A History of Warfare

John Keegan, undoubtedly our most accomplished and gifted military historian, redefined the discipline with his earlier book, THE FACE OF BATTLE (1976), which an acute reviewer described as “more profound and moving than analysis...a meditation on violence.” Since then, in successive volumes such as THE PRICE OF ADMIRALTY (1988) and THE SECOND WORLD WAR (1990), Keegan has reconfirmed his stature as an original and stimulating thinker who has taken a difficult and often unpleasant subject and made it yield new and valuable insights into human belief and behavior.

A HISTORY OF WARFARE is Keegan’s latest, most comprehensive study of the organized violence known, under its various guises and incarnations, as warfare. Rather than resorting to the conventional chronological approach, Keegan employs a thematic plan which allows him to range freely over history. This approach allows him to highlight contrasts—for example, between the harass-and-destroy tactics of the steppe horsemen and the all-or-nothing charge of medieval knights— as well as continuities; he notes that the sustained marching pace of soldiery remains twenty miles per day, whether the troops in question are from a Roman legion in 14 B.C. or a German army unit in A.D. 1914. Keegan draws from these isolated facts their larger meanings and presents them in clear, uncluttered prose, with insights that go far beyond the conventions of military history.

Keegan’s greatest gift is...

(The entire section is 402 words.)