T.M. in Arkansas Book Review: A History of Warfare

A History of Warfare © 1993 by John Keegan
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
ISBN: 0-394-58801-0           
Available in paperback and eBook
The copy I read is the first edition hardback.
There are 64 photos and illustrations, a lengthy bibliography, 18 pages of notes, and a nicely done index.
Recommended for both male and female high school students, and older.

A History of Warfare was first published ten years ago, but has no expiration date as shown by now being available on your eBook reader. It is indeed timeless. The author gave us two dozen books in his career before his death in August 2012. He was the senior lecturer in military history during his tenure at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He also held a visiting professorship at Princeton University and was the Delmas Distinguished Professor of History at Vassar College.

In this book, the author uses five chapters and 389 pages of manuscript to ask and answer the question: What is War? Contrary to popular opinion, war is not the continuation of politics by violent means. This book explains why violence, or war, is employed to settle disagreements or to satisfy the urge to build an empire.

The chapters include the limitations of waging war, fortifications, logistics, fire, and the creation of armies since early mankind. We follow the evolution of weapons, tactics, and strategies through thousands of years. We read how different societies conduct warfare in unique ways, but all societies honor their soldiers. As we grow more adept at killing, the importance of harnessing our capacity for violence must grow at a faster pace if we are all to survive. We are a violent species and the better we understand that fact, the better all of us will be.

This book will cause the reader to stop and ponder present day events in light of what our ancestors did. It is mandatory reading for any serious student of history of any genre. I recommend this book for your permanent library.

JWR Adds: I’ve also enjoyed reading Keegan’s books. He also co-authored a book titled Zones of Conflict: An Atlas of Future Warsthat did a good job of articulating the Geographical Determinist school of history, which I ascribe to.

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