The Eye of Command

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Overview


Published in 1976, Sir John Keegan's The Face of Battle was a groundbreaking work in military history studies, providing narrative techniques that served as a model for countless subsequent scholarly and popular military histories. Keegan's approach to understanding battles stressed the importance of small unit actions and personal heroism, an approach widely employed in the narratives produced by reporters embedded with American combat troops in Iraq.

Challenging Keegan's seminal work, The Eye of Command offers a new approach to studying and narrating battles, based upon an analysis of the works of the Roman military authors Julius Caesar and Ammianus Marcellinus. Kimberly Kagan argues that historians cannot explain a battle's outcome solely on the basis of soldiers' accounts of small-unit actions. A commander's view, exemplified in Caesar's narratives, helps explain the significance of a battle's major events, how they relate to one another and how they lead to a battle's outcome. The "eye of command" approach also answers fundamental questions about the way commanders perceive battles as they fight them-questions modern military historians have largely ignored.

"The Eye of Command is a remarkable book-smart, thoughtful, clear, vigorous, factual but creative, and grounded in the practical. It is at once scholarly and readable, combining classical scholarship and military theory. Rarely have I come across a book that makes two-thousand-year-old events seem so alive."
-Barry Strauss, Professor of History, Cornell University

"In a work well written, concisely presented, and convincingly argued, Kagan uses examples from Caesar's Gallic Wars to challenge John Keegan's focus on lower-echelon experiences of battle in favor of 'The eye of command': a narrative technique emphasizing decisions and events that shape a battle's outcome."
-Dennis Showalter, Professor of History, Colorado College

"To know whether a battle is won or lost is not enough. Kagan's deep analysis of theory and practice points to a new way of understanding complex army-commander and small-unit perspectives that can properly claim the status of history."
-Gordon Williams, Thacher Professor of Latin Emeritus, Yale University

Kimberly Kagan was an Assistant Professor of History at the United States Military Academy between 2000 and 2005. Since then, she has served as a lecturer in International Affairs, History, and the Humanities at Yale University and as an adjunct professor at Georgetown's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and at American University's Department of History. She received her Ph.D. in Ancient History from Yale University.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780472115211
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press
  • Publication date: 1/5/2006
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

1 The face of battle 7
2 Eyewitness to battle : Ammianus on Amida 23
3 Strasbourg as a face of battle narrative 52
4 The eye of command 99
5 Caesar's eye 116
6 Friction : Caesar and the battle of Gergovia 155
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