePublished on 8 Jan. 2004 by Amazon Customer