BATTLE: A History of Combat and Culture

John A. Lynn, II, Author . Westview $27.50 (432p) ISBN 978-0-8133-3371-7

Without denying the existence of such constants as fear and courage, Lynn, a historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, seeks in this volume to refute "universal" models of interpreting warfare. Classical Greece, he argues, sought decisive battle because of its particular values emphasizing individual worth and independence, while in ancient India and China, the dominant values emphasized deception and diplomacy. Medieval Europe balanced a brutal reality of highly destructive mutual raiding with an artificial form of war in the tournament and an idealized form in the crusade. The European wars of the 18th century were defined by style and aesthetics, manifestations of the conscious mixture of fashion and function that reflected general European taste. Similarly, 19th-century Europe's concept of the decisive battle, argues Lynn (The Wars of Louis XIV), was influenced more by a Romantic high culture than by specifically military factors such as weapons systems or mass armies. Even the U.S.-Japanese conflict from 1941 to 1945, Lynn contends, was shaped by a profound contrast in military cultures, one emphasizing survival and the other self-immolation. The final chapter discusses the Egyptian army's conscious and rejection in 1973 of maneuver warfare in favor of a set-piece approach more congruent with its supporting cultures. (June)

Forecast:Lynn's view runs counter to the prevailing view of war as a general phenomenon with particular manifestations and should get a hearing among scholars. Recent discussions of the bases for the tactics of the U.S. force in Iraq might lead journalists, looking for deep backstory, to this book.

Reviewed on: 05/05/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
Paperback - 431 pages - 978-0-8133-3372-4
Open Ebook - 464 pages - 978-0-7867-2791-9
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