Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power

Examining nine landmark battles from ancient to modern times — from Salamis, where outnumbered Greeks devastated the slave army of Xerxes, to Cortes’s conquest of Mexico to the Tet offensive — Carnage and Culture explains why the armies of the West have been the most lethal and effective of any fighting forces in the world.

Looking beyond popular explanations such as geography or superior technology, Victor Davis Hanson argues that it is in fact Western culture and values — the tradition of dissent, the value placed on inventiveness and adaptation, the concept of citizenship — which have consistently produced superior arms and soldiers. Offering riveting battle narratives and a balanced perspective that avoids simple triumphalism, Carnage and Culture demonstrates how armies cannot be separated from the cultures that produce them and explains why an army produced by a free culture will always have the advantage.

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“Vivid . . . ambitious . . . Challenges readers to broaden their horizons and examine their assumptions. . . . [Hanson] more than makes his case.”
The New York Times Book Review

“No one offers a more compelling picture of how wars reflect and affect the societies, including our own, that wage them.”
National Review

“Hanson . . . is becoming one of the best-known historians in America . . . Carnage and Culture can only enhance his reputation.”
John Keegan, Daily Telegraph (London)

“Victor Davis Hanson is courting controversy again with another highly readable, lucid work. Together with John Keegan, he is our most interesting historian of war.”
Jean Bethke Elshtain, author of Women and War