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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (524 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Keegan Narrator: Richard Matthews, Simon Vance Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2003 ISBN: 9780736699556
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In fiction, the spy is a glamorous figure whose secrets make or break peace, but, historically, has intelligence really been a vital step to military victories? In this breakthrough study, the preeminent war historian John Keegan goes to the heart of a series of important conflicts to develop a powerful argument about military intelligence. 

In his characteristically wry and perceptive prose, Keegan offers us nothing short of a new history of war through the prism of intelligence. He brings to life the split-second decisions that went into waging war before the benefit of aerial surveillance and electronic communications. The English admiral Horatio Nelson was hot on the heels of Napoleon’s fleet in the Mediterranean and never knew it, while Stonewall Jackson was able to compensate for the Confederacy’s disadvantage in firearms and manpower with detailed maps of the Appalachians. In the past century, espionage and decryption have changed the face of battle: the Japanese surprise attack at the Battle of the Midway was thwarted by an early warning. Timely information, however, is only the beginning of the surprising and disturbing aspects of decisions that are made in war, where brute force is often more critical.

Intelligence in War is a thought-provoking work that ranks among John Keegan’s finest achievements.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Keegan is a . . . treasure. . . . His analysis is as sharp as ever, and it’s all written with his characteristic flair. The Christian Science Monitor
  • Likely to jar the conventional wisdom. . . . Keegan is always a pleasure to read for his wit, insight and style. The New York Times Book Review
  • Bracing, meticulous case studies [by] our greatest modern military historian. Newsweek
  • Thought-provoking. . . . Keegan’s book is a wise corrective, assessing just how useful intelligence has been in battle. The Dallas Morning News

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Scott Neal Reilly | 2/20/2014

    " This is a history of the use of intelligence of a variety of types in war. The main thesis is that human intelligence (spying, espionage, etc.) is usually associated with intelligence but that the most important forms of intelligence are actually based on electronic surveillance and code decryption. This is a fine and interesting point. The presentation, however, tends to focus less on intelligence and more on warfare and the narratives of particular battles where intelligence played some role, but the role of intelligence is often minimal. For instance, an entire chapter is devoted to Nelson chasing Napoleon around the Mediterranean because he didn't know where Napoleon's ships were as there was no way to gather such information at that time. Using this to make a point is fine, but the chapter went into great depth about what is a relatively uninteresting example from an intelligence standpoint. On the other end of the title is the role of intelligence in the battle against Al Qaeda, which seems like it should provide a wealth of positive examples. I guess this was a naive hope on my part (though one that was based largely on the title of the book) as much of that information must necessarily be classified, but the entire discussion takes up a brief reference in the Afterward. The book is mostly well written (a few places where it could use some improved editing, but nothing major) and probably interesting to those who enjoy warfare narratives, but it was disappointing from the standpoint of wanting to understand intelligence and intelligence gathering better. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sy De Witt | 2/14/2014

    " The author focused on a number of military campaigns, beginning with Admiral Nelson's fleet chasing and seeking Napoleon Bonaparte's fleet in Egypt and eventually destroying it. The focus of all the campaigns Keegan studies and writes about is the impact of intelligence. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bruce Olschewski | 2/13/2014

    " This is an excellent read. The writing is clear. The examples chosen are insightful, fascinating, and well told. The only thing I didn't appreciate was the conclusion. I felt it was building to a stronger argument, but felt like I could have drawn the same conclusion without reading the book. That weakness didn't detract from me enjoys the rest of the book. Will probably peruse it again some day. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Harmony | 2/12/2014

    " This book had so much potential but fell on its face for me. It was hard to stay captivated about a topic I find myself very interested in. I did pick up quite a bit, especially about the true nature of intelligence in WWII. Unfortuantely, it was difficult to really focus on all the details. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joshua Nuckols | 2/5/2014

    " From Admiral Nelson to the invasion of Iraq, Keegan outlines the role intelligence has played in warfare. He showed the breakthroughs of wireless in WWI naval warfare, and the breaking of the Enigma's effect on the Battle of the Atlantic. Knowledge doesn't win battles -- brute, physical force wins battles. Intelligence helps, but in the end -- courage and tenacity makes or breaks the fight. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dr. | 1/30/2014

    " Really good analysis of military intelligence throughout time using a lot of historical examples. Good, but not quite as exciting as his others, when I think about it I can hardly remember any specifics. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Owen | 1/22/2014

    " Good, not great. Keegan has earned his reputation, and is fair in this case- he actually puts in examples where intelligence swung the result, where it didn't seem to have an impact... and where it didn't matter at all (it turns out people still have to fight the battles). Not a necessary read, but an interesting one. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Vance | 1/19/2014

    " For all those who hold that all we need is better intelligence. This is a real paradigm shift. Keegan's historical expertise shows eloquently why it's just not that simple. A must read for anyone in the intelligence fields, military or decision making politic. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nathan | 12/26/2013

    " It wasn't bad, but not as much detail on intelligence as I would have liked. That said, it did have some interesting stories and John Keegan is a great writer of military history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 MS | 12/2/2013

    " really fun if you like military history. keegan is dry but nobody understands this stuff better. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Danilo Senese | 11/23/2013

    " Very interesting analysis of HUMINT's role in war and a much recommended reflection on what will it be in the modern day conflicts. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 TK Keanini | 11/9/2013

    " I found it interesting. It offers very broad coverage of what should be called Counter-Intelligence. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Del Simmons | 7/24/2013

    " An interesting read about the art of war-time spying and how it can impact the outcome of a conflict. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 William | 12/17/2012

    " Keegan can be tedious in detail at times but never fails to make creative and masterful conclusions. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jon Box | 5/9/2012

    " Good, interesting read--I particulary enjoyed his discussion of Nelson's chase for Napoleon. Great assessment of just how useful or insignificant intelligence can be in battle and war . . . "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David Stearns | 3/25/2012

    " Great 360 degree look into the use of intelligence in wartime throughout history. A great read through the many different eras of intelligence's successes and failures. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hans | 2/10/2012

    " How small but crucial information has swung the tides of history. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tyler Standish | 1/27/2012

    " A great book that firmly demonstrates the advantages and limitations of good intelligence in war. I recommend this to anyone. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Corey | 10/18/2011

    " Probably my least favorite Keegan book. It never really had a cohesive thread, it was just a collection of histories of famous examples of intelligence being used effectively in war. The best was the Falklands War chapter, which I knew very little about. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 djcb | 7/20/2011

    " Keegan's book on intelligence (i.e. spies etc.) in war. Lots of interesting stories -- but the final conclusion is that intelligence is important, but not as important as is often thought. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Liz | 7/20/2011

    " I gave up on this book in the middle of the chapter about the Shenandoah valley campaign. Just didn't give a rotund rodent's rump about the back and forths involved in it-- the minutiae of a military campaign held no interest for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Derrick | 4/18/2011

    " Anything by John Keegan is great history. He's the best military historian around in my opinion. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Corey | 1/27/2011

    " Probably my least favorite Keegan book. It never really had a cohesive thread, it was just a collection of histories of famous examples of intelligence being used effectively in war. The best was the Falklands War chapter, which I knew very little about. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tyler | 1/11/2011

    " A great book that firmly demonstrates the advantages and limitations of good intelligence in war. I recommend this to anyone. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joseph | 9/30/2010

    " Excellent account of some of the most notable examples in history of the trade. Conclusions about the field made at the very end were in my opinion off target, but overall a great book if you want to learn about the history and importance of intelligence in war. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David | 2/2/2010

    " Great 360 degree look into the use of intelligence in wartime throughout history. A great read through the many different eras of intelligence's successes and failures. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dr. | 8/26/2009

    " Really good analysis of military intelligence throughout time using a lot of historical examples. Good, but not quite as exciting as his others, when I think about it I can hardly remember any specifics. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 William | 4/26/2009

    " Keegan can be tedious in detail at times but never fails to make creative and masterful conclusions. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Vance | 10/14/2008

    " For all those who hold that all we need is better intelligence. This is a real paradigm shift. Keegan's historical expertise shows eloquently why it's just not that simple. A must read for anyone in the intelligence fields, military or decision making politic. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Liz | 8/20/2008

    " I gave up on this book in the middle of the chapter about the Shenandoah valley campaign. Just didn't give a rotund rodent's rump about the back and forths involved in it-- the minutiae of a military campaign held no interest for me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Derrick | 6/27/2008

    " Anything by John Keegan is great history. He's the best military historian around in my opinion. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hans | 5/22/2008

    " How small but crucial information has swung the tides of history. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Harmony | 3/11/2008

    " This book had so much potential but fell on its face for me. It was hard to stay captivated about a topic I find myself very interested in. I did pick up quite a bit, especially about the true nature of intelligence in WWII. Unfortuantely, it was difficult to really focus on all the details. "

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About the Author
Author John Keegan

John Keegan is the defense editor of the Daily Telegraph (London) and Britain’s foremost military historian. He is the author of many bestselling books, including The First World War, Intelligence in War, and The Battle for History. He lives in Wiltshire, England.

About the Narrator

Simon Vance (a.k.a. Robert Whitfield) is an award-winning actor and an AudioFile Golden Voice with fifty-eight Earphones Awards. He has won thirteen prestigious Audie Awards and was Booklist’s very first Voice of Choice in 2008. He has narrated more than eight hundred audiobooks over almost thirty years, beginning when he was a radio newsreader for the BBC in London.