War: How Conflict Shaped Us

Margaret MacMillan. Random House, $30 (336p) ISBN 978-1-984856-13-5
University of Toronto historian MacMillan (History’s People) examines “the deep impact of war on human affairs—and vice versa” in this brisk and lucid survey of human history. Expanding on five BBC radio lectures she delivered in 2018, MacMillan links the origins of warfare to the advent of agriculture, and documents the various motivations for going to war, including fear, greed, ideology, and self-defense. In the Western tradition, MacMillan notes, the “search for the decisive military victory” has frequently resulted in defeat (e.g. Napoleon at Waterloo and Germany’s Schlieffen Plan in WWI). She details the impact of technological innovations, including the crafting of metal weapons and the invention of gunpowder, on military strategy, and sketches the bloodiest battles fought in England (Towton, 1462) and America (Antietam, 1862). MacMillan also probes the difficulties of negotiating and maintaining peace, and in her discussion of war and culture, she ranges from Shakespeare to the WWI trench poets to Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Though the threat of global conflict may seem diminished, MacMillan contends, advances in “artificial intelligence, automated killing machines and cyberwar” mean that “we must, more than ever, think about war.” She laces her account with fascinating observations and examples, and provides an extensive and well-sourced bibliography for further reading. Military history buffs will be riveted. Agent: Caroline Dawnay, United Agents. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/12/2020
Release date: 09/22/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 304 pages - 978-0-7352-3802-2
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