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From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity Paperback – April 12, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679768300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679768302
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,888,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Which comes first--war or masculinity? The complex and shifting relationship between the two is the subject of this provocative selection, which reads as both military history and an exploration of gender. Braudy is interested in what it is to be a man, particularly in wartime, and how the technological evolution of warfare has altered what makes a male a man. Understanding masculine sexual identity is the key, he argues, particularly in the early modern period, when stirrings of female emancipation led to fear of impotence and inadequacy, while gunpowder simultaneously blew battlefield honor into new forms. Pirates, cowboys, adventurers, and sports figures all emerge as the modern world's masculine archetypes, and manliness in combat becomes a new way of coping with the madness of war. Criticizing innate notions of masculinity while praising the nobility of manliness' many mutable forms, Braudy's synthesis is intelligent and wide ranging (T. E. Lawrence and seventeenth-century pornography only rarely appear in the same volume). Its gender-identity-based analysis of present-day wars is also timely and appropriate. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“History in the grand manner, pulled off with brilliance, wonderful imagination and considerable erudition. . . . Fascinating.” — The Washington Post Book World

“History at its most powerful. It is impossible to do justice to the range of fascinating material in this book.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review

“The reader is left marveling. . . . An expansive, ambitious project.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“A terrific topic . . . The book displays Braudy’s loving immersion in his subject, fine grasp of historical complexity, and aversion for glib or dogmatic judgments.” –The New York Times Book Review

“A vivid, hugely ambitious book . . . Likely to be widely read.” –The New York Review of Books

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mark Nadja on July 23, 2007
Format: Paperback
*From Chivalry to Terrorism* is a massive book with tiny print--a real brick of a text. Just opening it up--just lifting it up--can make it seem like a daunting read. And it is a bit daunting. But, let's face it, a wide-ranging study of war and gender that encompasses some 2500 years or so of human history, from Achilles to al Qaeda, would have to be at least a *little* daunting, right?

But once one takes the plunge and wades around a bit in this hugely entertaining book one begins to feel quite comfortably at home. That's because Braudy doesn't let the potential weightiness of his topic keep him from writing in an accessible and lively style.

Braudy's chief concern is the definition of `masculinity,' and how, contrary to what many might believe, it has shifted throughout the centuries. Is a `man' the product of his biology or his social conditioning? It's a question not unlike the one posed by feminists regarding women and the answer proves to be just as elusive. Most likely, it seems, a `man' is some impossible to determine formula containing a mix of hormones, cultural seasonings, and socio-political molding...and all of it heated in the crucible of war. For, as Braudy points out, war is the single most important constant that's defined masculinity throughout the centuries.

Using historical sources, literature, art, and popular culture, Braudy builds a compelling case for the idea that what makes a man a man often depends on a culture's defense against its enemies, its own imperialist dreams of expansion, the pathologies of its leaders.

*From Chivalry to Terrorism* often loses the thread of half of its proposed topic--the changing nature of masculinity--and becomes more of a history of war alone, and its effect on society as a whole.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David Freeman on November 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a first class work by a literary historian of wide erudition. Leo Braudy traces the changing nature of maleness as seen though the wars and consequent cultural upheavals of the last thousand years. The author has read widely and from that has come a new view of this enormous subject. His references are European, Asian and North American -- all quite different, of course, though in Braudy's view, also often similar. Cultural traits among these varied groups pop up over time in a way that could be described as Jungian. Braudy draws on literary works, social and historical criticism, political rhetoric, movies, and popular music which results in a wealth of entertaining detail. One example: The Berserkers, the ancient Scandinavian warriors from whom the modern word derives, painted themselves in gaudy colors and in the presence of their enemies ate their own shields. It tended to scare off the other guys. The book is written in short chapters, in an easy yet precise voice that is mercifully jargon-free. Note of disclosure: The author and I are acquainted which accounts for my early reading of the book though not for my view of it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alastair R Fleck on January 28, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Leo Braudy's "From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity" is a well-written and thorough investigation of what it has meant through the ages to be a man and a warrior. Do not be misled by the title: it is not a swashbuckling tale of heroism and military victories. Using largely literary sources he analyses the shifting societal mores across the centuries that have defined men in war and war in men. But that's not even half of the story. It is hard to define or discuss what is "man" without discussing what is "not man" - i.e. woman. As Braudy puts it: "Defining "masculinity" and "femininity" as exemplary standards by which to measure normal human experience have thus been crucial ways for cultures to express their basic values."
This is a big book in terms of the breadth of themes it discusses, in terms of historical scope and, which may be daunting to many, the pure size of the book. Any book that attempts to cover the subjects of men (and by association women) and war (and the antonymous peace) spanning a period of over two millennia is bound to be large. Having said that, Braudy's analysis is always lucid, cogent and well-narrated. Of the multitude of issues discussed, I think he brings particularly keen insight into two in particular: misogyny and the modern phenomenon of terrorism.

He traces misogyny to two roots. The first is to "tribal" initiation rites, both modern and ancient, amongst which circumcision is one of the most widely practised:

"Female circumcision, with its explicit denial of sexual pleasure (even with an approved male), defines the woman as the property of her tribe, her family, and, later, her husband, without a history or autonomy of her own.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Fr. William M. Sullivan on August 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is not for the faint of heart. It is a difficult but rewarding read. For anyone doing serious work in the area of changing masculine identity or the history of warfare, there is much to recommend in this work. Just remember its is not casual reading. Pax Tecum Fr Bill
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