Monday, March 30, 2009

War in Human Civilization by Azar Gat

Overall this was a fascinating book to read. It will take you some time to get through it. As more than one reviewer has pointed out, this is not a small text. Then again, when covering such a large and diverse field as 'war in human civilization' this book seems like just the beginning. The positive aspects of this book are that reading it will give you a good sense of where warfare fits into history. The debate between Hobbes and Rousseau regarding where warfare fits in human history was well developed and the author makes it known where his stance lies. Starting from Neanderthals up to the present day the reader is taken through each time period and war is put into an understandable context with other variables like politics, economics, ideology, nationalism, etc. taking their place as contributing or detracting forces. Seeing how warfare has evolved throughout the ages and how the reasoning behind it has either changed or fluidly adapted to the new environment human beings found themselves in will give readers a new perspective and understanding of how history has been shaped. The one problem I encountered a few times when dealing with a part of history that I try to keep up-to-date on and specialize in, early twentieth-century history, is that when it comes to some of the details the author can be wrong or reductionist at times. You cannot hold it against him as he is not only covering the history of the world, to some extent, within his book but also a variety of subjects outside of history (ethnography, anthropology, etc). It is highly commendable to undertake such a diverse topic with multiple scholarly inputs, but you will undoubtedly encounter problems when it comes to details as you can only spend so much time on each subject/fact and, even worse, you have limited time to do the research. Nonetheless, this is an excellent text which I'll come back to time and time again.

No comments: