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.
on 2 September 2003
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.