Military History -- The Definitive Guide to the Objects of Warfare by DK Publishing '12, in oversized format on glossy stock, $50, 448 pages, ASIN #0756698383. Index, glossary, scores of color and b&w images.
Although DK's momentous new volume is titled Military History, it is fundamentally a survey of military technology and weaponry, dating to the first recorded battle in history, when "Egyptian war chariots swept across the plains of Megiddo..."
Each of the seven chronologically-organized chapters covers a specific period characterized by a key military technology, displaying more than 1,750 pieces of hardware, "from the earliest flint hand axes used by ancient warring tribes to the spy satellites and unmanned drones employed by today's armed forces....".
The first chapter discusses (generous narrative sections supplement images) the earliest recorded warriors, moving on to Egyptian and Roman weaponry and the Terracotta Warriors of the ancient Chinese Army. Medieval European war involved knights and bowmen and describes such iconic conflicts as the Battle of Hastings. Next come Pikes and Gunpowder used by Islamic Empires, East Asians and Japanese.
By the Middle Ages, Flintlock and Bayonet sprang to the fore in the American Revolution, French Revolution, the Battle of Waterloo, naval battles, and such strategies as siege warfare. The Industrial Revolution created massive advances in warfare, from breech-loading rifles to muzzle-loading artillery, as such battles as Antietam and the Boer War are examined. Both world wars are described in the sixth chapter, which leads to the nuclear age and contemporary warfare, such as counterinsurgency.
The Smithsonian Institution, established in 1846, gets credit for organizing the material in this volume, including many of the 126 million specimens and objects from its collection. Enhancing these are material from the British Royal Armouries, spanning from antiquity to the present.
Deception -- The Untold Story of East-West Espionage Today by Edward Lucas, Walker & Company '12, $26, 384 pages, ASIN # 080271157X.
From the dust jacket:
"From the capture of Sidney Reilly, the 'Ace of Spies,' by Lenin's Bolsheviks in 1925 to the deportation from the United States of Anna Chapman, the 'Redhead Under the Bed,' in 2010, Kremlin and Western spymasters have battled for supremacy for nearly a century. Edward Lucas persuasively demonstrates that for most of the past decades, the Kremlin's spymasters have run rings around their Western adversaries.
"In Deception, Lucas uncovers the real story of Chapman and her colleagues in America and Britain, unveiling their academic and professional qualifications, clandestine missions, and the spy hunt that led to their downfall. He reveals unknown triumphs and disasters of Western intelligence in the Cold War, providing the background for the new world of industrial and political espionage. To tell the story of post-Soviet espionage, Lucas draws on exclusive interviews with Russia's top NATO spy, Herman Simm, and unveils the horrific treatment of a Moscow lawyer who dared to challenge the ruling criminal syndicate there.
"Once, the threat from Moscow was international communism; now it comes from the Siloviki, Russia's ruthless 'men of power.' The outcome," argues Lucas, "will determine whether the West brings Russia towards its standards of liberty, legality and cooperation, or whether (Russia will shape the West's future) as we accommodate (or even adopt) the authoritarian crony-capitalism that is the Moscow regime's hallmark."
Edward Lucas is a senior editor at The Economist and has covered Eastern Europe since 1986. He is also author of The New Cold War.
Milton and the Post-Secular Present -- Ethics, Politics, Terrorism by Feisal G. Mohamed, Stanford UP '11 paperback. 167 pages, ASIN #0804776512. Index, notes, no bibliography or illustrations.
From the back cover:
"Our post-secular present, argues Feisal Mohamed, has much to learn from our pre-secular past. Through a consideration of poet and polemicist John Milton, this book explores current post-secularity, an emerging category that it seeks to clarify and critique. It examines ethical and political engagement grounded in belief, with particular reference to the thought of Alain Badiou, Jacques Derrida, Jurgen Habermas, and Gayatri C. Spivak.
"Taken to an extreme, such engagement produces the cult of the suicide bomber. But the suicide bomber has also served as a convenient bogey for those wishing to distract us from the violence in Western and Christian traditions, and for those who would dismiss too easily the vigorous iconoclasm that belief can produce. More than any other poet, Milton alerts us to both anti-humane and liberationist aspects of belief, and shows us relevant dynamics of language through which such commitment finds expression."
Feisal G. Mohamed is associate professor in the Department of English and in the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.