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The Face of Battle (1976)

by John Keegan

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2,472234,712 (4.03)82
The Face of Battle is military history from the battlefield: a look at the direct experience of individuals at 'the point of maximum danger'. It examines the physical conditions of fighting, the particular emotions and behaviour generated by battle, as well as the motives that impel soldiers to stand and fight rather than run away. And in his scrupulous reassessment of three battles, John Keegan vividly conveys their reality for the participants, whether facing the arrow cloud of Agincourt, the levelled muskets of Waterloo or the steel rain of the Somme.… (more)
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English (21)  German (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (23)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Well written and thoroughly researched. Excellent military history comparing warfare from different eras. ( )
  Whiskey3pa | Nov 25, 2020 |
I debated between being objective about this nonfiction or just reviewing it based on my gut feeling.

In the end, I had to give it a 5 for good analysis and its own bright objectivity.

But for myself, I have to wonder why I read military history and why, after each time I do it, I feel sullied and unclean. If I leave enjoyment out of it, I did learn a lot about the details of these battles and the author did his very best to bring in all sides of the battles, not just what-ifs and strategy, but a lifetime of critical thinking.

I really appreciated that. And, a point-of-fact, I would absolutely recommend this book for all military buffs and history buffs. He's not only pretty exhaustive and wise about the battles, but he has a healthy dose of self-doubt tempered by a lot of experience. But not of battle. He makes it very clear he cannot understand battle from direct knowledge. But more importantly, neither can almost anyone. :)

But, of course, any history is going to rest or fall on its details and analysis. Fortunately, this one comes through with flying colors. :)

But again... I really didn't *enjoy* this text all that much. Be it mood or distaste, I generally don't go out of my way to read about war and for that reason alone I had a hard time liking it. And yet I can still appreciate a good dose of new knowledge, so it balances out.

( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
tedious ( )
  daddywarbooks | Mar 1, 2018 |
I have never read anything like this book before, and I learned so much, and it's so well written, about a topic I never thought would be something I'd want to read about and it had me riveted. I feel like I've spent time with a very wise person who had given me a better sense of what it means to be human. ( )
  poingu | Jan 29, 2015 |
I've always wanted to read this book, but just got it.
Thus far, have only read Agincourt, but WOW, Keegan knows his stuff and is able to convey it as if he were an eyewitness which, unfortunately, a lot of historians can't. Wonderful.
  afinch11 | Aug 2, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Keegan may present little in the way of contextual information on each battle - the reader is left to slot each one into its relevant timezone - but the battles, chosen presumably because they are already well-known, are simply the vehicles through which the ideas are conveyed. The results are, nearly thirty years later, still wholly valid and required reading for anyone who ever wishes to hold an opinion on conflicts.
 

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In memory of my father and my father-in-law
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I have not been in a battle; not near one, nor heard one from afar, nor seen the aftermath.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The Face of Battle is military history from the battlefield: a look at the direct experience of individuals at 'the point of maximum danger'. It examines the physical conditions of fighting, the particular emotions and behaviour generated by battle, as well as the motives that impel soldiers to stand and fight rather than run away. And in his scrupulous reassessment of three battles, John Keegan vividly conveys their reality for the participants, whether facing the arrow cloud of Agincourt, the levelled muskets of Waterloo or the steel rain of the Somme.

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