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Ripples of Battle
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The effects of war refuse to remain local: they persist through the centuries, sometimes in unlikely ways far removed from the military arena. In Ripples of Battle, the acclaimed historian Victor Davis Hanson weaves wide-ranging military and cultural history with his unparalleled gift for battle narrative as he illuminates the centrality of war in the human experience. The Athenian defeat at Delium in 424 BC brought tactical innovations to infantry fighting; it also assured the influence of the philosophy of Socrates, who fought well in the battle. Nearly twenty-three hundred years later, the carnage at Shiloh and the death of the brilliant Southern strategist Albert Sidney Johnson inspired a sense of fateful tragedy that would endure and stymie Southern culture for decades. The Northern victory would also bolster the reputation of William Tecumseh Sherman, and inspire Lew Wallace to pen the classic Ben Hur. And, perhaps most resonant for our time, the agony of Okinawa spurred the Japanese toward state-sanctioned suicide missions, a tactic so uncompromising and subversive, it haunts our view of non-Western combatants to this day.
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About the Author

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He is the author of The Soul of Battle, An Autumn of War, and Carnage and Culture, all published by Anchor Books. His most recent book is The Savior Generals (Bloomsbury 2013). Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007, the Bradley Prize in 2008, as well as the William F. Buckley Prize (2015), the Claremont Institute's Statesmanship Award (2006), and the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002). He divides his time between his farm in Selma, CA, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

Reviews

Each human life has an impact on others, creating ripples that eventually affect future generations. Here, Hanson (classics, California State Univ., Fresno; The Western Way of War) argues that the outcomes of certain battles have had far-reaching effects on American culture. He chooses the battles of Okinawa (1945, World War II), Shiloh (1862, U.S. Civil War), and the lesser-known Delium (424 B.C.E., Peloponnesian War) and shows their impact on how Americans fight, live, and think. As Hanson explains, the chance survival of certain individuals and the death of others had repercussions reaching into the 21st century. The book is well written, and the sections on Okinawa and Shiloh are clear and easy to read. The section on Delium will challenge those not familiar with the time period, but the arguments are lucid, and Hanson convincingly demonstrates that the impact of this obscure battle is the most profound of the three. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Lt. Col. (ret.) Charles M. Minyard, U.S. Army, Blountstown, FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"What [Hanson] brings to the public discussion-along with an unusually vigorous prose style and a remarkable erudition-is a philosophy of war not meant for the weak--kneed or faint--hearted. Hanson does not celebrate war, but he accepts it as a fact of life, a part of the human condition that no amount of idealistic preaching or good intentions can will away." -The New York Times Book Review "Victor Davis Hanson is refreshingly unabashed about being an old-fashioned military historian . . . [and] he displays an exceptional chronological sweep." --The Washington Post Book World "What's most impressive about Hanson's work is his constant reminder that history is not just a faceless story of economic and social progress, but also one about the strength of individuals, brought to life here in masterly prose." --The Christian Science Monitor "His premise is fascinating and well executed. . . . A great little book. . . . Hanson is a superb storyteller and a clear and concise writer." --The Washington Times

With this usefully idiosyncratic and provocative work, Hanson may succeed the late Stephen Ambrose as America's laureate of military history. But where Ambrose's tone is ultimately elegiac, reflecting on the deeds and character of a past "greatest generation," Hanson's is sharp edged and confrontational, linking past history and present policy. Even before the September 11 attacks brought him to national prominence as a commentator and analyst, Hanson's postulating of a "Western way of war" based on seeking decisive battle (not a given throughout the world) had gained wide attention. Ripples furthers this argument via three disparate battles, treated in reverse chronological order, taking the reader from more to less familiar territory to show its arc. On WWII Okinawa, the Japanese proved an inferior force could inflict significant damage by suicide tactics; U.S. forces responded by defining victory in the most extreme way possible: killing as many of the enemy as the could (rather than, say, seeking to gain a particular piece of ground). The Civil War's Shiloh set William T. Sherman on his path as a democratic war maker committed to both the defeat and the reconstruction of America's foes, while at the same time inaugurating the enduring Confederate myth of a "stolen victory" via Albert Sidney Johnston's death at the battle's climax. It also marked the beginning of Nathan Bedford Forrest's meteoric rise as symbol and avatar of the "unyielding South," which persisted long after 1865. The Battle of Delium, fought in 424 B.C. during the Peloponnesian War, was the first defeat Athens suffered that involved high casualties at the hands of Theban/Boeotian opponents, and it directly affected large numbers of thinkers, writers and statesmen-including Socrates, one of the survivors. The severity of the battle shaped the Western "decisive" approach that survives to the present. Hanson's conclusions show the threads of these battles in the garments of the war on terror. Some of his last points may seem forced to some readers, but he makes them with conviction and a genuine sense of wanting history to provide valuable lessons. (Sept. 16) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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