History in Review
50 Battles that Changed the World
The Conflicts that Most Influenced the Course of History
By William Weir
Career Press, 2008
A Book Review by Harry S. Chou - January 24, 2011
War is one of the principal factors responsible for advancing civilization, and in destroying it. War acts as a means of population control and it provokes technological developments that often find peace time applications. Wars redraw maps, propel some to power and topple others. War seems to be a constant factor in our daily lives, as it has been, perhaps, since mankind first divided itself into clans or tribes. In 50 Battles that Changed the World, William Weir, a noted war correspondent and writer whose speciality is military history, expounds upon the fifty battles that he feels most influenced world history.
Granted, his list and ranking of the battles are arbitrary in nature. Ask someone else to create such a list and I'm positive that while there would be some overlap in choices, each individual would be likely to make several changes to Weir's list. Nonetheless, this book offers an informative and compelling look at fifty influential battles, each of which had a profound impact on world history - by whatever criteria you'd choose to use.
Weir's list is wide ranging, going back to the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. between the Greeks and Persians to more modern battles such as the Tet Offensive of 1968 and the Battle of the Marne in 1914. Along the way he has also included such well-known battles as the battle of the Alamo (1836), Waterloo (1815), New Orleans (1814), Bunker Hill (1775), Midway (1942), Hastings (1066), Battle of Britain (1940), and many more. He has also included a number of lesser known, but nonetheless influence battles, such as the Nika Rebellion (532), Emmaus (166 BC), Kadishiyah (637), Gupta (1180), Wu-sung (1862), and more.
Weir has ranked the battles in what he considers to be their level of importance. Within the pages of this book, he provides an edifying treatise on each battle, detailing the key participants and when, where and how the battle was fought. He also provides sufficient background information to enable you to put the battle into the context of world history, and he provides insights into how the battle influenced history.
For anyone with an interest in military history or world history in general, this book will make fascinating reading. It is also an important book for anyone interested in current events or technological innovations. The lessons that can be garnered from the history of these battles have implications for today, both in terms of foreign policy and military issues. As well, it is riveting to see how similar modern and ancient warfare really is. All that has changed is the weaponry and the to some small measure, the tactics. The causes of modern wars differ little from those of the past, and the mistakes of the past are all too often repeated on the modern diplomatic front, and on the battle field. If modern politicians and military advisors would pay a little closer attention to their history books, perhaps some of these mistake could be avoided.
In the meantime, relish this book. It is full of stories about epic battles won and lost, unforgettable accounts of courage, bravery, and self-sacrifice, and of how seemingly insignificant events can have repercussions not only at the time, but throughout history. 50 Battles that Changed the World is a throughly interesting book to read and one that deserves a place in both public and academic libraries.
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The Mediterranean in History, Edited by David Abulafia.
Covering over four thousand years of history, this text covers more than just the history of Mediterranean Sea and those that plied its waves, but also the history of the peoples that lives along the periphery of the waters edges.
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