The Chaotic Sense of War
When Marshal Konev observed that "the total picture of the [ Second World War] can be formed only of many reminiscences," he also recognized that a full assemblage of such details could not be encompassed within the most exhaustive history of the conflict.1 That always-lopsided ratio of facts to the limits of the format in portraying the past renders history unavoidably impressionistic. As a result, historians have tended to use personal accounts of combatants more as a veneer, tincture, or spice than as a major structural member in the construction of military history, and leave the latter approach to journalists. Part of that stems from concern that such evidence is unverifiable and may be little more than self-justification, anecdotes, fabrication, exaggeration, or flawed memory. Leo Tolstoi, highly skeptical of military historians' attempts to frame a "big picture," confessed his own inability to grasp the formats of great battles and campaigns, and judged it more important "to me to know in what manner and under the impetus of what feeling one soldier has killed another, than to learn the disposition of troops at Austerlitz or Borodino."2
In the twentieth century, then, academic and official historians have tended to deal with war from a broader operational perspective, leaving the "microdynamics" of war mainly to novelists, filmmakers, journalists and memoirists. In the mid-1970s, however, a countercurrent rose to the New Military History, which had eschewed "drum-and-trumpet" combat history. Some military historians wove eyewitness accounts into a tapestry, somewhat in the spirit of such battle dynamicists as Ardant du Picq. Salient examples of that were John Ellis's and Richard Holmes's assemblages of vignettes, which often conveyed a sense of
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Publication information: Book title: War, Chaos, and History. Contributors: Roger Beaumont - Author. Publisher: Praeger Publishers. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 75.
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