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The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  371 Ratings  ·  56 Reviews
Victor Davis Hanson has long been acclaimed as one of our leading scholars of ancient history. In recent years he has also become a trenchant voice on current affairs, bringing a historian's deep knowledge of past conflicts to bear on the crises of the present, from 9/11 to Iran. "War," he writes, "is an entirely human enterprise." Ideologies change, technologies develop, ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Bloomsbury Press
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Kevin Scott Olson
Apr 14, 2016 Kevin Scott Olson rated it it was amazing
This collection of essays will probably be read only by students of history, but its wisdom would benefit us all.

The author, a Stanford professor and renowned scholar, examines the question of why wars exist: Why did wars occur in the past? The present? Most important, will they continue to exist in the future?

With remarkable breadth of knowledge, Hanson reaches back to ancient times, to the Peloponnesian War between Greece and Sparta, then walks us through history—Caesar, Napoleon, the American
Jun 22, 2016 Kate rated it it was ok
Shelves: war, could-not-finish
I got 68% through this book, which I had great hope for, but it is so filled with opinions that are so far out there, that I could not go on. Presented as an overview of war from the time of the Greeks through present and the ways wars have changed. taken from this historian's lectures and articles.
I began to have problems with the chapter How we fight...which was about American Exceptionalism, how we saw in Europe innovations and brought them home from the wars and created the greatest nation w
Jay Hinman
Aug 13, 2012 Jay Hinman rated it really liked it
I've never had an easy time crafting a coherent, ideologically consistent set of foreign policy positions. As a mostly small-l libertarian, or "classic liberal" (something like that), I'm supposed to be inherently suspicious of the State in all its forms and therefore devoted to small government in all its forms - including that devourer of enormous portions of our GNP, the military. My liberal tendencies have me sometimes making common cause on matters of war & peace with those on the Left ...more
Apr 02, 2015 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this book to any of my progressive friends who want a look behind "enemy lines" at some of the philosophical underpinnings of the right and our views of the world & human nature as relates to conflict.
Jun 16, 2016 Bob rated it really liked it
Summary: A collection of essays arguing from history that war is a tragic but persistent feature of human existence that explores some of the particular challenges that democracies from Athens to the present day United States face as we are faced with the prospect or reality of war.

It seems that, along with the poor, we will always have war. Victor Davis Hanson would say that this is in fact one of the lessons of history. Hanson, in this collection of essays draws upon both ancient history going
Apr 14, 2012 Dale rated it it was amazing
Excellent Series of Essays

Victor Davis Hanson's The Father of Us All is an excellent series of essays about war - why we fight, how we fight, the compromises societies make with themselves as they fight, what causes some countries to keep fighting while others grow weary of it, what types of societies deal best with the stresses of war, the future of war and a look at the American way of waging war.

Many of these essays have been previously published (or substantial parts of them) in magazines
Gary Brecht
Jul 17, 2013 Gary Brecht rated it liked it
Victor Davis Hanson, a historian with a background in Greek literature, has created a compendium of essays touching upon the importance of military history and its relevance to the conflicts of today. He asserts that in spite of the diminished popularity of military history in today’s college curricula, the study of past wars prepares us for the potential outcomes of future armed hostilities. Moreover, the past can enlighten us as to means of preventing the spread of such conflicts. This does no ...more
Thorwald Franke
Feb 24, 2013 Thorwald Franke rated it it was amazing
Understanding the Logic of War on the basis of our Ancient Heritage

Victor Davis Hanson's book "The Father of Us All" is one of those books explaining an important aspect of our present world in a timeless and groundbreaking manner, so that this book can be recommeded to everybody. On the basis of our ancient heritage he examines the development of war and discovers basic insights into the logic of war. With these insights it is much easier to understand what is really going on in this world conc
Jan 24, 2011 Zinger rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
I received my copy of “The Father Of Us All” from Goodreads. It took me awhile to get through because there were so many events in history that I was not familiar with, that I would put the book down and do some Internet searches on those topics. Some of these searches would lead to hours at a time on the Internet.

I thought Hanson did a great job of laying out the reasons that the study of warfare is an important area to study today. It is a very broad subject including topics of politics, leade
Jun 08, 2016 Cody rated it it was amazing
History is our ally. Conflict is constant. These two statements I have always believed and continue to believe the more I study about past cultures and historical events. I saw this book reviewed here on Goodreads by someone on my friend list and the title intrigued me. Naturally I turned to Amazon and purchased the book, and as I began reading I developed a real appreciation for what Mr. Hanson presents. The book itself is a collection of over a dozen lectures and journalist articles but brilli ...more
Mike Scarbrough
Sep 21, 2014 Mike Scarbrough rated it it was ok
Mr. Hanson is a smart man, of course. And I like a realist. He says that war has been with us for a long time and will always be around. Okay fair enough. But I guess the notion of a book being an apology for war ultimately doesn't sit well with me. He would claim that I am a comfortable and affluent westerner who can afford to take the intellectual high road and call war barbaric, which it is - but that, because of our human nature, war will always be with us - so if I just root for the good gu ...more
Peter Jiao
Sep 17, 2014 Peter Jiao rated it it was ok
Note to self:

It is probably true that not enough attention is given by our education system and media on the importance of military history, and that this can lead to current events and situations as being seen as unprecedented - which lends itself to sensationalism. It is also probably true that refusing to settle for 'good enough' military equipment and instead spending over a billion dollars on one bomber isn't the best response to non-conventional warfare (Although I found how he made this a
Dan Hoadley
Jul 14, 2010 Dan Hoadley rated it really liked it
Hanson bounces from Ancient Greece to modern day Afghanistan as he explores various aspects of war and how it has evolved over the ages. He has a special focus on the interaction between the populous and how it has changed over time. He believes that as technology plays a greater role in war the American public is losing it's taste for pursuing a winning military policy.
Jun 25, 2010 Raully rated it liked it
Once I wrapped my head around the fact that this is really a farrago of lectures and book reviews that its author did not want to go unpublished, and not a coherent narrative about war, I began to enjoy this book a little bit more. Let the reader be forewarned.
T. Robert
May 16, 2016 T. Robert rated it liked it
Historian Victor Davis Hanson has put together a number of well-written essays on military history anad the current state of warfare. In most of these, he compares the characteristics and demands of modern warfare with the lessons of war from classicial Greece, as well he can do as he was originally a professor of the classics. His opening essays are quite good, especially the opening essay on why we should study war. But I found the last section - "How Western Wars are Won - and Lost" - to drag ...more
Nov 30, 2010 Gregory rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
The Father of Us All by Victor Davis Hanson takes a look at a subject that pervades human history: War. The main premise is that war is, essentially, human nature and while we may wish to will war away, it will inevitably remain. His approach can be off-putting to many, since his "realistic" view of war comes across as a very conservative view. If you are not open-minded and get immediately furious with anyone who does not agree with you 100%, do not read this book. If you are willing to read th ...more
Aug 09, 2010 Megan rated it liked it
The Father of Us All is a purposely uncomfortable read: Hanson wants the reader to look at war straight on, and he wants us to reflect on why it is an enduring component of human existence. It's written with an unhidden conservative bias, which might turn off many readers, but there's a lot of thought-provoking, big-picture ideas to unpack here.

The primary thesis linking the essays in this book -- in order to understand the military conflicts of today, it's important to not only know but study a
James Murphy
Nov 12, 2012 James Murphy rated it really liked it
Hanson's concern in these essays is the changing face of war in a geopolitical landscape increasingly defined by the haves and the have-nots. He's an expert in the classical era of war. He wrote a definitive study explaining how such ancient Greek notions as politically pragmatic strategy and citizen military service have become the ways of the west. Here his reflections on the changing nature of war--which is basically a focus on changes wrought by the asymmetrical types of wars in which poorer ...more
Sep 22, 2010 Phoenixfalls rated it really liked it
Overall, this is a well-written, passionate argument the military history is just as vital a field of study as ever, and that the ideas that we have grown beyond war-making or that war is somehow a different beast than in the rest of human history are junk.

When he confines himself to making these points, Hanson is persuasive. He draws clear parallels between modern wars (particularly the war in Iraq, but also the first Gulf War, Vietnam and several other military engagements in the second half o
Apr 12, 2011 Jon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2011
Hanson is brilliant. Writes in an astonishingly clear and descriptive way. He is not an advocate for war but wants the reader to understand why we engage. His attempt as a historian is to make sense of it and analyze it for what it is. That despite humankind's intention to avoid, we don't and it likely will remain inevitable. I simultaneously read 2 books of similar subjects, Dominic Thierey's "How We Fight - Crusades, Quaqmires and the American Way." and this book. Reading both provided me an e ...more
Jun 12, 2013 S. rated it really liked it
Shelves: hookah
very high 3 or low 4, Professor Hanson lays on the republican party agrarianism pretty thick, but if you can filter out the war drums he keeps beating, actually at times Dr. H gets almost lyrically--a good essay on the Anabasis, for example being almost Paul Fussell in quality.

Hanson remind us, a number of times, that he is a classicist professor, and while Latin and Greek are of course great subjects to study, of course all of us much prefer more modern subjects. yeah sure, ancient greek philos
Dec 30, 2015 Gyoza rated it really liked it
This is a collection of articles by columnist, historian, and classicist Victor Davis Hanson that shows why the neglected study of military history is important for everyone, not just those who want to serve in the military. Studying past wars in past ages helps put current wars in perspective and helps one learn why and how wars are fought and justified. Studying the Greek and Roman classics used to be one way that people learned about past wars but few schools below university level now teach ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Richelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, I'm writing my book review now for a class, so I'll save all of my fancy language and thoughts for that. All in all, this was a good book and while I agree with his basic premise that we should teach and learn more military history, I disagreed with pretty much the rest. His characterizations of West v East, his assertion that our cultures aren't different but opposed, that the East hates our freedom, all felt like half-hearted Republican schtick. Also, through much of the book the East si ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Jul 18, 2014 Daniel Kukwa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Fantastic writing: crisp, clear, concise, unpretentious historical analysis...just the way I like it. It's easily the most persuasive argument I've read, regarding why military history remains an important field of study. If you disagree, then you need to read this exceptional volume of essays...and reconsider.
Tim Raveling
Sep 06, 2013 Tim Raveling rated it liked it
This book is well-written and thought provoking, a useful read for anyone interested in the history of war and its use in the modern world. That being said, Hanson has a lot of serious flaws, the foremost being a sort of Western exceptionalism that seems to imply that any military adversaries we may have that are not from a white, European, Christian background are fundamentally foreign to us, impossible to reason with, and impossible to deal with in an honorable fashion, whether that be through ...more
Erick Stonefield
Reading Victor Davis Hanson is an absolute delight. He describes the motives of war, politics, conflict (and in them, those of human nature), in an uncompromising, unapologetic, realist fashion, drawing from past and present events lessons that we can all learn from.
Never will you hear from him an unsupported statement, meant to be taken at face value, without any reasoning. The lines are drawn from facts to conclusions, in a way that any discerning mind can follow.

War is indeed the father of us
kranthi balusu
Jun 27, 2015 kranthi balusu rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Incoherent narrative. Inconsistent logic. Half concealed attempt to glorify the American right wing political stance. Starts saying that wars need not be morally justifiable but needs up trying to do the same for all of "The West" and America's wars.
Nov 03, 2014 Jerry rated it it was amazing
Hanson brilliantly ties ancient war to modern Democracy. Along the way, he also argues that studying war is the only way to assure peace.
Hanley5545 Hanley
Jul 30, 2014 Hanley5545 Hanley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great series of essays....timely in context of the the asymmetrical wars and the incredibly dysfunctional actions of the USA's Executive Branch.
Aug 26, 2012 Dionysus rated it really liked it
The Father of Us All is a compilation of essays that Hanson wrote and which appeared, usually in altered or shortened form, in different venues. Those familiar with Hanson's earlier work, Carnage and Culture, will not learn very much from his thoughts on historical battles like Guagamela or Lepanto, as they were discussed in the previous work. His later chapters on the concept of decisive battle, the uniquely American way of war, and the interactions between militaries and civilian governments a ...more
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Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975), the American School of Classical Studies (1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He lives and works with his family on their forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953.
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“Victory may now require a level of force deemed objectionable by civilized peoples, meaning that some, for justifiable reasons, may be reluctant to pursue it. But victory has not become an ossified concept altogether.” 4 likes
“if Westerners deem themselves too smart, too moral, or too soft to stop aggressors in this complex nuclear age, then—as Socrates and Aristotle alike remind us—they can indeed become real accomplices to evil through inaction.” 2 likes
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