John Keegan
Overview
 
Sir John Keegan OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 FRSL
Royal Society of Literature
The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...

 (born 15 May 1934) is a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He has published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.
John Desmond Patrick Keegan was born in Clapham
Clapham
Clapham is a district in south London, England, within the London Borough of Lambeth.Clapham covers the postcodes of SW4 and parts of SW9, SW8 and SW12. Clapham Common is shared with the London Borough of Wandsworth, although Lambeth has responsibility for running the common as a whole. According...

, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, to a family of Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic is a term used to describe people who are both Roman Catholic and Irish .Note: the term is not used to describe a variant of Catholicism. More particularly, it is not a separate creed or sect in the sense that "Anglo-Catholic", "Old Catholic", "Eastern Orthodox Catholic" might be...

 extraction. His father served in the First World War.

At the age of 13 Keegan contracted orthopaedic tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, which has subsequently affected his gait.
Encyclopedia
Sir John Keegan OBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 FRSL
Royal Society of Literature
The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...

 (born 15 May 1934) is a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He has published many works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.

Life and career

John Desmond Patrick Keegan was born in Clapham
Clapham
Clapham is a district in south London, England, within the London Borough of Lambeth.Clapham covers the postcodes of SW4 and parts of SW9, SW8 and SW12. Clapham Common is shared with the London Borough of Wandsworth, although Lambeth has responsibility for running the common as a whole. According...

, London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, to a family of Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic is a term used to describe people who are both Roman Catholic and Irish .Note: the term is not used to describe a variant of Catholicism. More particularly, it is not a separate creed or sect in the sense that "Anglo-Catholic", "Old Catholic", "Eastern Orthodox Catholic" might be...

 extraction. His father served in the First World War.

At the age of 13 Keegan contracted orthopaedic tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

, which has subsequently affected his gait. The long-term effects of his tuberculosis rendered him unfit for military service, and the timing of his birth made him too young for service in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, as mentioned in his works as an ironic observation on his profession and interest. The illness also interrupted his education during his teenage years; however, his education included a period at King's College, Taunton, and two years at Wimbledon College
Wimbledon College
Wimbledon College is a government-maintained voluntary-aided Jesuit Roman Catholic high school for boys aged 11 to 19. The school is based at Edge Hill, Wimbledon, London. It was founded in 1892 "for improvement in living and learning to the greater glory of God and the common good"...

, which led to entry to Balliol College, Oxford
Balliol College, Oxford
Balliol College , founded in 1263, is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England but founded by a family with strong Scottish connections....

 in 1953. Following graduation he worked at the American Embassy in London for three years.

In 1960 he was appointed to a lectureship in Military History at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst , commonly known simply as Sandhurst, is a British Army officer initial training centre located in Sandhurst, Berkshire, England...

, the training establishment for officers of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

. Holding the post for 26 years, he became senior lecturer in military history during his tenure. During this period he also held a visiting professorship at Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

 and was Delmas Distinguished Professor of History at Vassar College
Vassar College
Vassar College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, in the United States. The Vassar campus comprises over and more than 100 buildings, including four National Historic Landmarks, ranging in style from Collegiate Gothic to International,...

.

Leaving the academy in 1986 Keegan joined the Daily Telegraph as a Defence Correspondent and remains with the publication as Defence Editor, also writing for the American conservative website, National Review
National Review
National Review is a biweekly magazine founded by the late author William F. Buckley, Jr., in 1955 and based in New York City. It describes itself as "America's most widely read and influential magazine and web site for conservative news, commentary, and opinion."Although the print version of the...

 Online. In 1998 he wrote and presented the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

's Reith Lectures, entitled War in our World.

Honours

Keegan was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 (OBE) in the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 honours list, and later, in the Millennium honours list, he was knighted
Knight Bachelor
The rank of Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. It is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry...

.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
Royal Society of Literature
The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...

 in 1986.

Published work

Keegan's books include a traditional battle-by-battle coverage of conflict, experience of the individual, historical causes of military events, technological change in warfare, military strategy, and challenges of leadership. He writes mainly for the educated non-specialist reader. Those who wish to sample his straightforward histories of war should read his histories of the Second World War and, published more recently, of the First World War. His work examines warfare throughout history, including human prehistory and the classical era; however the majority of his work concentrates on the 14th Century onwards to modern conflict of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

In A History of Warfare, Keegan outlines the development and limitations of warfare from prehistory to the modern era. It looks at various topics, including the use of horses, logistics, and "fire". One key concept put forward is that war is inherently cultural. In the introduction, he rigorously denounces the idiom "war is a continuation of policy by other means", rejecting on its face "Clausewitzian
Carl von Clausewitz
Carl Philipp Gottfried von Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier and German military theorist who stressed the moral and political aspects of war...

" ideas. Keegan's discussion of Clausewitz has, however, been heavily criticized as uninformed and inaccurate by writers like Peter Paret
Peter Paret
Peter Paret is American military, cultural & art historian with a particular interest in German history. Paret was born in Berlin, Germany, the son of Dr. Hans Paret and Suzanne Aimée Cassirer, who divorced in 1932...

, Christopher Bassford
Christopher Bassford
Christopher Bassford is an American military historian. Bassford graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in history and honors for his dissertation on tactical nuclear weapons and completed his MA in American diplomatic history at Ohio University. Subsequent to receiving his...

, and Richard M. Swain. In another controversial position, Keegan claims that cultural forces, not technology, produced the enhanced mayhem of the World Wars. Specifically, Keegan states that mandatory public education created a homogenized populace that was more willing to accept conscription and other governmental demands.
He has also contributed to work on historiography
Historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 in modern conflict. With Richard Holmes
Richard Holmes
Richard Holmes may refer to:* Richard Holmes , American actor* Richard Holmes , British biographer* Richard Holmes , British soldier and military historian...

 he wrote the BBC documentary Soldiers, a history of men in battle
Soldiers, A History of Men in Battle
Soldiers, a history of men in battle was a BBC television documentary series about the history of warfare from antiquity to the Falklands War. Each episode looked at warfare from the perspective of different participants: infantryman, artillerist, cavalryman, tanker, airman, guerrilla, surgeon,...

. Frank C. Mahncke wrote that Keegan is seen as being "among the most prominent and widely read military historians of the late twentieth century". In a book-cover blurb extracted from a more complex article, Sir Michael Howard wrote, "at once the most readable and the most original of living historians".

Keegan's Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America, which gives accounts of many of the wars fought on the soil of North America, also contains opening and closing essays on his own personal relationship to America. He has continued his interest in American military history with the publication of his book The American Civil War (2009, Hutchinson).

Works

  • Barbarossa: Invasion of Russia, 1941 (New York, 1971) ISBN 0-345-02111-8
  • Opening Moves - August 1941 (New York: Ballantine
    Ballantine Books
    Ballantine Books is a major book publisher located in the United States, founded in 1952 by Ian Ballantine with his wife, Betty Ballantine. It was acquired by Random House in 1973, which in turn was acquired by Bertelsmann AG in 1998 and remains part of that company today. Ballantine's logo is a...

    , 1971) ISBN 0-345-09798-X
  • The Face of Battle
    The Face of Battle
    The Face of Battle is a 1976 non-fiction book on military history by the English military historian John Keegan. It deals first with the structure of historical writing about battles, the strengths and weaknesses of the "battle piece," and then with the structure of warfare in three time...

     (London, 1976) ISBN 0-670-30432-8
  • Six Armies in Normandy (1982) ISBN 0-14-005293-3
  • Zones Of Conflict: An Atlas Of Future Wars with Andrew Wheatcroft (New York, 1986) ISBN 0-671-60115-6
  • Soldiers, A History of Men in Battle
    Soldiers, A History of Men in Battle
    Soldiers, a history of men in battle was a BBC television documentary series about the history of warfare from antiquity to the Falklands War. Each episode looked at warfare from the perspective of different participants: infantryman, artillerist, cavalryman, tanker, airman, guerrilla, surgeon,...

     with Richard Holmes
    Richard Holmes
    Richard Holmes may refer to:* Richard Holmes , American actor* Richard Holmes , British biographer* Richard Holmes , British soldier and military historian...

     (New York: Viking Press
    Viking Press
    Viking Press is an American publishing company owned by the Penguin Group, which has owned the company since 1975. It was founded in New York City on March 1, 1925, by Harold K. Guinzburg and George S. Oppenheim...

    , 1986) ISBN 0-670-80969-1
  • The Mask of Command (London, 1987) ISBN 0-7126-6526-9
  • The Price of Admiralty (1988) ISBN 0-09-173771-0
  • Who Was Who In World War II (1978) ISBN 0-85368-182-1
  • The Illustrated Face of Battle (New York and London: Viking, 1988) ISBN 0-670-82703-7
  • The Second World War (Viking Press, 1990) ISBN 0-670-82359-7
  • A History of Warfare (London, 1993) ISBN 0-679-73082-6
  • The Battle for History: Refighting World War Two (Vintage Canada, 1995) ISBN 0-679-76743-6
  • Warpaths (Pimlico
    Random House
    Random House, Inc. is the largest general-interest trade book publisher in the world. It has been owned since 1998 by the German private media corporation Bertelsmann and has become the umbrella brand for Bertelsmann book publishing. Random House also has a movie production arm, Random House Films,...

    , 1996) ISBN 1-8441-3750-3
  • Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America (1997) ISBN 0-679-74664-1
  • War and Our World: The Reith Lectures 1998 (London: Pimlico, 1999) ISBN 0-375-70520-1
  • The Book of War (ed.) (Viking Press, 1999) ISBN 0-670-88804-4
  • The First World War (London: Hutchinson
    Hutchinson (publisher)
    Hutchinson & Co. was an English book publisher, founded in 1887. The company merged with Century Publishing in 1985 to form Century Hutchinson, and was folded into the British Random House Group in 1989, where it remains as an imprint in the Cornerstone Publishing division...

    , 1998) ISBN 0-09-1801788; (New York: Knopf
    Alfred A. Knopf
    Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. is a New York publishing house, founded by Alfred A. Knopf, Sr. in 1915. It was acquired by Random House in 1960 and is now part of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Random House. The publishing house is known for its borzoi trademark , which was designed by co-founder...

    , 1999) ISBN 0-375-40052-4
  • Winston Churchill (2002) ISBN 0-670-03079-1
  • Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda (2003) ISBN 0-375-40053-2
  • The Iraq War (2004) ISBN 0-09-180018-8
  • Atlas of World War II (ed.) (London: Collins
    HarperCollins
    HarperCollins is a publishing company owned by News Corporation. It is the combination of the publishers William Collins, Sons and Co Ltd, a British company, and Harper & Row, an American company, itself the result of an earlier merger of Harper & Brothers and Row, Peterson & Company. The worldwide...

    , 2006) ISBN 0-00-721465-0 (an update of the 1989 Times Atlas)
  • The American Civil War (London, Hutchinson, 2009) ISBN 978-0-09-179483-5

Sources

  • Snowman, Daniel. "John Keegan", pp. 28–30 from History Today, Volume 50, Issue # 5, May 2000

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