What if it hadn't rained at Agincourt in 1415 and the French had, as expected, won the day? What if one of Napoleon's most trusted commanders had spiked Wellington's guns with a handful of nails at Waterloo in 1815, providing his emperor with victory? What if Hitler hadn't paused for three vital days during his invasion of France in May 1940, allowing the British Expeditionary Force precious time to evacuate from Dunkirk? Moments like these, argues Erik Durschmied
, provide the hinge factor in history: examples of stupidity, chance, or accident that have irrevocably changed the outcome of human history, for better or worse.
Drawing on his extensive experience as a war correspondent with the BBC and CBS, Durschmied moves from ancient Troy and the Trojan Horse to Iraq and Operation Desert Storm, offering a persuasive and at times wry account of the ways in which chance affects the unfolding of history. Recounting 17 key moments in human conflict and warfare, The Hinge Factor is not just an amusing meditation on what might have been; it is also a poignant and vivid account of the brutality and stupidity of war. More than just an account of accidents in history, this is a thoughtful and absorbing book. --Jerry Brotton, Amazon.co.uk
From Publishers Weekly
What decides victory in battle? Superiority--in numbers, leadership, strategy or fighting ability--is certainly a factor. Military historian and war correspondent Durschmied, who lives in France, reminds us that chance--known in military terms as the Hinge Factor--can also play a decisive role. In this fast-paced study, Durschmied (Don't Shoot the Yanqui, etc.) analyzes battles both famous and obscure, showing how chance has enabled inferior armies to defeat superior opponents, thus changing the course of history. Serious readers will approach some chapters with tongue firmly in cheek. Few might accept, for example, that a slap on the face set in motion events that brought on the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia or that a parcel containing three cigars extended the American Civil War for four years. Other episodes are more plausible. Durschmied makes a good case that a swarm of angry bees decided the outcome of a key battle between British and German forces in German East Africa in 1914. Similarly, he shows how weather, which has bedeviled field commanders throughout the ages, played a decisive role in the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The author concludes each chapter with a series of provocative questions designed to draw armchair strategists into a spirited game of What-if? More entertaining than scholarly, this will nevertheless please military buffs. Maps. (Mar).
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