82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid look at Alexander's generalship and statesmanship
The Generalship of Alexander the Great is not primarily a biography but rather, as the title indicates, an analysis of the Macedonian's generalship and statesmanship. Writing "the art of war . . . was the same in Alexander's day as it is now" J. F. C. Fuller presents the campaigns and policies of the Macedonian as examples from which to derive useful lessons. At the...
Published on March 12, 2003 by Jacob Holloway
3.0 out of 5 stars I wish there were more tactics and less strategy
JFC Fuller's account of Alexander the Great's conquest is a classic on the subject - as of this writing it is over 50 years old, yet remains in print because of his scholarship. The book is exhaustive in its detail - the first 80 pages (of a 300-odd page book) discusses Alexander's world in terms of military capabilities and the political lay of the land prior to...
Published on May 6, 2012 by doc peterson
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82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solid look at Alexander's generalship and statesmanship,
The Generalship of Alexander the Great is not primarily a biography but rather, as the title indicates, an analysis of the Macedonian's generalship and statesmanship. Writing "the art of war . . . was the same in Alexander's day as it is now" J. F. C. Fuller presents the campaigns and policies of the Macedonian as examples from which to derive useful lessons. At the Camberley Staff College he used Alexander's operations as lesson material and argues "had statesmen and generals-in-chief been acquainted with the history of Greece in the fought century B.C., they might have avoided many of the colossal blunders perpetrated by them in the Second World War." While giving civil and military leaders much to think about, Fuller's book will also appeal to laymen as well.
Historians will be interested in and pleased with the author's sources. Fuller utilizes many primary sources, most notably Arrian's Anabasis, and discloses where these sources conflict, as they often do over battle fatalities and troop estimates. Many secondary sources, like W. W. Tarn's two-volume Alexander the Great, are also used along with the works of Plato and Clausewitz. The sources are good and well documented for easy reference.
The book's organization divides it into two halves and, for the most part, is reader-friendly. The first section is devoted to chronologically summarizing the Macedonian's exploits while the second half devotes a chapter to examining all of Alexander's battles, then one to his sieges, et cetera. This arrangement makes it easy to both get a good overview of the conqueror's accomplishments and to directly compare his battles with each other. The only drawback is that this makes it difficult to place the battles in their chronological and political setting. Another helpful feature of the book's organization is the inclusion of chapters on the political background of Alexander's age and on the Macedonian army. These, along with information on the Persian Empire and the geography of the region, make the volume accessible to the general public.
The account of Alexander's life and deeds is set out roughly chronologically and progresses logically. The narrative is pleasantly interspersed with biographical stories about Alexander such as when he approached the Delphic oracle and extracted the prophecy "thou art invincible, my son!" and the account of his visit to the tomb of Achilles. However, the reader looking for a biography of Alexander would be better to look elsewhere. Even with these interesting tidbits, the strategical narrative moves quickly and understandably.
Alexander began his career by securing Macedonia's borders and then his position as hegemon of the Hellenic League. He did the first with quick campaigns against tribes on the Danube and the second by razing Thebes after it resisted his authority (a move he later regretted). After guaranteeing the loyalty of Hellas, Alexander crossed the Hellespont into Anatolia and won his first major victory at the River Granicus. Once Darius is defeated in battle and assassinated by one of his own satraps Alexander became king of Persia and changed his focus from one of conquest to one of administering and unifying his empire. Fuller explains how "as an administrator, Alexander build on what existed, reformed and experimented with it as far as time permitted, and did not adhere to any system that failed to stand the test of practice." Many of these reform policies angered the Macedonian veterans but "they belonged to the old world, and . . . the new . . . was comprehensible to Alexander alone."
The analysis of Alexander's policies, which were relatively egalitarian and very lenient to his defeated enemies, is excellent. As Fuller points out, "throughout his life Alexander consistently subordinated strategy to policy, which is the essence of grand strategy" and the analysis of the battles and strategy in the book's second section is vigorous and comprehensible. Fuller, who rose to the rank of major general, carefully lays out the military units and commanders involved on both sides and summarizes the battle action succinctly and in a manner that non-experts can easily grasp. A map is provided for each battle (two for the battle of Arbela) and, while not of excellent quality, all the maps are sufficient.
Fuller traces the advance of the Macedonians to India where they refused to go on. Alexander then returned to his empire where he reformed corruption and dissent which had arisen in his absence. Shortly after that, the great king died at the age of thirty-three and his empire was divided up amongst his top generals. Fuller goes into speculation on what Alexander would have done had he lived (deciding that he would have consolidated his empire) and concludes that "Alexander's conquest of the Persian empire, his new cities and financial reforms, were to lead to the rise of the Hellenistic kingdoms, and through the Roman empire which absorbed them, to lay the foundations of European culture and civilization." Following that, the author returns to his purpose and in nine pages argues how, had lessons from Alexander been applied, costly mistakes made in World War II could have been avoided. Throughout, Fuller shows the applicability of Alexander's examples with numerous accounts of emulation by such figures as Caesar, Hannibal, and Napoleon.
J. F. C. Fuller's prose is clear and concise, the organization of the book is superb, and all points and information are presented in a coherent manner. The first half especially will appeal to casual readers and historians will find the work to be very useful as the starting point for further research into any aspects of Alexander's life and career. The author is careful to show Alexander's faults along with his gifts and avoids casting the Persians as hopelessly inept. He proves his thesis and convincingly argues for paying greater attention to the lessons of antiquity lest generals and statesmen remain doomed to repeat history's mistakes.
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent View of Alexander,
There are many biographies of Alexander the Great out there. Most tend to look at his influence on the the times he lived in, as well as his legacy to the world. There are many ways to view the Macedonian juggernault. Here we have a unique perspective by a reknowned military historian. JFC Fuller takes Alexander's career and provides a first-rate look and analysis. The book is divided into two roughly equal parts. The first section provides a fast moving mini-bio of his life, emphisizing the major battles and campaigns of Alexander. The depth here is lacking, and purposely so, as this information is only provided in order to follow the discussion of his generalship.
Alexander exercised a unique kind of leadership. In addition to leading from the front in battle, he also combined the abilities of general and statesmen all in one person. In battle Alexander's presence was a decisive influence. He had an innate ability to read a tactical situation, and adapt it to the abilities of his Macedonian army. Its important to understand how important this army was to Alexander's strategy. Without this carefully crafted force which his father, Philip II created, Alexander could not have accomplished what he did. Fuller helps us to understand this by showing how Alexander used this army as a tool for all his endeavors. Its important to remember how much the Macedoonian army out-classed its Persian and Indian opponets. It was also a very versatile army, able to operate in almost any circumstances.
We see Alexander's brilliance both in major and minor battles and campaigns. This book is a must have for the Alexander specialist. It can serve as a useful guide for any of the numerous biographies out there which tend to gloss over many of the details of his generalship. Highly recommended for Alex buffs, and for the recent interest generated by the new movie on this subject.
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbiased critique of Alexander's military ability,
JFC Fuller's book is a tightly focused analysis of Alexander's military campaigns. He scrutinizes his strategy and tactics, and offers an insightful view of his successes and failures. The author considers, rightly, that military operations and politics are closely integrated. Some the discussion centers around Alexander's politcal strategy but is related to goals: did it assist or hinder his operations? This is not a social history, anyone looking for discussion of Alexander's drinking habits, sexual preference, and meglomania would be advised to pass on this work. The only aspect that is not of the caliber of the rest of the book, is the last chapter where Fuller assesses the Second World War using Alexander as a model. Fuller was an outspoken critic of Churchill and the US during the war; in this instance he uses Alexander as his axe to grind. His comparisons here are fatuous: political structures of 300 BC bear no relation to those of 1945 AD. This aside, for anyone interested in a refreshingly un-biased view of Alexander this book is one to have.
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and Insightful,
This review is from: The Generalship Of Alexander The Great (Paperback)
"The Generalship of Alexander the Great" is a fascinating book on Alexander the Great's life, political leadership and generalship. It was written by Fuller, a retired British General who is a world renowned military historian.
Alexander was a unique leader who inspired his men to perform extraordinary feats and who was highly revered. He led from the front and his presence had decisive sway on his troops. He could quickly read a tactical situation and make decisive moves that would change the course of battle in his favour. His troops were highly mobile and adaptable to various tactical situations.
This is a well researched book with the author citing various credible sources to reinforce his claims and arguments. The book can be easily understood by anybody with an interest in Alexander the Great. The author provides the reader with background information about Macedonia, Persia and other places, has maps which indicate the geographical areas referred to in the campaigns as well as the background to Alexander himself, among other useful details and insights.
From the study of Alexander the Great, today's military commanders have a lot to learn, just as Caesar, Napoleon and Hannibal and others carefully studied Alexander and emulated and adapted some of his methods and techniques to good effect.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A general writes about a general.,
J.F.C. Fuller, a British pioneer of mechanized warfare, analyzes Alexander the Great as a leader and general. The book is divided into two parts, the Record, which deals with the Macedonian army, the lay of the land and background of the era, then the Analysis takes apart the battles. The final chapters deals with Alexander's statesmanship, as Alexander also had ideas on the nature of government. Great book.
If you have this book, may I suggest also getting 'Alexander the Great and Logistics of the Macedonian Army' by Donald W. Engels?
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent work on Alexander's military campaigns,
Fullers work is a laudable work on the military campaigns of Alexander. It is a very easy to read book with thoughful analysis of each battle. He begins the book not on Alexander but his father and traces the rise of the Macedonian power that would be passed on from Phillip II to his son Alexander.
The book is very well divided into two main parts then broken down again into very well thought out sub sections. This makes for a pleasant read and also makes it easy for reference or research. It is well written and should be able to be read and understood by the average High School student but with enough analysis and detail for a more advanced reader to peruse through and not lose interest. I recommend this book to any student not only of Alexander but also to any student of military history.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Insight into Alexander's Military Exploits,
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This review is from: The Generalship Of Alexander The Great (Paperback)
There are many great books about Alexander the Great out there and this one certainly ranks along with the very best. Alexander is many different things to different people, but if there is one thing that the big majority could agree on, it's that Alexander was one of the greatest military commanders (if not THE greatest) of all time and this book focuses on the military aspects of his most astounding career. J.F.C. Fuller is considered one of the best military historians of the 20th century and it's refreshing to read the insights from someone with a thorough military background instead of the opinions from a classical history scholar. Alexander was great at many things but it was as a military leader that he really stood out and this book focuses on that aspect instead of delving into so many other areas as other books tend to do.
I've read many books about Alexander the Great and it's easy to notice the difference between the writings of someone with a military background like Fuller and Peter G. Tsouras and those of "pure" college scholars. This book isn't as thorough as a biography as those from historians dedicated to ancient Greece and Rome, but that's what I liked about this book. It reads fast and is informative without bogging you down with so many names, places, and high-browed academia that seem to be more about impressing other scholars than informing the general reader. When I read some of the "scholarly" books about Alexander, I can't help but think that these historians are simply trying to out-do the other with their opinions than really trying to present objective history.
Surely, Fuller sits in the positive camp and he focuses on Alexander's achievements, strategies, and tactics from a military leader's perspective rather than a college professor's. Fuller doesn't delve into moral ramblings like so many historians seem to do these days. We get the facts and the expert analysis from someone who knows the military inside out, not bookworms sitting in a college office or the home den. You get the insights of someone who understands war, who has been on the front lines with other soldiers, and who knows what it's like to face the enemy and death itself. My beef with historians who sit on some moral high horse and criticize Alexander is that they don't know what it's like to be a soldier, which is what Alexander was - first and foremost. And that's why I believe this book is significant.
Some critics charge that Alexander was a reckless commander who endangered not only his life but those of his soldiers. Well, let's look at the results. Alexander was often heavily outnumbered - sometimes as much as 6 to 1 or even 10 to 1 - but Alexander and the Macedonian army won virtually every battle decisively with minimum losses while the enemies suffered catastrophic casualties. The enemies often suffered 10~20 times as many casualties as Alexander's army did. To those who criticize Alexander's "recklessness" as a general, what would YOU have done to do even better and save more Macedonian lives? Of course, these people wouldn't have a clue but it's easy for them to sit in their easy chair or a school desk and say, "I could have done better."
This book is written by a renowned military general and historian and that means a lot. You can't quite compare that to most books written by university scholars who have no idea what it's like to put one's own life on the line as a soldier in times of war. Fuller writes and extrapolates from the perspective of a soldier, a general, and a leader of men in battle. I just can't see how anyone who hasn't been a soldier can understand what that's really like. Fuller illuminates the mind of the soldier as well as that of Alexander himself as a leader. This book isn't the definitive biography about Alexander, but if you want to read a detailed analysis of Alexander's military battles, campaigns, and achievements from a lifelong military man, it doesn't get any better than this.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, an even-handed source on Alexander!,
This review is from: The Generalship of Alexander the Great (Wordsworth Military Library) (Paperback)
While most historians who choose to write about one of history's great generals (Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, etc.) take a definite stance on their view of the general as a person, Fuller manages to be unbiased and purely analytical in his description of Alexander the Great. Instead of being influenced in his interpretations of ancient sources by the images of either "Alexander the tyrant" or "Alexander the Great," Fuller analyzes all of the major campaigns of Alexander's career and draws conclusions based only on facts (often discounting facts which are not verified across several ancient primary sources). I found this book enlightening and more than worthwhile to read.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, very good,
By A Customer
JFC Fuller's now-classic work deals with the issues like a soldier, not like an academic. Alexnader's battles are dissected and analysed with skill, proper emphasis is given to the problem of logistics, and the smaller battles are included, for once. Great stuff!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb,
J.F.C. Fuller presents a superb book on Alexander the Great, arguably the greatest figure in military history in recorded history. The book is very concise and well-written, with fluid language, that rarely, if ever, bogs down the reader. His descriptions are clear and very detailed, and he makes very clear what sources he is drawing from. The analysis especially was insightful and interesting.
What I find most engaging about this book, however, is the fact that Fuller minimizes his awe of Alexander, avoiding the praises and demigod status some historians attribute to Alexander, and fairly showing his darker side. He also fairly represents the Persians, painting them not as incompetent, so much as simply overmatched and then overwhelmed.
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The Generalship Of Alexander The Great by J. F. C. Fuller (Paperback - February 5, 2004)