Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
An Instinct for War

An Instinct for War

Scenes from the Battlefields of History

Roger Spiller

ISBN 9780674024199

Publication date: 04/30/2007

Stories about war are some of the oldest stories told--used to entertain, to glorify, to lament, to educate. An Instinct for War utilizes myriad tales of war to offer a remarkable look at one of humanity's oldest plagues. Roger Spiller excavates the essence of war and its evolution through the words and thoughts of those who led--and those who were led--into battle, moving from the perspective of an ancient Chinese emperor to Napoleon's command, from a Civil War soldier's final days to the particularities of today's small wars throughout the globe.

Spiller combines a mastery of the primary sources with a vibrant historical imagination to locate a dozen turning points in the world's history of warfare that altered our understanding of war and its pursuit. We are conducted through profound moments by the voices of those who witnessed them and are given a graphic understanding of war, the devastating choices, the means by which battles are won and lost, and the enormous price exacted. Spiller's attention to the sights and sounds of battle enables us to feel the sting and menace of past violent conflicts as if they were today's.

A bold departure from standard military history, An Instinct for War will challenge our understanding of how war forever alters the landscape--both human and geographic--and how individuals can alter the nature of battle. This collective portrait of the life of war offers unparalleled insight into our struggle for mastery over a fundamental instinct.

Praise

  • Roger Spiller is the least conventional of historians. For years, he has laboured on a book on the nature of war, and he has cast it in fictional form… This thought-provoking book represents an infusion of a lifetime’s reading and thought about war, and renders the dimensions of conflict comprehensible to all. This is an achievement rare among historians, and Roger Spiller must now be reckoned among the notable writers about war.

    —Brian Holden Reid, Times Literary Supplement

Author

  • Roger Spiller is George C. Marshall Professor of Military History, Emeritus, at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

Book Details

  • 416 pages
  • 1-1/8 x 5-1/4 x 8 inches
  • Belknap Press

Recommendations