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A History of War in 100 Battles by Richard…

A History of War in 100 Battles

by Richard Overy

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Mr. Overy has sifted and sorted and chosen 100 important battles from various points in world history and grouped them according to the various tactical, strategic, leadership, or lucky conditions that governed the outcomes. This is an interesting approach but the book is curiously bland. There are no maps or battle graphics to help make the battle more real. The book is full of reproductions of famous battle artwork, but these add nothing to our understanding.

It is the lack of emotion that is the real problem. Mr. Overy describes each battle on a page. Each battle is historically correct but without the space to add context or interpretation, he might as well have given us lists of each of his groupings and we could read the Wikipedia entries by ourselves.

I received a review copy of "A History of War in 100 Battles" by Richard Overy (Oxford University Press) through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Aug 24, 2015 |
A good idea but very poorly executed in terms of choice of battles as well as solid research. ( )
  Urquhart | May 15, 2015 |
These types of survey/anthology books are often difficult to pull off. Fortunately with A History of War in 100 Battles, this was not the case. The history of war and warfare is often a difficult subject to tackle, but Richard Overy has done it expertly. Not only would this book be a great primer for students and scholars, but also as a one stop shop for quick overviews of key battles in military history.

Rather than provide a straight chronology from the 1200s BC through today, Overy divides his history using six different aspects of war then presents the battles chronologically within each. Those aspects are:

1. "Leadership" -- focusing on the skills of the general or field head in securing victory

2. "Against the Odds" -- looks at those battles where the forces superior in number and strength were dealt defeat

3. "Innovation" -- those battles where new technologies or tactics influenced the outcome

4. "Deception" -- the use of subversion to change the outcome of the battle

5. "In the Nick of Time" -- how last minute changes to plans or reinforcements at the right moment can change history

6. "Courage in the Face of Fire" -- a focus on the bravery of the common foot soldiers as they overcome their fears to secure victory.

Each of these chapters allow for the reader to focus on that one aspect of war and look at each battle through that lens, seeing how it was influential in history. This not to say that there could be overlap with some engagements, but it is clearly a well thought out and organized layout. I found the inclusion of both land and naval battles to be refreshing, allowing for all aspects of war to be included. The battle selections are often Euro-centric, but each has a full explanation as to why they are included in the 100 and these reasons are sound. Battles from Asia, Africa, and the Americas are very well represented as well.

As for the descriptions of the battles themselves, they are very accessible to the casual reader as well as the researcher. Each is about 3-4 pages in length, and while there is a supposition of previous knowledge in some cases for the majority of the 100 battles enough background and detail is provided to give the reader a thorough understanding of the action that took place as well as the impact on history. As is often the case with anthologies of this nature, however, is that we only get the basic information for each battle. Any more would require a volume five times this size.

I had only two real criticisms of A History of War in 100 Battles. The first is that sources were not linked or included within the text itself, making it difficult for someone interested in further researching only one battle to find reference material. Also, there are no maps present within the text. Each battle has one or two images, photos, paintings, or illustrations that accompany them, but there is not a single map in the lot. A minor criticism for sure, but I would have liked to have seen them for some, if not all the battles. ( )
  chensel477 | Oct 9, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199390711, Hardcover)

Their very names--Gettysburg, Waterloo, Stalingrad--evoke images of great triumph and equally great suffering, moments when history seemed to hang in the balance. Considered in relation to each other, such battles--and others of less immediate renown--offer insight into the changing nature of armed combat, advances in technology, shifts in strategy and thought, as well as altered geopolitical landscapes. The most significant military engagements in history define the very nature of war.

In his newest book, Richard Overy plumbs over 3,000 years of history, from the Fall of Troy in 1200 BC to the Fall of Baghdad in 2003, to locate the 100 battles that he believes the most momentous. Arranged by themes such as leadership, innovation, deception, and courage under fire, Overy presents engaging essays on each battle that together provide a rich picture of how combat has changed through the ages, as well as highlighting what has remained consistent despite advances in technology.

The battles covered here offer a wide geographic sweep, from ancient Greece to China, Constantinople to Moscow, North to South America, providing a picture of the dominant empires across time and context for comparison between various military cultures. From familiar engagements like Thermopylae (480 BC), Verdun (1916), and the Tet Offensive (1968) to lesser-studied battles such as Zama (202 BC), Arsuf (1191), and Navarino Bay (1827), Overy presents the key actors, choices, and contingencies, focusing on those details--sometimes overlooked--that decided the battle. The American victory at the Battle of Midway, for example, was determined by only ten bombs. It was, as Wellington said of Waterloo, a "near run thing."

Rather than focusing on the question of victory or defeat, Overy examines what an engagement can tell us on a larger level about the history of warfare itself. New weapons and tactics can have a sudden impact on the outcome of a battle--but so too can leadership, or the effects of a clever deception, or raw courage. Overy offers a deft and visually captivating look at the engagements that have shaped the course of human history, and changed the face of warfare.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:23 -0400)

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