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Ripples of Battle: How Wars of the Past Still Determine How We Fight, How We Live, and How We Thinkby Victor Davis Hanson
Synopses & Reviews
What defines a "watershed event," a moment in history that changes the world forever? Victor Davis Hanson tackles this intriguing question in Ripples of Battle, an eye-opening look at three great military encounters: Okinawa, Shiloh, and Delium, an obscure battle of the Peloponnesian War. A master of military detail, Hanson describes the strategies and tactics, and the terrible cost in human life, of each battle. These vivid accounts set the stage for a wider inquiry into the long-term, often unintended, consequences of war.
Ripples of Battle begins with the most recent battle and works backward in time, starting with Okinawa (1945) and its legacy. While many have drawn comparisons between the 9/11 pilots and the Japanese kamikazes, Hanson argues that the real significance of the battle was the heightening of America?s resolve to win the war at any cost. The failure of suicide tactics was also a vital catalyst in ending Japan?s militarist leadership and setting the country on the path toward democracy. Next, Hanson explains how the death of Confederate Commander-in-Chief Albert Sidney Johnston at Shiloh (1862), long considered a turning point in the Civil War, gave birth to the myth of the Lost Cause — the belief that only a tragic accident of fate destroyed the South?s noble dream. The stubborn devotion to this reactionary view would slow Southern progress for a century. Turning to the battle of Delium (424 B.C.), Hanson shows how the ripples of each battle spread and deepen with the passage of time. Little remembered today, the battle inspired a tragedy by Euripides, profoundly altered the direction of Western philosophy (Socrates was one of the few Athenians to survive), and virtually created Western infantry tactics.
Employing the lens of the past to bring the present into focus, Ripples of Battle is a work of penetrating insight and profound understanding of the human cost and consequence of war.
“Like any good classicist, Victor Davis Hanson accepts the primacy of military history in human affairs. In Ripples of Battle, a sequel of sorts to his masterful Carnage and Culture, he shows the fascinating repercussions of three lesser-known battles. You cannot fully understand Hiroshima, the bitterness of the Old South, or the Golden Age of Athens without reading this gem of a book.” Robert D. Kaplan
“Victor Davis Hanson has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the most interesting and innovative military historians in the world. In Ripples of Battle, he shows once again why he’s the best. He ranges far and wide, from World War II to the wars of ancient Greece. Along the way he combines a born storyteller’s gift for rip-roaring battle narrative with a scholar’s attention to the deeper meaning of conflict. Once again he manages to take what may seem familiar and to show it in an utterly new light. The “ripples” that he identifies – which include characters as disparate as Socrates and the author of Ben Hur – astonish and delight. This book is not only deeply enlightening but also a sheer pleasure to read. It is, in short, vintage Victor.” Max Boot, Olin senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power
"Victor Davis Hanson is one of our leading military historians, and in 'Ripples of Battle' he does not disappoint. A far-reaching story of man, war, and history, it is, by turns, iconoclastic, touching, deeply learned, and endlessly fascinating. This slim book is a grand study." Jay Winik, author of April 1865: The Month That Saved America
"With this usefully idiosyncratic and provocative work, Hanson may succeed the late Stephen Ambrose as America's laureate of military history." Publishers Weekly
"Hanson reveals surprising connections that many historical narratives miss, and that is this book's strength. Its weakness is its tendency to wear its politics on its bloodstained sleeve." Booklist
Includes bibliographical references (p. 260-268) and index.
A bestselling military historian investigates three key battles in Western history and reveals their enduring impact on civilization, from how we wage war to our political and cultural assumptions, to the way we think and view the world.
About the Author
Victor Davis Hanson is Professor of Classics at California State University, Fresno. He is the author of several popular books on classic warfare, including The Other Greeks, The Western Way of War, and Carnage and Culture.
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