Little Known Wars of Great and Lasting Impact – Book Review
Little Known Wars of Great and Lasting Impact: The Turning Points in our History We Should Know More About. Alan Axelrod. Fair Winds Press, 2009. 288 pages. Paperback. $19.99.
Quantity versus Quality: It is a debate that has gone on for years in the consumer world. For most, the possibility of attaining both quality and quality is inconceivable. Consequently, most people are either members of the quantity camp or the quality camp. In the literary world, I have found few authors whom I would classify as being able to produce quality and quantity. One who clearly stands out today is Alan Axelrod.
What makes Axelrod so effective in this discussion is his ability to keep readers engaged and put things in layman terms.
For those unfamiliar with Axelrod, search his name on Barnes and Noble or Borders. I believe you will be quite impressed with the sheer volume of books he has crafted in the last several years. They run the gamut from military history to biography to leadership to a wide array of other subject matter. More importantly, having read many of his military history offerings; I can vouch for the quality aspect of his efforts. Alan Axelrod can clearly occupy both the quantity and quality camps.
Adding to Axelrod’s resume is the recently published Little Known Wars of Great and Lasting Impact. In it, he highlights 18 wars/conflicts in history that are relatively obscure, yet on further inspection, as the author suggests, have had a great influence on history in a variety of ways. Readers are sure to find this volume insightful, impeccably researched, exceptionally organized, and filled with added bonuses making it truly distinctive.
As I began glancing at the table of contents, I saw chapter titles such as Boudicca’s Revolt, Bar Kokhba’s Revolt, The Beaver War, and The Boyar’s Revolt. After some reflection, I concluded I had only cursory knowledge at best of some of these conflicts. (There were others I was much more versed in including The Franco-Prussian War, The Balkan Wars, and The War for Afghan Independence). It did not take me long to confirm that at least the first portion of Axelrod’s title was right on target.
He has two main objectives in his book, both of which directly correlate to his title. First, as highlighted earlier, he wants to expose his readers to periods of military history that they may have otherwise not known. Second, and more importantly, he attempts to answer the "so what" response: how did these wars/conflicts shape the area or world in the years to follow?
In his treatment of each conflict, Axelrod utilizes an effective chapter organization. He begins by painting the picture for the reader. This includes focusing on the adversaries, the issues involved, and the key leaders for the factions, to provide readers with the historical background situation. The author then lays out how the conflict unfolded. What makes Axelrod so effective in this discussion is his ability to keep readers engaged and put things in layman terms.
After answering the "what," he turns his attention to the "why," devoting the remainder of each chapter to analyzing what impact the conflict had on the future. For example, he outlines how the Arab Insurrection of the early 1920s led to an environment in Iraq that promoted the rise of Saddam Hussein. In another chapter, he makes the connection of how the Japanese experience in The Genpei War (1180-1185) would have a large impact in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Personally, I found each of these cause-and-effect discussions fascinating. It is this perspective which is the true strength of the book.
As stated earlier, Axelrod has added numerous "extras." These include well over 100 maps, color illustrations, paintings and photographs. In this regard, Little Known Wars is similar to the old Ballantine series of books. These visual additions are a great complement to Axelrod’s verbiage. Additionally, throughout the book he adds dozens of inserted paragraphs that provide the reader with more background on the conflict under discussion.
In summary, Little Known Wars of Great and Lasting Impact is a special book, highly informative, with the ability to tie the past to the present. I greatly look forward to Axelrod’s next volume. Based on his track record, I won’t have long to wait!
Rick Baillergeon is a retired U.S. Army Infantry officer. Since his retirement, he has served as a faculty member at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He is also co-author of the popular ACG Web series "Tactics 101."