I\'ve just finished re-reading John Keegan\'s A History of Warfare (and I\'m halfway through The Face of Battle), his comprehensive sweep through military action from the earliest records up to the first Gulf War which seeks throughout to challenge the work of Carl Von Clausewitz, as set out in On War that so came to dominate the thinking of military minds in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The early chapters that cover warfare in early primitive societies can be tough as they cover chunks of social and behavioural sciences and there is a lot of conjecture but once Keegan gets to known history his analysis is much more accessible and entertaining. He neatly demonstrates how the \'western\' way of warfare with an emphasis on face-to-face contact and seeking a definitive, bloody conclusion to engagements was so brutally effective against the \'primitive\' more moderate, more ritualistic mode of warfare.
His main chapters, Stone covering fortifications, Flesh - the influence of the horse, Iron - phalanx warfare and knights and then Fire from gunpowder to the atomic bomb cover both technological changes and differences between practice and theory which led to the apocalyptic nature of the Cold War and beyond.
My edition ends on a hopeful note citing the first Gulf War as a positive demonstration of nations cooperating to limit the dangers of war but I would love to know what Keegan thinks now. Is he still so optimistic
So this got me thinking. If you were introducing someone to the study of military history what would be the seminal text you suggest they read?