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Perilous Glory

Perilous Glory

JOHN FRANCE
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 448
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vm3pk
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  • Book Info
    Perilous Glory
    Book Description:

    This expansive book surveys the history of warfare from ancient Mesopotamia to the Gulf War in search of a deeper understanding of the origins of Western warfare and the reasons for its eminence today. Historian John France explores the experience of war around the globe, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. His bold conclusions cast doubt on well-entrenched attitudes about the development of military strength, the impact of culture on warfare, the future of Western dominance, and much more.

    Taking into account wars waged by virtually all civilizations since the beginning of recorded history, France finds that despite enormous cultural differences, war was conducted in distinctly similar ways right up to the Military Revolution and the pursuit of technological warfare in the nineteenth century. Since then, European and American culture has shaped warfare, but only because we have achieved a sense of distance from it, France argues. He warns that the present eminence of U.S. power is much more precarious and accidental than commonly believed. The notion that war is a distant phenomenon is only an illusion, and our cultural attitudes must change accordingly.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17744-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations and Maps
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  5. PREFACE
    (pp. viii-ix)
    John France
  6. Maps
    (pp. x-xii)
  7. CHAPTER ONE THE MANY FACES OF WAR
    (pp. 1-15)

    War has many faces. This vivid picture of the horrors of the Pacific War in World War II, of men rolling in maggots fattened on the corpses of their comrades and their Japanese enemies, comes from the memoirs of Eugene B. Sledge who served in the rank and file of the US Marine Corps. To us, at the start of the twenty-first century, his recollections are a curious mixture of the strange and the familiar. Since 1945 whole generations of American, British and European people have appeared to enjoy a long peace, and while wars have raged, they have largely...

  8. CHAPTER TWO MANY WORLDS OF WAR
    (pp. 16-39)

    The rage of the Pharaoh Rameses II (1304–1237 bc), after his close encounter with death at the battle of Kadesh in 1275/4, is engraved in the stone walls of no fewer than five great temples. The Pharaohs regarded Palestine and Syria as important outposts against attack on their heartland from the east and north. But the Hittite Empire of Anatolia under Muwatalli II (1295–1272), with its access to rich mineral resources, made inroads into Syria. Rameses was determined to drive them back, and in particular to seize the important frontier city of Kadesh in the Orontes valley.

    The...

  9. CHAPTER THREE HORSES AND HOPLITES
    (pp. 40-65)

    The fifth century bc witnessed a fascinating struggle between two radically different ways of war. The Persian Empire, stretching from what is now Pakistan to Egypt and the western coast of Asia Minor, based its power on a great military innovation – cavalry. They were opposed by a much more traditional force, Greek infantry fighting in close order, a phalanx. Greece was a mosaic of small city-states which bickered with one another, usually over petty amounts of land on their frontiers. At the core of their modest armies were citizen-soldiers, called hoplites after theirhoplon, a round wooden shield reinforced...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR THE GLORY OF EMPIRE, 336 bc–ad 651
    (pp. 66-98)

    The rise and fall of mighty empires dominated the great city-civilisations across this period. They all developed professional armies because their military needs exceeded the capacities of conscripts and citizens. The armies of these empires changed somewhat, but remained within the long-established pattern of agro-urban warfare. They were based on mass infantry formations fighting in close order. Cavalry formed a smaller element whose speed was of vital importance. Fortifications forced the adoption of a specialised technology which was remarkably similar everywhere. There were local differences; war-elephants were available in India and Persia, while plentiful supplies of bronze in China led...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE IDEOLOGY AND WARFARE, 500–c.1200
    (pp. 99-137)

    So Muhammad (c.570–632), the Prophet of Islam, brought a new spirit into the conduct of war. He welded the many tribes of Mecca and Medina into a single religious community, theumma. This was protected and spread by war which, therefore, became a sacred duty: ‘Prescribed for you is fighting, though it be hateful to you.’² Soldiers had always prayed to their gods, but pagans had so many that holy war on behalf of one against another was almost inconceivable. Islam, however, was a monotheistic religion with a monolithic structure, aiming at universal domination, within which a spirit of...

  12. CHAPTER SIX THE STEPPE SUPREMACY, c.1200–1683
    (pp. 138-180)

    When Temujin, better known as Genghis Khan, was born about 1162 on the Onon river in Mongolia, the state of the world witnessed powerfully to the accuracy of the above statement. His own people, the Mongols, were comparatively obscure but other steppe tribes had spread their authority far and wide. The Jurchen (Jin dynasty) ruled northern China. Further west the Tanguts held their Western Xia Empire. The Khitan who had survived the Jurchen onslaught formed the Qara-Khitan (or Western Liao) Empire in modern Kyrgyzstan. The Uighur Turks had splintered into three: in Chinese Gansu, around Turfan and close to Samarkand...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN DISCIPLINE, c.1683–c.1860
    (pp. 181-218)

    By the middle of the seventeenth century it was becoming obvious that, as far as Europe was concerned, a new world economic order had come into being. The conquest of the Americas and the exploitation of their resources created a trading zone across the Atlantic and stimulated economic and commercial growth. The great sailing ships with their heavy broadsides of cannon had reached beyond Islam, so that the new wealth derived from the Americas could be traded for the traditional commodities of the East – silks, jewellery, spices, fine pottery and, later, porcelain. The Mediterranean was no longer the centre...

  14. CHAPTER EIGHT THE MILITARY REVOLUTION
    (pp. 219-264)

    War in the second half of the nineteenth century was transformed by two interacting forces – the French Revolution with its ideas of nationalism and democracy, and the huge surge in industrial development. This last gave rise to an extraordinary technological revolution which utterly changed the conduct of war. In 1854 Britain went to war against Russia with a fleet of ‘wooden walls’. In 1906 she launched HMSDreadnought, a steel battleship of 17,900 tons capable of 21.6 knots and carrying ten 12-in. guns with ranges of over 12,000 metres. The science of hydraulics which governed the movement of her...

  15. CHAPTER NINE INDUSTRIAL KILLING
    (pp. 265-304)

    Thus Scott Fitzgerald’s alter ego, Dick Diver, mused as he and his friends walked around the old Somme battlefield in the aftermath of war. This was an imaginary excursion, but the author’s reflections on why men stood and fought in such appalling conditions are highly perceptive. For this was a war begun in illusion.

    In 1914 most people expected the war to be over quickly, and it nearly was because the German plan, based on that of Schlieffen and implemented by von Moltke, almost succeeded. Von Moltke’s scheme was greatly assisted by Plan XVII, the French plunge into Alsace-Lorraine, which...

  16. CHAPTER TEN CULTURE AND WARFARE IN THE AGE OF TOTAL WAR, 1919–1945
    (pp. 305-357)

    ‘The war to end all wars’ left the peoples of the victor powers clamouring for peace and a better world. At the Versailles Peace Conference, January–June 1919, their statesmen did not do a bad job of rebuilding their world. They took precautions against German revanchism by limiting her army to 100,000 long-term soldiers, prohibiting her from having tanks, aeroplanes, heavy guns or warplanes, and severely restricting the navy, which was allowed neither big ships nor submarines. The Rhineland was demilitarised, making Germany very vulnerable to attack from the west. Reparations, to pay for war damage, caused great indignation in...

  17. CHAPTER ELEVEN A NEW AGE OF WAR
    (pp. 358-393)

    World War II destroyed the great European empires, but set in their place a no less western-dominated world order. This was because the amazing military technology revealed by that war was largely monopolised by the two victor powers, the US and the Soviet Union. They were rivals but this should not be allowed to obscure their essentially western nature and common dependence on technological warfare. They were rather different from the preceding empires amongst whose dying remains they were contending.

    The Soviet Union portrayed itself as the embodiment of egalitarian socialism, and declared its ultimate purpose to be to spread...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 394-402)
  19. FURTHER READING
    (pp. 403-405)
  20. APPENDIX I: TABLES
    (pp. 406-406)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 407-438)