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The Book of War:
25 Centuries of Great War Writing

by John Keegan

ISBN 0140296557 / 9780140296556 / 0-14-029655-7
Publisher Penguin Books
Language English
Edition Softcover
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Book summary

In this eclectic anthology of war writings, military historian John Keegan (author of The Face of Battle and The Second World War) has collected some of the best that has been thought and said about armed conflict over the course of 25 centuries. Keegan is especially interested in how war has evolved over time; his introduction is a brief history of this development, from the heroic age of individual combat to the horrific "total war" of the 20th century. He begins with a pair of 5th-century-B.C. excerpts from Thucydides and concludes with a British soldier's brief description of combat against Iraqi soldiers in the 1991 Gulf War. In between are selections by Julius Caesar, Davy Crockett, Victor Hugo, George Orwell, and many others. If there is a theme to this book, it may be the clash of cultures: what happens when different military traditions collide, such as when the Romans invaded Britain, the Muslim Turks besieged Malta, or General Custer and the 7th Cavalry faced the Sioux in Montana. He understandably gives only cursory attention to several wars--the U.S. Civil War, Korea, and Vietnam--and lingers a bit on his coverage of the First World War (which Keegan views as a key to interpreting the whole 20th century) and the Second World War. The selections themselves are continually exciting, and rarely predictable. There are even a few poems thrown in for good effect. The Book of War may focus on an awful subject ("The history of all forms of warfare is ... essentially inhumane," writes Keegan), but it is also full of awfully good writing. --John J. Miller [via]