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Publisher's Summary

Starting with the premise that all civilizations owe their origins to warmaking, Keegan probes the meanings, motivations, and methods underlying war in different societies over the course of more than two thousand years. Following the progress of human aggression in its full historical sweep, from the strangely ritualistic combat of Stone Age peoples to the warfare of mass destruction in the present age, his illuminating and lively narrative gives us all the world's great warrior cultures, including the Zulus, the samurai, and the horse peoples of the steppe, as well as the famed warmakers of the West. He shows why honor has always been accorded to the soldierly virtues, whatever the cultural context, and how war has maintained its singular hold on the imagination, reaching into "the most secret places of the human heart, places where self dissolves rational purpose, where pride reigns, where emotion is paramount, where instinct is king".
©1993 John Keegan (P)1994 Blackstone Audiobooks
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Critic Reviews

"A work of massive which the resources of anthropology, ethnology, psychology, and history are drawn on in comprehensive but succinct synthesis to create what is perhaps the most remarkable study of warfare that has yet been written." (New York Times Book Review)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Dan on 11-07-05

Complete, Informative, and Insightful

This book was written and is narrated well. Be prepared to learn everything from how a composite bow is made to how long cannons ruled the battlefield after the discovery of gunpowder.

However, this book is more than an explanaition of facts, and seeks to discuss the reasons behind historical warfare. The author has strong opinions on the motivations of armies and nations at war, and on the definition of war itself.

I reccomend A History of Warfare to anyone wishing to learn how warfare has grown over the centuries into what it is today and to anyone interested in the motives and situations that brought about many of the world-changing conflicts experienced throughout our history.

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15 of 15 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Mark on 12-05-06

Not what I expected

I have mixed feelings about this book because its not a history of warfare as I expected it to be. First off, its not well structured. It meanders all over the place, challenging Clauswitz's notion that war is an extension of policy, delving into a history of the world in general (trashing various anthropologists along the way), and finally, after spending too much time on the ritualized warfare of primitive peoples, gets into some forms of fighting here and there. What I wanted (and expected) was to understand the evolution of warfare from the standpoint of technology, tactics, operations, and grand strategy. I hoped to walk away from the book with an understanding of how people fought in each era, the factors causing them to fight that way, and perhaps learn a little more about some famous battles along the way. I indeed did learn some of that from this book, and some of his meanderings are interesting, but I really had to wade through a lot of superfluous gibberish to get there. I also have to agree with another reviewer's comment that the book is pretentious. I like Keegan's work, but I have one suggestion for him: focus man.

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21 of 22 people found this review helpful

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