A must-read for students of military history.




Why wars are won not in a single decisive battle but over the long haul.

At the outset of this sweeping history of Western warfare, Nolan (History/Boston Univ.; Wars of the Age of Louis XIV, 1650-1715, 2008, etc.) notes that the outcomes of great battles by no means guarantee victory in the war as a whole. Hannibal’s win over the Roman legion at Cannae—a battle that became a model for generations of subsequent commanders—did little to avert Rome’s final conquest and destruction of Carthage. Significantly, Rome won the war by a policy of attrition, a strategy that Nolan finds has been far more effective over the millennia than the more glamorous set piece battles that historians so admire. The idea of a quick knockout has a special appeal to states looking to take on a stronger adversary, and there are enough historical examples of the strategy succeeding to raise the hopes of those tempted to try it. Beginning with the Thirty Years’ War, readers get full-scale analyses of the great commanders’ careers, with due attention to the geopolitical context of their wars. Particularly after the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon, war began to involve significant parts of the populations of the nations involved. Napoleon, who became the model to whom generals looked for inspiration for at least a century, also illustrates Nolan’s central theme: whatever his genius for battle, Napoleon was finally ground down by a coalition of major powers that refused to fold after a defeat. The theme takes on new meaning with the two great 20th-century wars, in which initial successes were not enough to ensure victory to the aggressors. Nolan also looks to more recent asymmetric wars, where small nations wear out great power aggressors by a strategy of attrition. His focus on Europe may disappoint readers who would like more on American wars, and there is some repetition. Nonetheless, this is one of the most valuable military histories in years.

A must-read for students of military history.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-19-538378-2

Page Count: 664

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet