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Death of the Hero

Michael Howard

7 January 1988
The Mask of Command 
by John Keegan.
Cape, 366 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 9780224019491
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... Among the distinguished group of military historians which has flourished in this country since the Second World War, JohnKeegan is outstanding. His talents are remarkable: a wide-ranging and speculative mind; clarity in analysis; a deep understanding of the military community; and enviable descriptive gifts to ensure that his ...

The Chop

John​ Bayley

27 January 1994
A History of Warfare 
by John Keegan.
Hutchinson, 432 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 09 174527 6
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How Great Generals Win 
by Bevin Alexander.
Norton, 320 pp., £22, November 1993, 9780393035315
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The Backbone: Diaries of a Military Family in the Napoleonic Wars 
edited by Alethea Hayter.
Pentland, 343 pp., £18.50, September 1993, 1 85821 069 0
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... as the best way to site an 88mm antitank gun. But although these are the instincts which the lords of warfare hope will animate the rank and file, they themselves do not necessarily share them. As JohnKeegan pungently demonstrates, warfare since tribal times has always been divided more or less unevenly between those who direct it, those who enjoy it (in different contexts and for different ...
18 November 1982
A Policy for Peace 
by Field-Marshal Lord Carver.
Faber, 123 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 571 11969 7
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The Third World War: The Untold Story 
by General Sir John​ Hackett.
Sidgwick, 256 pp., £9.95, June 1982, 9780283984495
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Six Armies in Normandy 
by John Keegan.
Cape, 395 pp., £8.95, April 1982, 0 224 01541 9
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... one city on each side is attacked by nuclear weapons, implying that nuclear war will be limited; the war then stops because of a coup in which Communism and the Soviet state melt like a snowflake. JohnKeegan’s book Six Armies in Normandy is of a very different kind. In his earlier book, The Face of Battle, he managed to bring to life in an astonishing way the battles of Agincourt, Waterloo and ...

Great Encounters

Patrick O’Brian

11 January 1990
The Price of Admiralty 
by John Keegan.
Hutchinson, 292 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 09 173771 0
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... JohnKeegan’s book is about the principles, strategy and tactics of warfare at sea and their evolution as it is exemplified in four great battles, Trafalgar, Jutland, Midway, and a critical period in that long ...

Enjoying every moment

David Reynolds: Ole Man Churchill

7 August 2003
Churchill 
by John Keegan.
Weidenfeld, 181 pp., £14.99, November 2002, 0 297 60776 6
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Man of the Century: Winston Churchill and His Legend since 1945 
by John​ Ramsden.
HarperCollins, 652 pp., £9.99, September 2003, 0 00 653099 0
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Clementine Churchill: The Revised and Updated Biography 
by Mary Soames.
Doubleday, 621 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 385 60446 7
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Churchill at War 1940-45 
by Lord Moran.
Constable, 383 pp., £9.99, October 2002, 1 84119 608 8
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Churchill’s Cold War: The Politics of Personal Diplomacy 
by Klaus Larres.
Yale, 583 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 300 09438 8
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... BBC2 viewers last November voted him the greatest Briton of all time. Most Churchill biographies have been massive: Roy Jenkins’s weighed in at 1.5 kilos and a thousand pages. A great virtue of JohnKeegan’s is its brevity. Here is the saga in miniature. Keegan’s Churchill is pre-eminently a man of war and a man of words. The Army made him physically, intellectually and morally – Sandhurst ...

Poor Man’s War

Richard Overy

12 October 1989
Second World War 
by Martin Gilbert.
Weidenfeld, 846 pp., £18.95, August 1989, 9780297796169
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The Second World War 
by John Keegan.
Hutchinson, 608 pp., £19.95, September 1989, 0 09 174011 8
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... back to a crude, undifferentiated condemnation of the wicked nations that unleashed war. He tells us what horrors are, but not how they arise or how they might be avoided, nor who perpetrated them. JohnKeegan’s book could not be more different. It is a conventional, well-produced text, written fluently enough, blending narrative and analysis together – the fruit of the years Keegan spent at ...
2 July 1981
Monty: The Making of a General, 1887-1942 
by Nigel Hamilton.
Hamish Hamilton, 871 pp., £12, June 1981, 0 241 10583 8
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The War between the Generals: Inside the Allied High Command 
by David Irving.
Allen Lane, 446 pp., £9.95, June 1981, 0 7139 1344 4
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... his and to transform it into art. In subsequent years I managed to ensure that I was always present for the Alamein dinner, to which I looked forward with keener and keener anticipation. Indeed, like John Osborne waiting for Max Miller to come on stage in whatever provincial repertory theatre it was that he had sought him out, I found that I began to laugh before the Field-Marshal rose to speak and ...

Joining up

Angus Calder

3 April 1986
Soldier, Soldier 
by Tony Parker.
Heinemann, 244 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 434 57770 7
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Echoes of the Great War: The Diary of the Reverend Andrew Clark 1914-1919 
edited by James Munson.
Oxford, 304 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 19 212984 8
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The Unknown Army: Mutinies in the British Army in World War One 
by Gloden Dallas and Douglas Gill.
Verso, 178 pp., £18.50, July 1985, 0 86091 106 3
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Soldiers: A History of Men in Battle 
by John Keegan and Richard Holmes.
Hamish Hamilton, 288 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 241 11583 3
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... feeling of excitement that you can’t describe to someone who’s never been involved in it. What ethical code controls that voice? What does it echo, in the long history of warfare examined by JohnKeegan and Richard Holmes in their book-of-the-television-series, Soldiers? It looks to me as if fighting men have adhered to perhaps half a dozen different codes. There is the ‘rape and pillage ...

Cowboy Coups

Phillip Knightley

10 October 1991
Smear! Wilson and the Secret State 
by Stephen Dorrill and Robin Ramsay.
Fourth Estate, 502 pp., £20, August 1991, 9781872180687
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... the whole story has yet to be told. The 1968 meeting was certainly not some aberration on King’s part: how otherwise do we explain the testimony of such a reliable figure as the military historian, JohnKeegan, who says that he heard King tell a group at Sandhurst in 1975 about the need for the Armed Forces to act to save the country. Keegan says: ‘I had no doubt I was listening to a treasonable ...

Glory

Eric Hobsbawm

3 June 1982
War and Society in Revolutionary Europe 1770-1870 
by Geoffrey Best.
Leicester University Press/Fontana, 336 pp., £12, March 1982, 0 00 634747 9
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European Empires from Conquest to Collapse 1815-1960 
by V.G. Kiernan.
Leicester University Press/Fontana, 285 pp., £12, March 1982, 0 00 634826 2
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... music and intelligence have to plain music and intelligence. It seeks to situate war in society, and it is aware of what other historians are doing. Even so specifically a military historian as JohnKeegan writes recognisable and impressive social history. The major asset of British historians of war is not so much that they have had experience of the armed forces in combat – many have, but much of ...
20 June 1985
Firing Line 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 436 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 224 02043 9
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The Right of the Line: The Royal Air Force in the European War 1939-1945 
by John​ Terraine.
Hodder, 841 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 340 26644 9
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The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book 
by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt.
Viking, 804 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 670 80137 2
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’45: The Final Drive from the Rhine to the Baltic 
by Charles Whiting.
Century, 192 pp., £7.95, March 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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In the Ruins of the Reich 
by Douglas Botting.
Allen and Unwin, 248 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 9780049430365
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1945: The World We Fought For 
by Robert Kee.
Hamish Hamilton, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 241 11531 0
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VE Day: Victory in Europe 1945 
by Robin Cross.
Sidgwick, 223 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 283 99220 4
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One Family’s War 
edited by Patrick Mayhew.
Hutchinson, 237 pp., £10.95, May 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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Poems of the Second World War: The Oasis Selection 
edited by Victor Selwyn.
Dent, 386 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 460 10432 2
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My Life 
by Bert Hardy.
Gordon Fraser, 192 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 86092 083 6
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Victory in Europe: D Day to VE Day 
by Max Hastings and George Stevens.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £10.95, April 1985, 0 297 78650 4
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... 1939-45, while three hundred thousand deserted or went AWOL from the German Army in 1941-44. It is still more extraordinary that armed forces maintain impetus to attack despite heavy casualty rates. John Terraine’s The Right of the Line, a comprehensive, judicious and humane account of the RAF’s experience in the last European war, gives sympathetic attention to the stress experienced by aircrews ...
11 March 1993
Churchill: The End of Glory 
by John​ Charmley.
Hodder, 648 pp., £30, January 1993, 9780340487952
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Churchill: A Major New Assessment of his Life in Peace and War 
edited by Robert Blake and Wm Roger Louis.
Oxford, 517 pp., £19.95, February 1993, 0 19 820317 9
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... V. Jones, the happy beam-hunter of 1940 and premier intelligencer thereafter (... and Science), Norman Rose (and Zionism) and Roy Jenkins (the Government of 1951-55) are predictably good. The uneven JohnKeegan (... ’s Strategy), though seemingly disqualified by his recent published confession that he cannot understand Clausewitz, nevertheless succeeds here, correctly citing the one document that ...

Reproaches from the Past

Peter Clarke: Gordon Brown

1 April 2004
The Prudence of Mr Gordon Brown 
by William Keegan.
Wiley, 356 pp., £18.99, October 2003, 0 470 84697 6
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... Inventories of the Treasury of His Majesty’s Exchequer (1836), not forgetting Hall’s Antiquities and Curiosities of the Exchequer (1891). Standing in such a tradition, the title chosen by William Keegan, The Prudence of Mr Gordon Brown, is entitled to its whimsical flourish, and he duly begins with a monitory epigraph from Titian’s Allegory of Prudence: ‘The Present does well to profit from the ...

The Greatest Error of Modern History

R.W. Johnson: Did the Kaiser get it right?

18 February 1999
The Pity of War 
by Niall Ferguson.
Allen Lane, 512 pp., £16.99, November 1998, 0 7139 9246 8
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... which played a major part in that year’s summer offensive – but he is surely right to argue that American intervention was crucial, not because of anything the Americans did (as Malcolm Brown and JohnKeegan show, the Canadians and Australians had a for more significant role in the key Allied offensive), but because the knowledge that these legions of fresh and confident men were pouring into ...

Red Flowers, at a Wedding?

Tessa Hadley: Claire Keegan

24 January 2008
Walk the Blue Fields 
by Claire Keegan.
Faber, 163 pp., £10.99, May 2007, 978 0 571 23306 9
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... In the title story of Claire Keegan’s second collection, Walk the Blue Fields, a priest is officiating at a wedding in rural Ireland: the bride is late, the organist has to play the Bach toccata twice, ‘a thrill of doubt’ is ...

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