Hubris : The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century

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Alistair Horne has been a close observer of war and history for more than fifty years. In this wise and masterly work, he revisits six battles that changed the course of the twentieth century and reveals the one trait that links them all: hubris. In Greek tragedy, hubris is excessive human pride that challenges the gods and ultimately leads to total destruction of the offender. From the Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 to Hitler's 1941 bid to capture Moscow, and from the disastrous American advance in Korea to the French surrender at Dien Bien Phu, Horne shows how each of these battles was won or lost due to excessive hubris on one side or the other. In a sweeping narrative written with his trademark erudition and wit, Horne provides a meticulously detailed analysis of the ground manoeuvres employed by the opposing armies in each battle. He also examines the strategies, leadership, preparation and geopolitical goals of aggressors and defenders, to show how devastating combinations of human ambition and arrogance led to overreach. Making clear the danger of hubris in warfare, his insights hold resonant lessons for civilian and military leaders navigating today's complex global landscape. A dramatic, colourful and stylishly written history, HUBRIS is an essential reflection on war from a master of his more

Product details

  • Hardback | 336 pages
  • 159 x 242 x 31mm | 596g
  • Orion Publishing Co
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0297867628
  • 9780297867623
  • 328,638

Review quote

The ancient Greeks used the word 'hubris' to describe. the arrogant belief that man could challenge the gods and survive... Horne uses this sobering reflection to illuminate the history of war in the first half of the 20th century, which he does with the elegant readability and sharp insight familiar from his long career. -- Richard Overy SUNDAY TELEGRAPH The case against the awful consequences of military hubris is not hard to make. But Sir Alistair makes it with erudition and eloquence...his narrative is never dull; his judgements are informed by a weary understanding of human folly. This is a book that any political leader contemplating military action should read. THE ECONOMIST Alistair Horne's Hubris (Weidenfeld, GBP25) provides a penetrating study of six critically important battles of the second world war, each one illustrating how the sin of pride brings disaster on those who indulge in it. It is difficult to know whether to admire more the author's mastery of his subject or his literary skills. -- Philip Ziegler THE SPECTATOR, Books of the Year 2015 Horne is always readable and he has a keen eye for sometimes overlooked connections. One need not agree with Alistair Horne's choice of his analysis to welcome a thought-provoking contribution to an old historical theme. -- Ian F. W. Beckett TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT I can think of no one better to tackle the daunting subject of hubris and the punishments that so often follow than Alistair Horne. He brings the necessary wisdom, vast knowledge of the past and understanding of human nature to show the effects of hubris in modern warfare. In his masterly and confident hands, we are shown how victory whether that of the Japanese navy at Tsushima in 1905 or General MacArthur's in the first stages of the Korean War leads all too commonly to complacency and then disaster. A wonderful read. -- Margaret MacMillan This is Alistair Horne's 25th book and it is filled with the insights that can come only from a lifetime of studying war. Hubris is his title and his leitmotif - more precisely, the over-confidence that so often leads to military disaster. But there is no hubris in the author himself, who approaches the challenges of writing about Oriental conflicts with a due humility, as well as his customary literary skill -- Niall Ferguson In this well written, deeply researched, and persuasively argued book, Horne, the venerable British military historian, looks at six critical battles of the 20th century, focusing on what he argues is a constant that links all of them: the hubristic arrogance exhibited by those on the losing end. In military history, the word hubris is most often used to explain one of the primary flaws of American Vietnam War policymakers, but Horne looks across the 50 years that preceded that engagement ... Horne convincingly argues that "infection by hubris" is alive and well today, and he rounds out the work by discussing ways that 21st-century leaders can work to avoid it PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (USA) the book is a dramatic, colourful and stylishly written history. A very enjoyable and enjoyable volume. WARSHIP WORLDshow more

About Alistair Horne

Sir Alistair Horne is the author of over twenty books on history and politics. They include A SAVAGE WAR OF PEACE: ALGERIA 1954-1962 (winner of the Wolfson Prize), THE PRICE OF GLORY: VERDUN 1916 (winner of the Hawthornden Prize), HOW FAR FROM AUSTERLITZ?: NAPOLEON 1805-1815 and SEVEN AGES OF PARIS. In 1969 he founded the Alistair Horne Fellowship, to help young historians at St Antony's College, Oxford. He was awarded the French Legion d'honneur in 1993 and received a knighthood in 2003 for his work on French history. He lives in Oxfordshire with his artist wife more