Aug 25 2009

A History of Warfare by John Keegan

This is Keegan’s best work. In most of his works he analyzes the science of warfare; in this book he also analyzes the psychology and culture of warfare. He takes exception from the beginning with Clausewitz’s dictum that war is politics by other means, and shows with ample evidence from history that war often is destructive of the political orders that it is supposed to preserve. The scope of his survey of warfare is impressive, ranging from prehistoric primitive warfare to the nuclear age. He is clearly an admirer of the warrior class and the warrior ethic, but he is no idealist or romantic when it comes to war, and he ends the book with the hope that man’s warmaking days will soon be over. Alas, I do not share his optimism, but I do share his love of good historical writing, of which this book is a shining example.

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