John Keegan marshals a formidable host of war writings to chronicle the evolution of western warfare through the voices of its most eloquent participants. From Thucydides' classic account of ancient Greek phalanx warfare to a blow-by-blow description of ground fighting against the Iraqi troops in Kuwait during the Gulf War, The Book of War presents the face of battle in its various guises over the course of nearly twenty-five centuries.
Keegan (the bestselling The First World War) stands out among contemporary writers of military history for the literary sensibility he brings to the subject. In his introduction to this anthology, he writes that he organized his selections around contrasting military traditions: a "Western" way of war based on a code of behavior that includes mercy to the vanquished, and a more tribal approach observing few inhibitions. Thankfully, Keegan's literary sense overrides this artificial framework. He offers nearly 100 vignettes from around the world, selected with an artist's eye and a historian's judgment, that combine to show war's multiple faces. The authors are great captains like Julius Caesar and the Duke of Wellington, as well as front-line warriors such as Gulf War veteran Andy McNabb. Elizabeth Custer has her place, as do Davy Crockett and Rudyard Kipling. Some accounts capture the immediacy of war, like William Laurence's narratives on the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Some voices are matter-of-fact, like George MacDonald Fraser's account of soldiers' stoic mourning of a comrade. Others, like Ernest Hemingway's 1918 letter from the Italian front, are self-consciously literary. Familiar settings--the trenches of the Great War; Russia in 1812--contrast with Jesuit missionary Paul Ragueneau's account of an Iroquois Indian raid in 17th-century Canada. What the selections share is passion. All the men and women in these pages engage their experiences fully. Once again, Keegan has opened a door onto the human condition, showing that we are defined by war--at least in part. Major ad/promo. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.