Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force & Society since AD 1000” as Want to Read:
The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force & Society since AD 1000
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force & Society since AD 1000

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  333 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
In this magnificent synthesis of military, technological, and social history, William H. McNeill explores a whole millennium of human upheaval and traces the path by which we have arrived at the frightening dilemmas that now confront us. McNeill moves with equal mastery from the crossbow--banned by the Church in 1139 as too lethal for Christians to use against one another- ...more
Hardcover, 420 pages
Published January 1st 2009 by ACLS History E-Book Project (first published 1982)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Pursuit of Power, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Pursuit of Power

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-10)
Rating details
Sort: Default
There is so much to say about this very dense work. In the first place that again McNeill offers us a real pioneering work: nothing less than a study on the relationship between political, military and social developments, especially in the 2nd millennium, an approach that – as far as I know - no one has ventured before.

I once again learned a lot of new things, and not only about the evolution of weapon technology. McNeill, for example, corrects his most important work "the Rise of the West" (19
Sense of  History
This is a very hybrid work, as the subtitle suggests, it focuses on technology, on military developments and on social developments. In addition, McNeill has not limited himself to the specified time period, that is, from the year 1000 AD, but actually starting with the first civilizations. So let us be clear: McNeill probably has been a bit too ambitious, because he doesn’t offer a balanced presentation of all these facets over this long period (how could he?). Like his previous work, "Plagues ...more
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent piece on military history. I was "forced" to read McNeil as I was Keegan and Horne as an essential piece to commissioning as an U.S. Army Officer. This should be essential reading for every NATO officer. It provided a rebirth for my interest in military history and sparked my interest in graduate research. This should be essential reading for every commissioned officer in NATO. Exquisite detail from the birth of gunpowder in western Europe until the present day.
Michael Burnam-Fink
Jan 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic, history, 2011
Do you think exploring all of military history might be a little ambitious? Yeah, but McNeill pulls it off, explaining how technology, markets, and command authority have combined again and again to win wars, and create modern society. If there's any weakness in the book, it's that it skims WW2 and the Cold War, and treats innovation and technology as an autonomous force, but for a comprehensive military history, it's amazing.
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
Historian William H. McNeill examines the reciprocal relationship between society, technology and armed forces, offering broad coverage and specific treatment of historiographical and historical debates. His survey includes early Chinese commercialization, the rise of the West, the managerial revolution sparked by World War I and elaborated by World War II, and the post-1945 nuclear arms race, among other subjects.
Ten chapters proceed chronologically from antiquity to the Strategic Arms Limita
Joseph Stieb
William McNeill is an historian at the University of Chicago who has written several books on broad patterns of change in world history. His latest book, The Pursuit of Power, charts the changing interactions between states, markets, and military innovation from A.D. 1000 to the late 20th century.
The book’s first chapter examines these interactions in human history up to A.D. 1000. The main purpose of this chapter is to establish that “large scale changes in human conduct…were more likely to be
Nate Huston
This book is exhaustingly exhaustive. Perhaps I just need more time to chew on it, but the first paragraph of the preface paints a more direct picture than I personally experienced. "Alterations in armaments resemble genetic mutations of microorganisms in the sens that they may, from time to time, open new geographic zones for exploitation, or break down older limits upon the exercise of force within the host society itself." (vii) From this note I expected to read about cases where the developm ...more
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author states in his Preface that this book is intended as a twin to his earlier book "Plagues and Peoples" which looked at the effect of micro-organisms on human society, adding the interesting perspective that "our only significant macroparasites are other men, who, by specializing in violence, are able to secure a living without themselves producing the food or other commodities they consume." This sets out the theme of the book, which looks at the relationship between economics and milit ...more
Logan Quinn
Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best books on history I've read in a long time, possibly the best since Janet Abu-Lughod's Before European Hegemony. McNeill is obviously highly well-read, and manages to fit enormous amounts of information into each page, but the book avoids being overly academic and is very clearly written and straight-forward. It is understandable even to someone with only a very basic knowledge of history, McNeill does not waste words on flowery language, but explains his points succinctly ...more
Randall Wallace
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nation states substitute taxation for plunder. Finance increases it’s power over politics in Europe while in China the opposite happened. In China capital accumulation was considered immoral because of it’s historical connection with unfair advantage. Christian Theology was of course also very opposed to capital accumulation however corrupted Christian Theology had and still has no problem with it. Interesting to learn the development from Bombards to Cannon. 1690 is when the bayonet is develope ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton
  • The Deep Zoo
  • Battle: A History of Combat and Culture
  • The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare: The Triumph of the West
  • On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War
  • The Collected Writings Of Ambrose Bierce
  • The Pine Tar Game: The Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, and Baseball's Most Absurd and Entertaining Controversy
  • Swords around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armee
  • A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror
  • Slavoj Žižek
  • A Religious Orgy in Tennessee: A Reporter's Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial
  • Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War
  • Deep Politics and the Death of JFK
  • Generation of Vipers
  • Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age
  • Captain Maximus
  • The Art of War in the Western World
  • After Victory: Order and Power in International Politics
aka William William Hardy McNeill is a Canadian-American world historian and author, particularly noted for his writings on Western civilization. He is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago where he has taught since 1947.
More about William Hardy McNeill...