Hubris: The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century
Alistair Horne has been a close observer of war and history for more than fifty years. In this wise and masterly work, he revisits six battles that changed the course of the twentieth century and reveals the one trait that links them all: hubris.
In Greek tragedy, hubris is excessive human pride that challenges the gods and ultimately leads to total destruction of the offender. From the Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 to Hitler’s 1941 bid to capture Moscow, and from the disastrous American advance in Korea to the French surrender at Dien Bien Phu, Horne shows how each of these battles was won or lost due to excessive hubris on one side or the other.
In a sweeping narrative written with his trademark erudition and wit, Horne provides a meticulously detailed analysis of the ground manoeuvres employed by the opposing armies in each battle. He also examines the strategies, leadership, preparation and geopolitical goals of aggressors and defenders, to show how devastating combinations of human ambition and arrogance led to overreach. Making clear the danger of hubris in warfare, his insights hold resonant lessons for civilian and military leaders navigating today’s complex global landscape.
A dramatic, colourful and stylishly written history, HUBRIS is an essential reflection on war from a master of his field.
‘Like a good Bordeaux, and unlike a good mathematician, a good historian improves with age. This is Alistair Horne’s 25th book and it is filled with the insights that can come only from a lifetime of studying war. From Tsushima to Dien Bien Phu, he relates five of the decisive military encounters of the twentieth century — interestingly, all but one of them fought in Asia. Hubris is his title and his leitmotif — more precisely, the over-confidence that so often leads to military disaster. But there is no hubris in the author himself, who approaches the challenges of writing about Oriental conflicts with a due humility, as well as his customary literary skill.” — Niall Ferguson