Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla "Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present

By Devereux, David R. | The Historian, Winter 2015 | Go to article overview

Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla "Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present


Devereux, David R., The Historian


Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla "Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present. By Max Boot. (New York, NY: Liveright Publishing, 2013. Pp. xxix, 750. $18.95.)

The prolific author of this book has written a wide-ranging and accessible study of irregular and guerrilla warfare from the earliest examples, dating to the Greeks -and ancient Chinese, to the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. By definition, such a broad-ranging study is aimed more at the interested general reader than the scholar; but Max Boot has read widely among a vast range of primary and published sources, and the result is a fast-paced, well-organized, and generally satisfying study.

Given the huge range of chronology and types of warfare involved, Boot addresses his approach in the prologue and then organizes the body of the text into eight distinct "books," which are organized thematically and chronologically. He begins with the origins of recorded insurgencies in the ancient worlds--giving examples from the early empires of Rome, Mesopotamia, and China--and then rapidly moves into the modern era with books on the wars of liberation and unification during the age of reason, wars of empire, international terrorism and anarchism, guerrillas and commandos during the world wars, post-1945 wars of liberation and leftist revolutionaries, and radical Islam in the past thirty years. He ends with a section on implications, which advances twelve "lessons" that the experience of irregular warfare can teach us through history.

In general, the premise works effectively. The reader is shown the ubiquity of guerrilla warfare (a term invented during the Peninsular Campaign against Napoleon's occupation of Spain in the early nineteenth century), and Boot argues that it is a fundamental part of warfare whenever a weaker opponent must avoid direct military confrontation with a stronger power and resort to less conventional means. …

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