AN INSTINCT FOR WAR: Scenes from the Battlefields of History

By Roe, Andrew M. | Military Review, March/April 2006 | Go to article overview
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AN INSTINCT FOR WAR: Scenes from the Battlefields of History


Roe, Andrew M., Military Review


AN INSTINCT FOR WAR: Scenes from the Battlefields of History, Roger Spiller, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005, 403 pages, $29.95.

An Instinct for War, consisting of 13 short stories, highlights a series of moments in history when warfare changed profoundly. Using a number of notable figures associated with the evolution of military thought, Roger Spiller skillfully combines imagination and meticulous research to shrewdly engage and challenge the reader. From the wars in ancient China to the American Civil War to imagining future war (ironically called "The Discovery of Kansas"), each story holds its own compelling message; combined, they are a resounding success.

Unencumbered by footnotes and supporting quotations, Spiller's inventive use of numerous firstperson narratives is commendable and refreshing. Likewise, the succinct, animated manner of each story affords a satisfying and brisk read. But An Instinct for War is more than just a series of creative vignettes that highlight some of the historical turning points in the conduct of war. Readers will be confronted with aspects of morality, philosophy, and the wider human instinct for conflict. In the forward to chapter 10, Spiller asks: "Romance or knowledge: which best sustains a nation in the violent extremes of modern war?

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