Academic journal article Military Review

The Book of War: 25 Centuries of Great War Writing

Academic journal article Military Review

The Book of War: 25 Centuries of Great War Writing

Article excerpt

THE BOOK OF WAR: 25 Centuries of Great War Writing, John Keegan, Viking Penguin, NY, 1999, 496 pages, $34.95.

John Keegan is widely known and highly regarded for the intellectual depth of his historical writings. His previous works have focused on leadership, campaigns or entire wars. The Book of War is a collection of original writings that span approximately 2,300 years of warfare. Many selections are by such well-known persons as Thucydides, Xenophon, Davey Crockett, Stephen Crane, Rudyard Kipling, Erwin Rommel, Siegfried Sassoon, Winston Churchill and Ernie Pyle. Others, less famous, nonetheless bring insight to war's humanity and inhumanity.

Keegan divides his work into three parts. The theme of the first section, chronologically from the Peloponnesian Wars to 1800, is the motivation for war. The second section addresses 19th-century warfare, particularly European armies deployed outside the continent. Section three focuses on the 20th century and the explosion of technological advances in warfighting.

However, there is so much overlap among the themes that the distinctions Keegan attempts to make among the three eras are indistinct. Changes in technology lead to changes in tactics. …

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