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Battle: A History Of Combat And Culture Hardcover – International Edition, June 3, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0813333717 ISBN-10: 0813333717 Edition: export ed

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; export ed edition (June 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813333717
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813333717
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,106,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Without denying the existence of such constants as fear and courage, Lynn, a historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, seeks in this volume to refute "universal" models of interpreting warfare. Classical Greece, he argues, sought decisive battle because of its particular values emphasizing individual worth and independence, while in ancient India and China, the dominant values emphasized deception and diplomacy. Medieval Europe balanced a brutal reality of highly destructive mutual raiding with an artificial form of war in the tournament and an idealized form in the crusade. The European wars of the 18th century were defined by style and aesthetics, manifestations of the conscious mixture of fashion and function that reflected general European taste. Similarly, 19th-century Europe's concept of the decisive battle, argues Lynn (The Wars of Louis XIV), was influenced more by a Romantic high culture than by specifically military factors such as weapons systems or mass armies. Even the U.S.-Japanese conflict from 1941 to 1945, Lynn contends, was shaped by a profound contrast in military cultures, one emphasizing survival and the other self-immolation. The final chapter discusses the Egyptian army's conscious and rejection in 1973 of maneuver warfare in favor of a set-piece approach more congruent with its supporting cultures.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"[A] rich and imaginative study." - Foreign Affairs"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 50 people found the following review helpful By 1. on June 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Lynn completely disproves Hanson's thesis about the Western way of warfare in the opening chapters of Battle. Lynn cites the examples of the ancient Chinese and Indian armies as having the same organization of the ancient Greek armies although they were not based on democratic ideals. The Chinese armies were organized around harsh dicipline and personal example by its leaders while the Indian armies were formed around caste allegiances.Moreover the Greek method of warfare was abondoned in Roman times through the emergence of the professsional army. Lynn also believes that there was no set example of "Oriental," fighting because the Chinese relied upon mass armies while the Indians based their warmaking on subversion and assasination. The middle chapters, Lynn contradicts Hanson in that European armies during the medeval and elightenment periods avoided battle and relied upon seiges. Lynn also describes the development of the Sepoys and how they became an effective fighting force by mixing the European invention of the regiment with local and religious allegiances. In the section about Clausewitz, Lynn states Clausewtiz's ideas about decisive battle and the national will have no use in the age of limited warfare. Lynn also disagrees with John Dower theory about race in the Pacific War by writing that different cultural assumptions about surrender led to the totality of the conflict. In his section about the Egyptian army, Lynn states how the Egyptian army by detailing every last movement by their army during the canal crossing in 1973 compensated for the poor quaility of the junior Egyptian officers. I would reccomend this book for anyone interested in new theories about culture and war that disprove the writings of Hanson and Keegan.
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44 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Robert Bebber on December 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Battle" appears to be written as a direct challenge to Victor Davis Hanson and John Keegan, two of the world's best known military and classical historians. Dr. Lynn's book is well written and well organized, and provides a fascinating overview of his thesis on how cultural discourse affects the waging of war by societies. He aggressively asserts that there is no "Western" (or other non-Western) Way of War, rather that each culture's interpritation of war and battle shapes its values and how it fights its wars. His work deserves great consideration, but I will not go so far to say that he necessarily "disproves" the analysis put forward by Hanson or Keegan. Regrettably, his book would receive more stars were it not for his Epilogue concerning the War on Terrorism. The Epilogue reads more like a treatise from the editorial pages of the New York Times and less like a sober understanding of the challenges this unique War presents. His choice of source material for the Epilogue includes Maureen Dowd, Richard Clark and Gen. Anthony Zini. Dowd cannot be taken seriously, and Clark has been thoroughly discredited. Zini is in the mold of Gen. Wesley Clark. By stepping in to this highly politicized debate and adopting the positions of those so firmly on the Left, it undercuts my opinion of his otherwise interesting and informative work. However, it deserves to be read by those who share Hanson's and Keegan's analysis, as it is a worthy challenge.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
This very good book is devoted to the ways that larger culture influences how different societies wage war. Lynn presents a series of essays looking at how classical Greece, ancient China, Enlightenment Europe, and others waged war and the ways warmaking reflects important cultural features. Lynn thoughtfully analyzes both the actual practice of war and whatever theoretical ideas these societies produce about war, and discusses thoughtfully the interactions between the two. Lynn vigorously attacks technological determinism as an explanation for differences in the way wars have been fought. The overall theme is well supported by his specific analysis and examples. For example, he has a very nice discussion of von Clausewitz as someone writing in the Romantic intellectual tradition. He is careful also not to overemphasize cultural features. One chapter is a very good critical discussion of the role of racism in the Pacific in WWII, where I think he shows well that the role of racism has been overemphasized by other writers on this topic. Lynn also criticizes other writers who have argued for a cultural determinism of war, notably the classicist Victor Davis Hanson's idea of a "Western Way of War." Lynn shreds this and related arguments. As Lynn shows well, there is no substitute for careful, critical, and highly specific analysis that pays attention to all factors and their interactions.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on August 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A work of impressive scholarship by noted expert on seventeenth and eighteenth-century warfare John A. Lynn (Professor of History, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Battle: A History Of Combat And Culture From Ancient Greece To Modern America definitively studies the history of war worldwide, including how ideas can carry more weight on the battlefield than heavy artillery. Exploring the influence that a culture's values has on armed conflict and vice versa, Battle: A History Of Combat And Culture is both a trek through time and a window of insight into the complex tangles of human society as exemplified by combat and conquest. Battle is a welcome addition to Military History Studies reference collections, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in the history of warfare and its influences upon the societies that engaged it as a tool of international relations -- willingly or unwillingly.
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