The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare: The Triumph of the West

Serious reviewers normally shun an illustrated history of anything, but this book deserves close attention from the student of military affairs. Geoffrey Parker, successor to Michael Howard in the Lovett Chair of military and naval history at Yale, has written perhaps a quarter of the book and selected only a handful of colleagues to join him in the enterprise. The organizing theme is the rise of the Western way of warfare, which rests on five principles: the exploitation of technology, unusually rigid forms of discipline, an aggressive approach to battle, continuous innovation, and mechanisms for state financing of war. Other societies have partaken of some of these attributes, he argues, but only the West has embraced them all, thereby dominating the world. It is a bold and controversial thesis, and the authors are backed by a judiciously arranged bibliography. The attractive volume makes imaginative use of diagrams, maps, and pictures, which serve far more than merely decorative purposes. In short, a valuable overview of the history of warfare, and a worthy companion of other fine one-volume surveys, including those by Michael Howard and William McNeill, to whom this work is dedicated.

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