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Summary

Soldiers is a very personal gathering of sparkling, gripping tales by many writers, about men and women who have borne arms, reflecting best-selling historian Max Hastings’ lifetime of studying war. It rings the changes through the centuries, between the heroic, tragic and comic; the famous and the humble. The nearly 350 stories illustrate vividly what it is like to fight in wars, to live and die as a warrior, from Greek and Roman times through to recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here you will meet Jewish heroes of the Bible, Rome’s captain of the gate, Queen Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Cromwell, Wellington, Napoleon’s marshals, Ulysses S. Grant, George S. Patton and the modern SAS. There are tales of great writers who served in uniform including Cobbett and Tolstoy, Edward Gibbon and Siegfried Sassoon, Marcel Proust and Evelyn Waugh, George Orwell and George MacDonald Fraser. Here are also stories of the female ‘abosi’ fighters of Dahomey and heroic ambulance drivers of World War I, together with the new-age women soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The stories reflect a change of mood towards warfare through the ages: though nations and movements continue to inflict terrible violence upon each other, most of humankind has retreated from the old notion of war as a sport or pastime to acknowledge it as the supreme tragedy.

This is a book to inspire in turn fascination, excitement, horror, amazement, occasionally laughter. Max Hastings mingles respect for the courage of those who fight with compassion for those who become their victims, above all civilians, and especially in the 21st century, which some are already calling ‘the Post-Heroic Age’.

©2021 Max Hastings (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"A fascinating collection of military stories.... The sort of book that can be picked up at intervals...[but] once tasted, is hard to put down." (Washington Post)

"A gripping new collection from Max Hastings that puts you at the heart of the battle.... Compelling." (Daily Mail)

"An unmissable read." (Sunday Times)

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  • David A
  • 31-10-21

Worth the Read

Max Hastings has written some of the best Military History books I’ve read.
This is not one of them.
That is not to say it is bad, it’s actually very interesting.
The format is multiple short stories on military history.
I think these 270+ vignettes have probably been slowly building up in Max Hastings database for decades.
I have no doubt these are just a small part of the stories he has come across in his decades as a military historian and that he could easily have made this a multi volume work.
Definitely worth the time if you are interested in the topic.


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  • Patrick
  • 03-11-21

Disappointed

Max Hastings is one of my favorite authors and speakers. However he has missed the boat with this book, “Soldiers “. I found it normally boring and very occasionally interesting. I would not recommend this book.

1 person found this helpful