The Reith Lectures 1998
In 1998 the BBC Reith Lectures were given by John Keegan, the most distinguished military historian alive today. Their subject was war-its origins, its history and its future-and in this book based on the lectures John Keegan has distilled all his thoughts on warfare and its social implications.
War has afflicted the life of mankind in this century as it has done in no other. The First World War killed ten million people, the Second fifty million, and wars since 1945 have killed millions more. Nuclear weapons, a product of the Second World War, have the potentiality not only to destroy lives on a scale greater than any yet explained or even imagined but to obliterate organised society itself. Because the story of war is intertwined with that of mankind from the earliest recorded times, no short book can encompass its whole history. John Keegan therefore concentrates in significant themes: the impact of war on our century and the forms it has taken; the origin of war in human nature and history; the adoption and use of war by states as an instrument of policy; the experience of war by individuals and human groups and its effect on their existence; and, finally, the future of war, particularly the question whether there can now be an end to it.
“Majestic...War, he argues, has been the curse of our civilization and our century. Never has war been so destructive as in the late industrial era, and he backs his claim with a superb sweep of history since the beginning of organised warfare, armies and fortification, to the present age of the nuclear bomb, smart weapons, the urban gueriila and the terrorist.”
Times Literary Supplement
“The most readable and the most original of living military historians.”
New York Times Book Review