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The Father of Us All

War and History, Ancient and Modern


Victor Davis Hanson (View Bio)
Hardcover: Bloomsbury Press, 2010.

The Father of Us All

"Victor Davis Hanson is unique. A superb classical and military historian, he is also one of America's most incisive commentators on contemporary politics. In his new collection of essays, written to form a closely argued book, he discusses many aspects of the history of war and its modern forms, including the war against Islamist terrorism. I have never read another book which explains so well the truth that 'war lies in the dark hearts of us all' but that history offers hope. His writing has the simple lucidity of a scholar who also has a rare talent to explain. The Father of Us All describes the forces that threaten our world today and shows how, learning the lessons of yesterday, we can guarantee tomorrow. It is a tour de force."—William Shawcross

A master historian explores how war has shaped our societies—and how societies shape warfare—from Ancient Greece to the present day, in a sweeping survey that offers profound lessons for facing today’s conflicts.

Long acclaimed as one of our leading scholars of ancient history, Victor Davis Hanson also has become a wise counselor on current affairs, bringing a historian’s deep knowledge of past conflicts to bear on the crises of the present, from 9/11 to Afghanistan. “War,” he writes, “is an entirely human enterprise.” Ideologies change, technologies develop, new strategies are invented—but human nature is constant across time and space. The dynamics of warfare in the present age still remain comprehensible to us through careful study of the past. Though many have called the War on Terror unprecedented, its contours would have been quite familiar to Themistocles of Athens or William Tecumseh Sherman. As we face the menace of a bin Laden or a Kim Jong-Il, we can prepare ourselves with knowledge of how such challenges have been met before.

The Father of Us All brings together much of Hanson’s finest recent writing on war and society, both ancient and modern. The author has gathered a range of essays, and combined and revised them into a new work that explores such topics as how technology shapes warfare, what constitutes the “American way of war,” and why even those who abhor war need to study military history. “War is the father and king of us all,” Heraclitus wrote in ancient Greece—as Victor Davis Hanson shows, it is no less so today.

"A lively collection … the writing is elegant and erudite." — Foreign Affairs

"Hanson has provided a thoughtful, wide-ranging look at the fundamental questions of war and peace." — MHQ, The Quarterly Journal of Military History

"Since 9/11, Victor Davis Hanson, director of the Hoover Institution’s group on military history and contemporary conflict, has emerged as a major commentator on war making and politics. This anthology brings together 13 of Hanson’s essays and reviews, revised and re-edited…. Hanson’s introductory generalization that war is a human enterprise that seems inseparable from the human condition structures such subjects as an eloquent answer to the question ‘Why Study War?’, a defense of the historicity of the film ‘300’, about the Persian Wars, in a masterpiece of envelope pushing, and a comprehensive and dazzling analysis of why America fights as she does. He explains why Xenophon, though a lesser historian than Thucydides, retains a ‘timeless attraction’ and analyzes war and democracy in light of America’s decreasing willingness to intervene in places like Rwanda or Darfur. The pieces are well written, sometimes elegantly so, and closely reasoned. They address familiar material from original and stimulating perspectives. Hanson’s arguments may not convince everyone, but cannot be dismissed. His critics and admirers will be pleased to have these pieces available under one cover." — Publishers Weekly

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