An interesting and insightful exploration of four historic military leaders and what they teach us about command. Keegan brings great insight and scholarship to his work while making it accessible, always a difficult balance. The parallels between these men are as interesting as their individual stories. Worth reading for any fan of military history.
This book is designed to be a companion to John Keegan's earlier work "The Face of Battle", which focused on the experience of ordinary soldiers in a variety of battles. I think it's probably superior to the earlier work. Keegan examines the careers of Alexander the Great, Wellington, Ulysses Grant and Hitler, examining their relationship to their troops, attitude to danger etc. This is mostly very interesting (though the Wellington section is weaker than the others). Keegan then links the elements of command to the political leaders of today, who hold far more destructive power than the subjects of the work could have dreamed of, and talks the grave dangers of "heroic" leadership. This is a very good read and a useful introduction to these four remarkable generals.
John Keegan has such a great writing style that all of his books are fascinating even if you don't agree with some of his opinions. There is plenty of great analysis of specific leaders and leadership in general and he also makes some interesting speculations about the future of military leadership. I thought that there was maybe a slight bit of hero worship towards Wellington and Grant but that is probably just my opinion.
Practically anything by Keegan is worth the money, but this is one of his best - just behind "The Face of Battle" and "A History of Warfare" (both 5 stars), and ahead of "The Price of Admiralty". If you want an intelligent analysis of leadership, not just hero-worship of "the great man" or an attempt to tear down traditional idols, this is it. Alexander, Wellington, Grant and Hitler are the author's models of heroic, anti-heroic, unheroic and false heroic leadership, and he argues convincingly for war leadership (and all warfare) as a cultural activity.
I was fortunate to have heard Dr.Keegan speak once and talk to him for several hours afterwards.What a professor of history he was.Sadly the world lost him just recently,but you did not loss him as his books are still here.This book deals with the mind of having to lead in the strategic sense more over the tactic sense like say 'Band of Brothers' Major Winter's.