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By the Sword: A History of Gladiators,…
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By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers,… (2002)

by Richard Cohen

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» See also 4 mentions

English (6)  Swedish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (8)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This book is a history of swordsmanship throughout the world. It's written well enough I suppose. I never really followed swords and swordspeople, it never really interested me since I figured I wasn't wealthy enough to participate. If I can't afford martial arts lessons I sure as heck can't do swords, so I never really got into it. Sure I can pick up a stick and wave it about, but that is hardly swordmanship.

As for the book itself, it is structured into six parts and an epilogue. The first part talks about the history of the sword, which is what I mostly expected. It starts with ancient Egypt and other cultures that knew of swords. Greece didn't really get into the whole sword thing, which surprises me, but they didn't feel it required skill to slash at things.
The second part then gets into sword masters; people that make their living through fencing and dueling. Following that is the culture of the duel itself, especially it's zenith back in some unmarked period where it was actually acceptable to duel with impunity. This section talks about US dignitaries that fenced and dueled, which I thought was pretty interesting. It also talks about Hollywood and the culture of sword fights in movies. Then it goes into wounds that swords cause, which isn't really surprising. I mean, they cause cuts or perforations so... Next up was fencing during WWII and the years leading up to it. The book ends with scandals that rocked the sport in the 1990s.

So it is somewhat what I expected, but at the same time it sort of veers off into tangents that I don't expect. Some interesting factoids I took from this book is that elephants can learn to fence better than trained people. This is probably due to how flexible and strong their trunks are. Another thing I took away from it; a lot of people were into fencing. Wow. I can understand Theodore Roosevelt, but Harry S. Truman and Abraham Lincoln?

Anyway, the book was okay. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Excellent subject but not as well done as I was hoping.

"By The Sword" promises more than it delivers. As another reviewer notes, the subtitle calls it "A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions," but it felt like the main part of the book was about fencing - the sport of the writer.

I had hoped to learn more about Samurai and other swordfighters, but instead learned an awful lot about Hungarian epeeists, among others.

I imagine this is a good intro and there's another book out there that'll be what I want. But this book? Worth the $2 I spent on it. Not much more.

More reviews at my WordPress site, Ralphsbooks. ( )
  ralphz | Jul 25, 2017 |
To my recollection, there was no mention of gladiators in the book. Other than that it was a very good book on the creating and history of the sport of fencing. The history of dueling was fairly well cover and interesting but not the focus of the book. The book was full of interesting information and fun facts.

Being the product of a major publisher, the book was well proofed and well edited. So of course there were no problems with spelling, grammar or bad writing, which I very much appreciate and usually like to mention in one way or another.

I recommend the book to anyone interested in fencing and/or dueling. There is plenty to keep the reader's interest ( )
  xenchu | Dec 3, 2012 |
The advertised storyline showcasing this book as the world history of sword fighting, is in reality, a detailed history of fencing thru. Not exactly what I expected and is the book is off the charts technical with fencing terms. As a non-fencing insider, it glazed my eyes over in just a few short pages. Wouldn't recommend except for someone strongly interested in fencing. ( )
1 vote jmcclain19 | May 14, 2008 |
Martial Arts
  ArmchairScholar | Apr 1, 2007 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
A literate, learned, and, beg pardon, razor-sharp history of fencing and kindred martial arts, by an English Olympian and saber master...
added by amorabunda | editKirkus Reviews (Oct 2, 2002)
 

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Richard Cohenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Redmalm, GunnarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812969669, Paperback)

Napoleon fenced. So did Shakespeare, Karl Marx, Grace Kelly, and President Truman, who would cross swords with his daughter, Margaret, when she came home from school. Lincoln was a canny dueler. Igantius Loyala challenged a man to a duel for denying Christ’s divinity (and won). Less successful, but no less enthusiastic, was Mussolini, who would tell his wife he was “off to get spaghetti,” their code to avoid alarming the children. By the Sword is an epic history of sword fighting—a science, an art, and, for many, a religion that began at the dawn of civilization in ancient Egypt and has been an obsession for mankind ever since. With wit and insight, Richard Cohen gives us an engrossing history of the world via the sword.
 
With a new Preface by the author

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:15 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Napoleon fenced. So did Shakespeare, Karl Marx, Grace Kelly, and President Truman, who would cross swords with Bess after school. Lincoln was a canny dueler. Ignatius Loyola challenged a man to a duel for denying Christ's divinity (and won). Less successful, but no less enthusiastic, was Mussolini, who would tell his wife he was "off to get spaghetti," their code to avoid alarming the children. By the Sword is an epic history of sword fighting-a science, an art and, for many, a religion that began at the dawn of civilization in ancient Egypt and has been an obsession for mankind ever since. With wit and insight, Richard Cohen gives us an engrossing alternative history of the world. Sword fighting was an entertainment in ancient Rome, a sacred rite in medieval Japan, and throughout the ages a favorite way to settle scores. For centuries, dueling was the scourge of Europe, banned by popes on threat of excommunication, and by kings who then couldn't keep themselves from granting pardons-in the case of Louis XIV, in the thousands. Evidence of this passion is all around us: We shake hands to show that we are not reaching for our sword. A gentleman offers a lady his right arm because his sword was once attached to his left hip. Men button their jackets to the right to give them swifter access to their sword. In his sweeping narrative, Cohen takes us from the training of gladiators to the tricks of the best Renaissance masters, from the exploits of musketeers to swashbuckling Hollywood by way of the great moments in Olympic fencing. A young George Patton competed in the 1912 Olympics. In 1936, a Jewish champion fenced for Hitler. Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone were ardent swordsmen. We meet their coaches and the man who staged the fight scenes in Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and James Bond's Die Another Day. Richard Cohen has the rare distinction of being both a compelling writer and a champion sabreur. He lets us see swordplay as graceful and brutal, balletic and deadly, technically beautiful and fiercely competitive-the most romantic of martial arts. By the Sword is a virtuoso performance that is sure to beguile history lovers, sports fans, military buffs, and anyone who ever dreamed of crossing swords with Darth Vader.… (more)

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