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The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern Paperback – April 26, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; Reprint edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608194108
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608194100
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #634,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Since 9/11, Davis, director of the Hoover Institution's group on military history and contemporary conflict, has emerged as a major commentator on war making and politics. This anthology brings together 13 of Hanson's essays and reviews, revised and re-edited. They have appeared over the past decade in periodicals from the American Spectator to the New York Times. Hanson's introductory generalization that war is a human enterprise that seems inseparable from the human condition structures such subjects as an eloquent answer to the question Why Study War? a defense of the historicity of the film 300, about the Persian Wars, in a masterpiece of envelope pushing, and a comprehensive and dazzling analysis of why America fights as she does. He explains why, though a lesser historian than Thucydides, Xenophon retains a timeless attraction and analyzes war and democracy in light of America's decreasing willingness to intervene in places like Rwanda or Darfur. The pieces are well written, sometimes elegantly so, and closely reasoned. They address familiar material from original and stimulating perspectives. Hanson's arguments may not convince everyone, but cannot be dismissed. His critics and admirers will be pleased to have these pieces available under one cover. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Folksinger Pete Seeger ain’t gonna study war no more, but classicist Hanson warns against skipping class in this set of essays reworked from his recent articles, book reviews, and book introductions. In Hanson’s estimation, amnesia about military history permeates America’s media, political, and intellectual leadership: out of fashion in the academy, military history was the specialty of just 1.9 percent of American history professors as of 2007. As he suggests reasons for this state of neglect, Hanson expatiates within specific essays, such as his preface to Donald Kagan’s The Peloponnesian War (2003), on the effects of historical forgetfulness. Hanson sees examples abounding in American leaders’ negative reactions to the Iraq War, responses that the author witheringly critiques for poor historical aptitude and poor understanding about the military and military operations. At bottom, Hanson argues that recoiling from learning about warfare ignores what he insists is its tragic nature: that war, inherent in human nature, can only be struggled against and not be wished away. Not a happy message to peace-studies idealists but one a balanced current-events collection should include. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Victor Davis Hanson is Professor of Greek and Director of the Classics Program at California State University, Fresno. He is the author or editor of many books, including Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (with John Heath, Free Press, 1998), and The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999). In 1992 he was named the most outstanding undergraduate teacher of classics in the nation.

Customer Reviews

It flows real well.
Thomas M. Magee
Without explaining the details, Hanson bounces between most of recorded history to make his points.
Andy in Washington
This was a very interesting book.
Joe G. Hill Jr.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

195 of 205 people found the following review helpful By Scott Manning on April 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
From the mind of Victor Davis Hanson comes The Father of Us All, which gets its name from the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus (c. 535-475 BC), who said that war is "the father, the king of us all" (p. 32). That title and quote perfectly describe the theme of this book whose author finds it difficult to think of a democracy "that was not an outcome of armed struggle" (p. 16). Although it covers war, a familiar topic for the author, it is a unique book among the Hanson collection featuring a mishmash of articles and reviews from various publications instead of his other works with more narrow themes (e.g., A War Like No Other, Carnage and Culture). Avid readers of Hanson will surely find something new and interesting, as not all of these articles are readily available. In addition, Hanson has made updates to all of the essays.

The book consists of 13 chapters, which includes six reviews. The first chapter, "Why Study War?" is a perfect introduction for the reader to get a foundational understanding of Hanson's interest in war and his overall mindset. Very simply, wars are worth studying regardless of their age. Though technology and strategies will certainly change, "themes, emotions, and rhetoric remain constant over the centuries, and thus generally predictable" (p. 15). In addition, war may be horrid to consider, but is inevitable and, at times, necessary. Hanson points out that "war--or the threat of war--at least put an end to American chattel slavery, Nazism, Fascism, Japanese militarism, and Soviet Communism" (p. 16).
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58 of 63 people found the following review helpful By DWD's Reviews VINE VOICE on May 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Victor Davis Hanson's "The Father of Us All" is an excellent series of essays about war - why we fight, how we fight, the compromises societies make with themselves as they fight, what causes some countries to keep fighting while others grow weary of it, what types of societies deal best with the stresses of war, the future of war and a look at the American way of waging war.

Many of these essays have been previously published (or substantial parts of them) in magazines but Hanson has re-worked and amplified them. I only recognized one essay and the new version was longer and more substantive.

Hanson is a brilliant essayist - he expands the reader's point of view without talking down to him. Instead, in plain language he discusses large ideas and, happily, he includes plenty of references to other authors and other books that he has found interesting and informative. Reading Hanson is liking talking to an old friend who not only informs, he also entertains and brings along a list of fascinating books, authors and topics and quotes for you to enjoy as well.

His last essay, "How Western Wars Are Lost - and Won" is a fascinating look at the current war on terror. It builds on all of the other essays and frankly wonders if the West has what it takes to defend itself any longer: "We presently witness the absurd situation in which a lunatic Iranian regime uses it oil wealth to spin thousands of imported centrifuges to enrich uranium, while peaceful democratic Germany, where nuclear physics originate, could well be blackmailed by the threat of losing a Munich or Hamburg - despite its ability to build within a year thousands of fusion bombs as predictably lethal as a BMW or Mercedes is reliable." (p. 240)

A fascinating series of essays. Well worth your time.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Anson Cassel Mills on September 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Victor Hanson, a classicist, columnist, and senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, presents in this volume a series of gracefully reworked essays and book reviews that (with some occasional repetition) revolve about a few salient themes.

Hanson argues that the essence of both man and war has remained unchanged through the centuries; that lacking a sense of deterrence, aggressors will always take advantage of their fellows; and that war should be studied by scholars for its didactic value in preparation for inevitable future conflicts. Hanson also believes that wars rarely arise over economics but rather often begin through irrational perceptions about pride and honor. (Even when Greeks fought over land, says Hanson, they--like the British and Argentines in the Falklands--usually fought over worthless land.) Finally, Hanson argues that actual warfare is unpredictable and that all sides make mistakes; the victors, he says, simply prove better at correcting their initial errors.

Although even some conservatives will have difficulty accepting Hanson's well-reasoned apologia for the American war in Iraq, his insightful reconsideration of Xenophon and his moving preface to E. B. Sledge's With the Old Breed (1981) are well worth reading.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robert C. Olson VINE VOICE on August 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The absolute best Intellectual in America today.
Victor Davis Hanson is a blue collar intellectual in the vein of Eric Hoffer. He is a workingman's writer of military philosophy and history. His didactic style brings both knowledge and enlightenment to the difficult subject of war and military history. Dr. Hanson's The Father of Us All is an excellent treatise on War, what it was, what it is, and what it might become. His comparative analysis of the history of warfare is replete with many excellent bibliographic citations which buttress his insightful commentary. Dr. Hanson stresses that studying military history will help us understand all the nuances of war in its totality. The essence of war does not change, just the perception and current understanding of it. As we become technologically more efficient in war fighting capabilities, we tend to view war in a more antiseptic way as exemplified by terms like precision guidance, surgical strike, minimized collateral damage, and on and on. Military leaders like General Tecumseh Sherman would be appalled at this lack of War understanding. He, like most military leaders before him, and some after, understood that war meant to be "Hard War": Savage, brutal and in most cases complete in all that word entails. But, through the ages, man also looks at war in differing ways depending on his culture and varying philosophical views. Dr. Hanson explains this all in great detail drawing on his vast knowledge of military history.

Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, wrote , "War is the father of all and king of all." War has dominated Man and his philosophy since the beginning of time. It is eternal and an integral part of the human condition.
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