Cover image for The book of war
The book of war
Keegan, John, 1934-2012.
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 1999.
Physical Description:
xix, 492 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D25 .B66 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
D25 .B66 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



From his landmark The Face of Battle through his bestselling The Second World War, John Keegan's acclaimed books of military history are marked by what The New York Times has called his "novelist's eye and cultural anthropologist's sensitivity." Now, in this trail-blazing volume, Keegan marshals a formidable host of war writings, from Thucydides' classic account of ancient Greek phalanx warfare (c. 5th century B.C.) to blow-by-blow descriptions of ground-fighting against Iraqi troops in Kuwait from the Gulf War of 1990.Beginning with the heroic era of the Greek, Keegan advances through the ages, presenting the face of war in its various guises over the course of more than 2,000 years. Among more than sixty substantial selections, Julius Caesar records the Roman invasion of Britain; Wellington sketches the Battle of Waterloo; Hemingway brings home the horror of World War I; Orwell pays homage to Catalonia in the Spanish Civil War; America's "G.I. journalist" covers the Normandy landing; and many more. A fascinating introduction on military literature and military historiography, and head notes to every piece offer new perspectives written with "the eloquence we have come to expect of John Keegan" (Washington Post Book World). The Book of War is a holiday gift to delight military enthusiasts, history buffs, and all lovers of great writing.

Author Notes

John Keegan, May 15, 1934 - August 2, 2012 John Keegan was born in London, England on May 15, 1934. He received a degree in history from Balliol College, Oxford in 1953. After graduation, he went to the United States on a grant to study the Civil War. When he returned to London, he wrote political reports for the United States Embassy and in 1960 was appointed as a lecturer at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, England, a post he held for 25 years. During this time he also held visiting professorships at Princeton University and Vassar College. In 1997, he began working for the Daily Telegraph as a defense correspondent and then military affairs editor. He also contributed to the American website National Review Online.

During his lifetime, he wrote more than 20 books about military history, the majority of which focus on warfare from the 14th to the 21st centuries. His works included Barbarossa: Invasion of Russia, The Face of Battle, A History of Warfare, Who Was Who in World War II, The Second World War, The American Civil War, The Mask of Command, and The Iraq War. He was knighted in 2000. He died on August 2, 2012 at age of 78.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

From the Peloponnesian War to the Gulf War, warriors have written about their experience in combat. Arranged by historian John Keegan, this anthology of their writings reprises the theme of culture's influence on warfare that he developed in his magisterial A History of Warfare (1993). Keegan first selects the classic Melian Dialogue, Thucydide's crystallization of power's brutal superiority over argument. The balance of excerpts from the ancient world illustrate the technology and tactics of military operations. For the early modern period, Keegan chooses vivid accounts from Agincourt, the fall of Constantinople, and a siege of Malta to demonstrate the waning of the knightly way of war. The professional army, an idea originating from the Roman Empire, then reappeared. It occasionally was defeated, but professional armies otherwise universally prevailed against all non-European opponents, which brings the editor to the twentieth century. Its cataclysms, recollected by ordinary soldiers, immediately evince the warrior's mentality and customs, such as the practice of dividing up the equipment of dead comrades. An evocative anthology with trenchant commentary. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

Keegan (the bestselling The First World War) stands out among contemporary writers of military history for the literary sensibility he brings to the subject. In his introduction to this anthology, he writes that he organized his selections around contrasting military traditions: a "Western" way of war based on a code of behavior that includes mercy to the vanquished, and a more tribal approach observing few inhibitions. Thankfully, Keegan's literary sense overrides this artificial framework. He offers nearly 100 vignettes from around the world, selected with an artist's eye and a historian's judgment, that combine to show war's multiple faces. The authors are great captains like Julius Caesar and the Duke of Wellington, as well as front-line warriors such as Gulf War veteran Andy McNabb. Elizabeth Custer has her place, as do Davy Crockett and Rudyard Kipling. Some accounts capture the immediacy of war, like William Laurence's narratives on the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Some voices are matter-of-fact, like George MacDonald Fraser's account of soldiers' stoic mourning of a comrade. Others, like Ernest Hemingway's 1918 letter from the Italian front, are self-consciously literary. Familiar settingsÄthe trenches of the Great War; Russia in 1812Äcontrast with Jesuit missionary Paul Ragueneau's account of an Iroquois Indian raid in 17th-century Canada. What the selections share is passion. All the men and women in these pages engage their experiences fully. Once again, Keegan has opened a door onto the human condition, showing that we are defined by warÄat least in part. Major ad/promo. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Fresh on the heels of his best seller, The First World War, military historian Keegan offers an anthology of brief narratives of war. Selections range from the reflection of historians to the world of generals and poets. Some selections are excellent, such as Caesar's words, those of the World War I poets, and a very poignant description of the suffering endured by the French in their withdrawal from Russia during the Napoleonic wars. Unfortunately, such selections are rare. Most are too short to be truly meaningful and are very dry. It seems to this reviewer that once a military author achieves success, publishers are inclined to saturate the market with older works, revised editions, and new texts derived from selections of previous works (… la Stephen Ambrose). Keegan is a fine military historian, but this anthology is not one of his better efforts and is recommended only for large military history collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/99.]ÄRichard S. Nowicki, Emerson Vocational H.S., Buffalo (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.