I have been mulling over the possibility of writing a series of blog posts under the general heading of 'Books Wot I Read and Remember', in fact, I might yet do so - you have been warned! Amongst them would certainly be John Keegan's The Face of Battle. I have just taken my copy down from my bookshelf and am somewhat shocked to see that it was published as long ago as 1976 - where did the time go? Anyway, alas and alack, Sir John Keegan has just died and so we have lost one of the very best writers of military history for the non-specialist. That particular book, his first, I think, looked at war in different ages from the bottom up. Rather than concentrate on the high and mighty manouvres of the generals, he told us what it was like for the archer at Agincourt, the infantryman at Waterloo and the 'Tommy' at the Somme. But he was far, far, more than just a mere raconteur, he analysed closely the physics and mathematics of warfare and how they impinged on the men 'up the sharp end'.
He went on to write other books on military history in his pelucidly clear writing style so that matters of great moment and complexity were teased out into easily understood explanations. I must read some more of him because according to his Wiki entry he took a swipe at the 'God of Warfare', Karl von Clausewitz, which angered his fellow historians. I always enjoy a contrary view so I must look that up. Anyway, what's not to like and admire about a man who wrote this:
I don't look to find an educated person in the ranks of university graduates, necessarily. Some of the most educated people I know have never been near a university.
Quite so, quite so, couldn't have put it better myself! Anyway, I for one am very grateful for the life and works of John Keegan which have give me not just historical information but also historical insights.
ADDITIONAL: Since writing the above I have come across this paper by Christopher Bassford suitably entitled "A Polemic" in which, I gather from a brief glance, is a defence of Clausewitz and a fairly vigorous defence, too! Goody-goody, nothing like a really vicious, academic punch-up, beats the Olympics every time!