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am 28. Februar 2000
Most of the negative commentary you will see by customers revolves around Keegan's blasting of Clausewitz.
Because there are a lot of Clausewitz fans who don't take kindly to the criticism.
What is really the case, however, is that Keegan is merely [mis]reading Clausewitz in much the same manner that ultra-rationalist military commanders of all stripes have [mis]read Clausewitz for far too many decades. The only thing Keegan does differently, after [mis]interpreting Clausewitz in much the same manner, is to then shows how fallacious the logic is.
It is true that Clausewitz included many qualifying phrases, and Keegan somewhat conveniently overlooks them. But the fact that Keegan overlooks them is a mere reflection on how so many military commanders also overlooked them, and I can hardly blame Keegan for the same mistaken intrepretations *MORE THAN* I blame all those military thinkers who were too quick to cut to the chase scene on Clausewitz's meaning.
And all of that is but a small portion of the book.
If you overlook that part, the book is absolutely fantastic, a completely riveting read. Keegan uses the rest of the book to illustrate historic examples that refute the ultra-rationalist approach, and then builds an alternate approach to undertsanding the nature and sources of warfare.
But if you find yourself really annoyed by Keegan's attack on Clausewitz, because you think the attack is richly undeserved, then you won't be able to get out of the starting gate. You'll detest the misintrepretation, and perhaps that will be enough to ruin the rest of the book for you.
Which is really too bad because, at its core, Keegan's book is an utterly fantastic tour through a history of warfare.
I would go on, but read some of the other comments for a more substantive review of the book's contents. My purpose was merely to clarify the source from which most of the negative reviews came.
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am 5. Mai 1997
An odd book, and possibly the most uninformed attack on Clausewitz and on "the Clausewitzians" in the last 50 years. Keegan, author of some wonderful books, has evidently given in to his guilt feelings over his interest in war. Here, he has tried to expiate his politically incorrect sins through a 160-page Germanophobic attack on the famous military theorist, whom he not only does not understand, but appears never to have read
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am 12. August 1996
Why was Atilla The Hun dreaded by all Europe
as "the scourge of God"?

What made The West fear and fall to the "barbarian" Mongols,
again and again, for centuries? Why is our Western culture,
then, not Mongolian? What happened to the Mongols?

The explanation is simple, and John Keegan provides it in
just one illuminating section of "A History Of Warfare".

The Mongols were herders, Keegan explains.
Their sustenance came from the vast, grassy, treeless
steppes of Asia. On these steppes, the Mongols lived by
husbanding and protecting herds of sheep, goats, and horses.
The tools of their trade were the horse, its stirrup, and
their composite (horn and wood) bow and arrow, designed to
be used against predatory animals.
When these tools were turned against men the effect was
irresistable. Roman legions were herded and shot down from
afar without mercy. There was no swordplay, no surge of
army versus army, no "fair fight" at all in these battles of
expanding culture against expanding culture.

Mongol military technology was superior to that of Rome
and Europe. But logistics prevented Mongol occupation and
reign. Logistics demanded further expanses of grasslands
to support Mongolian horses and herds, but these resources
were lacking in the forests of Europe. The Mongol presence
was strong in Hungary, Poland, and Russia throughout the
seventeeth century, but it could go no further. When
gunpowder became an European tool, Mongol influence was
shattered forever.

This is history on a grand scale, and the type of history
that is sometimes overlooked in the search for "great ideas"
and "great men". Keegan, probably the foremost miltary
historian of our time, has produced here his magnum opus.
He describes in satisfying detail the "pre-military",
and relatively benign, combats of prehistory, and takes his
thread to the propaganic struggle that we call The Cold War.

Keegan is a pacifist, but a pacifist educated at England's
West Point - Sandhurst. His grand motif is that war is
absurd and antiquated, but that its effects on human history
cannot be dismissed. "A History Of Warfare" should be on
the bookshelf of anyone who loves history and its lessons.
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am 18. Juli 1999
Having finished my fourth reading of this outstanding book, I am again in awe of Keegan, who not only tackles a daunting subject --- nothing less than the entire history of armed conflict, from the dim mists of prehistory to the recent strife in the Balkans --- but manages to put it all into an impressively brief, insightful and readable narrative. Keegan does not debunk Clausewitz; rather, he shows him to have been a product of his age, his class and his nation, and his writings to have been suited to the post-Napoleonic era, but potentially disastrous in the Nuclear Age. (If international success is the same as military success today, than how can Saddam Hussein still be the leader of Iraq?) By approaching warfare as social and cultural anthropology (rather than from the far more narrow --- not to say blindered --- perspective of military theory alone), Keegan is able to show how each society's expression of warfare is both unique and has ramifications and consequences for all other societies, especially including our own. Buy and read this book. You'll be glad you did.
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am 26. März 2000
Have you read Carl von Clausewitzs' "On War" and if so do you think it is THE classical text on warfare? If yes, you may want to skip the first 60 pages of Keegan's book which repudiates Clausewitzs' theory that 'war is the continuation of policy by other means.' 'A History of Warfare' has a unique approach - sweeping the subject up into 4 'themes' -stone, flesh, iron and fire- each covering a specific period or method of warfare. In between are 'interludes' on specific subjects - I found the one on fortification to be very interesting. Although encyclopedic in terms of scope and period covered, it is not a dry book. It is actually very easy to read and serves as a good introduction to military history. The book dives deeply into the cultural, and social factors behind war. Only where Keegan ventures into Philosophy in the first interlude 'war in human history' does he slip a little.
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am 22. August 1999
Well written text which should be, and probably is, basic text for War College class reading. Excellent criticism of Clauswitz, explaining later frustrations such as Korea, Vietnam, and Afganistan. Too critical of Sun Tzu, "The Art of War," not fully appreciative of his contribution. Sun Tzu does believe in a decisive battle, the heart of the Clauswitz philosophy, he also recognizes the full spectrum of war. Seldom, he would say, is decisive battle possible. This is what we see in modern war, since WWII. Keegan reconizes this in his conclusions, but does not explain well the Chinese philosophy. Good luck, it is an excellent text, very articulate and readable.
As an ex-military officer, I hope they include this material in War College material.
Dirk Willard
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am 29. Oktober 1998
Who are all these people whining about how Keegan "knocks" Clausewitz? Perhaps on the contrary, Keegan understands Clausewitz all too well. In any case, the traditional understanding of Clausewitz has become cliched and hackneyed in the hands of such "traditional" military thinkers. One of Keegan's strengths is his avoidance of theory. Evidence is too often butchered and distorted to concur with a prized theory that a scholar is loathe to let go of. Keegan looks at the evidence first and then puts together a theory of interpretation. If you want to knock Keegan, hit him for "Fields of Battle" for its lack of editing, gross factual errors, and maudlin sentiment.
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am 21. Mai 1999
One should not be suprised that John Keegan, considered by many today's foremost military historian, has wrote such an interesting, sweeping magnum opus. One should take note, however, that he managed to accomplish it in less than 400 pages. Rarely does a single volume contain such a vast amount of information; even more scarce is the work that presents the material in such a readable format. Mr. Keegan wastes nary a word in what could become one of the all-time great books on warfare. As much a history of mankind as a history of warfare, one can learn a great deal by reading this outstanding book. A solid 5 stars. Mr. Keegan, take a bow.
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am 28. August 1998
I really couldn't make it through the book. Keegan's strengths are his unusual ability to empathize and the smoothness of his writing. What Keegan does not excel at, however, is theory, but that is the topic of this book.
The worst thing about the book is that he made attacking Clauswitz the centerpiece and Keegan doesn't understand Clauswitz AT ALL. Frankly, I was embarrassed for Keegan when I read it. Don't get this book.
Two books you should have, if you haven't already got them, are Keegan's "The Face of Battle" and Clauswitz's "On War". If I had to restrict myself to two books on military history, they would be the two.
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am 15. Mai 2000
Urgently needed by anyone interested in the history of human conflicts. The book will take you to explore the prime factors that motivate human agression which leads to conflicts and commonly widespread wars. The humans basically adhere to invent such warfare precious to their survivability.
Not much into the chronology of events, but the theme profoundly makes clear of the whole issue of human warfare. The tools, the reasons, the heritage, and the passions of war blend quite perfectly in this book.
Don't buy it unless you hate war enough to know it better and love peace enough to support it.
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