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A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962: Algeria 1954-1962

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  1,003 ratings  ·  112 reviews
Described by one of our editors as "the best book about the Iraq war that isn't about the Iraq war," Alistair Horne's stellar 1977 history of the Algerian revolution could not have been reissued at a more propitious time. Waged a half century ago, the war in Algeria served as a prototype for many modern conflicts. But nowhere does its bloody legacy echo more resoundingly t ...more
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Published January 1st 1977 by Blackstone Audiobooks
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All our so-called civilization is covered with a varnish. Scratch it and underneath you find fear. The French, even the Germans, are not torturers by nature. But when you see the throats of your copains slit, then the varnish disappears.
-Paul Teitgen, former French prefect of Algiers, to the author

Both on the front and back covers of the NYRB edition of this book are ringing endorsements by pundits and politicos, warning the reader about the total resemblance between this disaster and that of th
This is an excellent book, but a book emotionally difficult to read. A book filled with detailed information. A challenging book.

It is thorough and well researched.

It is balanced. All warring combatants are fairly presented.

Details of the war atrocities, and they are numerable, are not excessive. This is what happened, and if you are going to read about this terrible war you need to be given all the facts, all the atrocities committed. Only then do you fully understand. Atrocities of war are co
Prior to reading A Savage War of Peace, I knew as much about Algeria as I do about Sanskrit morphology. A bit of Camus, a few memorable scenes from The Battle of Algiers, the puzzling lyrics to Rock the Casbah: that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge. I was dimly aware that France had fought a nasty colonial war there back in the 50s, but I had no idea just how terrible – and terribly momentous – the conflict was. I don’t think I can put it any more succinctly than the jacket copy of my ...more
When the New York Review of Books republished this in 2006, a lot was made of its relevance to modern US-led adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is kind of true, but also a bit irritating (because a well-told history like this shouldn't require modern parallels to be worth reading), and for that matter also overstated – the differences were really more striking to me than the similarities. America was fighting in a foreign country. France was not, and that was really the whole point. I don' ...more
Robert Morris
This is not a book about Algeria. The author makes clear that he was unable to access decent sources from the Algerian side, but anyone buying this book should be aware that this is French history more than anything else. The author makes some efforts to understand the Algerians, but it often comes back to the same comments about their "inscrutable" nature. If you are looking for insight into Algeria, the wikipedia page would probably be about as useful.

The treatment of the French, on the other
Jeremy Allan
This book, like all histories, has its biases and its imperfections. Despite that, A Savage War of Peace maintains a reasonable level of objectivity in relating the happenings of a war rarely described in neutral terms. For example, I say "a war," even though I was informed by a French colleague yesterday that many French historians prefer to avoid that word, choosing instead to refer to "the events" in Algeria. Such a position, I believe, illustrates clearly that even descriptions meant to appe ...more
This is a subject that I only became interested in because of the film 'The Battle Of Algiers' The film is certainly a great film. The book is also a very good to great piece of history. Alistair Horne manages to fully interrogate a distressing and controversial world event in such a way as to be fair to all the parties concerned but also not be judgment free.

Horne is in control of his facts and with them tells the sordid, painful story of this conflict. To his credit it reads like a story, a co
I knew almost nothing of the war of liberation in Algeria, and this was an enormous introduction (624 pages worth), bringing immense satisfaction at finishing it. It is brilliantly crafted history, slow going but fairly enthralling none the less, and a wonderful management of detail. It is as balanced and critical as the author can make it I think, exploring the critical events and the political machinations of the war on both sides. For an aerial view of everything that happened, explored with ...more
Peter Buren
Horne’s book is a long, sad, brilliant look at the mistakes the French made in trying to subdue Algeria via torture, military power and hubris. Sound familiar? Our go-to guy Tom Ricks said this in his review of the book: “When Americans talk about the raging insurgency in Iraq, they often draw parallels with the Vietnam War, but a better analogy is probably the French war against nationalist rebels in Algeria from 1954 to 1962. That’s one reason why the landmark history of that conflict, Alistai ...more
Nov 10, 2008 Ed rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kate
Gruelling tough minded, balanced account of the war that is the classic on counter insurgency. Read by everyone from Petraeus, the Pentagon, the Israeli cabinet, Hamas, Bin Laden. In middle east peace talks, everyone has it in their briefcase. But not for the faint hearted and not good for your faith in human goodness: the atrocities on both sides are truly awful.
I've always wanted to read this but never got beyond the first chapter in the past. However, I recently read Embers of War abount the French War in Indochina which made me think about Algeria again. It turns out this book was a great bookend to Embers. Many of the same battle hardened officers, who incredibly saw action in the Resistance and Dien Bien Phu would play crucial roles in Algeria. Overall, this is a well balanced account of the war and Horne is a fair historian giving equal time to th ...more
Lauren Albert
Not long ago, I wrote of "Mao's Last Revolution" that I "could not see the forest for the trees." Yet, Horne's book on Algeria was highly detailed and yet still gave me a sense of the forest. Algeria's story is a complex one and Horne tells it well and even handedly. I, surprising myself, wanted to start over when I finished it to get a better grasp of all of the complexity. I didn't only because it is so very long! The publisher makes a point of quoting Thomas Ricks on the cover, saying that "a ...more
Alistair Horne's "Savage War of Peace" has gotten a lot of recent attention as Army officers and US policymakers have been reading to find some some clues on how to handle Iraq. France did win its war in Algeria militarily but lost it politically, failing to come up with a solution that Algerians could live with (like liberte, egalite, fraternite). The French also lost the battle for public opinion at home, as those with recent memory of Nazi occupation were turned off by their army's use of tor ...more
A Savage War of Peace is the definitive history of the Algerian war of independence, fought from 1954 to 1962. This is a book that the neo-con overlords would have been well advised to have read before they embarked on their adventure in Iraq - but, sadly, none of the hard-won lessons of Algeria ever seeped into the feeble brains of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Rice. We've all paid the price of their fact-free theorizing.

If you want to know, in exacting detail, how Algeria won its inde
Scott Whitmore
A solidly presented look at the conflict between Algeria and France leading to the former nation’s independence in 1962, in turns fascinating and frustrating — not because of the author’s efforts, although I will list a few quibbles below, but rather because of the lessons unlearned.

In the preface to the 2006 edition, Alistair Horne relates that, at his staff’s request a copy of "A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962" was sent to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield in 2005. This would be
Andrew Hill
Alistair Horne's great chronicle of the Algerian war of independence returned to mainstream attention during the last decade when it was on the reading list of President Bush and many of his national security and military advisors. The implication was that France's experiences in Algeria might hold some lessons for the United States as it fought the Iraqi insurgency (at the time a greater concern than the war in Afghanistan).

I find this quite ironic, for the one great lesson of Horne's book is h
Jamie Rinaldi
Jul 12, 2007 Jamie Rinaldi rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in 3rd world independence struggles.
After recently been accused in the local press as having sympathies towards "Marxists and third world revolutionaries" (not me specifically, but my department), I thought it might be wise to begin bolstering my romantic ideas of guerilla struggle and popular insurrection with some cold hard facts.

In all seriousness, Savage War of Peace, Alasdair Horne's exhaustive history of the Algerian war for independence (1954-1962) lays waste to the simplistic and yet not uncommon tendency of scholars and
Frank Kelly
Horne long ago established himself as one of the greatest historians and biographers of our generation (and, I would argue, many generations back). This book is exactly why he wears this crown on his august head -- it's an extraordinary story of a brutal war that much of the world ignored while France fought viciously and ultimately to a bitter defeat. Many pointed to this book as a case study of everything the US was doing in Iraq. Maybe that is correct, maybe not. But to confine this book as s ...more
An excellent, compellingly written history of a complicated, bloody conflict.
In A Savage War of Peace, Alistair Horne combines the disciplines of journalism and history to provide a broad, yet insightful account of the Algerian War of Independence. This synthesis allows him to step outside of the strict boundaries of history and frame his narrative around the idea of “turning points” in the history of the conflict, which enables him to speculate, particularly in the conclusion, about what the outcome might have been had the situation changed. Aside from this, however, hi ...more
Bob H
This edition is particularly valuable in that it provides the author's prefaces to the 1977, 1996 and 2006 editions, that is to say, at 20 years from the Battle of Algiers, at the beginning of Algeria's own confrontation with Islamic revolt on the modern pattern (rather than nationalist as in 1954-62), and, in the last preface, in light of the current war in Iraq. Horne does note the parallels and the dissimilarities there.

The book is also worthwhile in that Horne puts in context the damage to t
Joseph Stieb
This is an intense read that will probably take you a while to get through. The narrative is pretty dense, and it's difficult to keep track of the stream of generals, politicians, and rebels that come and go. Leaving out some extra details could have made the book 1/5th shorter. The one towering figure over this period in history is Charles de Gaulle. He deserves significant credit for holding France together in this period in the face of military intransigence and rebellion. He also had the for ...more
Charlotte Osborn-bensaada
This seminal work on the Algerian war of independence has many lessons to teach us today. Why people need and will choose self-determination, why torture even when it gives you short-term results will backfire both for the mission and what it will introduce into your own society. The capacity of self-interest to turn even "civilized people" savage.

But, I felt remarkably smart reading it on the Google shuttle, in the face of the Jr. engineer, plowing through his highlighted copy of "You: The Owners Manual". The feeling lasted, too. I.e. Anyone down to get arcane viz. Algeria and France and the US and Iraq(Iran)? Because baby, I'm equipped.
Raymond Thomas
Excellent book on the War in Algeria that really does justice to the conflict by exploring all sides (French, Algerian, FLN, pieds noir, etc) without taking anyone's side. The author himself mentions that it focuses a lot more on the French than the Algerians due to the fact that the Algerian group (and then government) was far more secretive about their operations than the French politicians, generals, and soldiers who gave interviews and wrote memoirs about their experience in the former Frenc ...more
This is a fascinating book!! Besides simply describing the Algerian war in great details, it gives great insights on the nature of insurgency, terrorism and war. So many lessons are more relevant than ever today. Reading this book during the summer of 2014, I'm really struck by the parallel between the Algerian war and the most recent bout of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas is exactly following the strategy of the FLN, trying to get as many palestinians killed as possible to get more sup ...more
A good book but a very dense read. Horne presented very vivid descriptions of the atrocities committed by both sides of the conflict, and I believe this approach somewhat masked the causes of the war. While it seems popular to try to learn lessons from wars which appear superficially similiar, one of the unique characteristics of this war was that Algeria was a department of France, not part of its colonial empire. This situation contributed to the emotional involvement felt not only by the insu ...more
A truly great work of historical writing.

Horne skillfully situates a multifaceted narrative. The reader is shown the battles between the French, the FLN, and the pied-noirs; the conflicts between the French army and the French state; and the underlying Cold War tensions complicated by the initial Communist sympathies of many pied-noirs and the attempts of Moscow to pry France from the western bloc.

The book includes fine descriptions of military undertakings, combined with an ever-present unders
An impressive book, especially considering that it was written less than two decades after the event itself and that it is still respected among scholars today. It is your typical narrative history, with all of the advantages and pitfalls that come with that sort of thing. It is very well written, and hardly ever boring, although be warned - it is long, much longer than it looks.

Depending on where you sit ideologically, one could argue that Horne is a shade too worshipful of de Gaulle in parts,
Jun 29, 2012 John rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to John by: Jay
A great history! Interesting both on the grand scale and on the smaller incidents of the war, with tons of characters, many fascinating or tragic or simply relatable. Horne is awfully good at leaving signposts to help you remember the actors and major incidents of the war, so that I mostly managed to keep straight the Dufours and Degueldres and Delbecques and Debres and Delouvriers and Debrosses. Pulls in lots of sources: interviews with the former generals and colonels, their memoirs, soldiers' ...more
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Alistair Horne is a preeminent historian, journalist and Oxford fellow who has written seventeen books, many of them on the military history of France.He has won the following awards: Hawthornden Prize, 1963, for The Price of Glory; Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Prize and Wolfson Literary Award, both 1978, both for A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962; French Légion d'Honneur, 1993, for work ...more
More about Alistair Horne...
The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 Seven Ages of Paris To Lose a Battle: France 1940 The Fall of Paris: The Siege and the Commune 1870-71 La Belle France

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