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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:
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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

  • 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
  • Keegan is a . . . treasure. . . . His analysis is as sharp as ever, and it’s all written with his characteristic flair. The Christian Science Monitor
  • 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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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