a common reader

a history of warfare

· 13 March 1997 |  by Janantoon
· Published in: English texts · geschiedenis
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Author of the acclaimed The Face of Battle and The First World War, John Keegan is one of the most distinguished military historians. In this masterful work, he offers a sweeping view of the place of warfare in human culture and a brilliant exposition of the human impulse toward violence.
Starting with the premise that all civilizations owe their origins to war-making, 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 people 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 people of the steppe, as well as the famed war-makers of the West.
He shows why honour 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.”
Keegan also demonstrates how particular cultures give rise to their own styles of war-making, and he focuses his analysis on the great changes in military technology – the discoveries of bronze and iron, the taming of the horse for the chariot and for riding, the introduction of gunpowder and, in the twentieth century, the mobilization of science and industry, culminating in the development of the atomic bomb. At the same time, he shows us that progress has taken two directions: as man’s powers of destruction have grown, so has the awareness that survival ultimately depends on taming his enormous and enduring capacity for violence.
A History of Warfare is based on the author’s thirty years of researching, teaching about and commenting on military affairs. It also draws upon a lifetime of exploring many of the world’s major battlefields, as well as friendships with soldiers of many different armies. It is John Keegan’s masterpiece, destined to become a classic work on one of the most troubling subjects in human experience.
This book gave me a good understanding of how warfare came to be as it is today. More so, it gave a complete new insight to the history of mankind.

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