Civilians in the Path of War


Civilians in the Path of War

Edited by Mark Grimsley and Clifford J. Rogers

Studies in War, Society, and the Military Series

280 pages


December 2008


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

"War," wrote Gen. William T. Sherman, "is cruelty, and you cannot refine it." Throughout history, noncombatants have always been among the victims of war's violence. In this book, nine distinguished historians examine twenty-five hundred years of human conflicts and their varied impacts on civilian society. Each case study examines not only what military forces did to noncombatants in the area of their operations, but why they did it and how they justified their actions. The focus, however, remains firmly on the practical realities of war, not on normative theories or the prescriptions of the "laws of war."

The patterns that emerge from the nine case studies are not simple ones. Some of the same factors and pressures appear again and again, though the balance among them and the ultimate outcome vary greatly. We see how often devastation has served as a tool of coercive diplomacy, but also how logistic considerations have greatly affected the calculus of pillage versus restraint. The importance of precedent, of culture, of ideology or morality, and of morale become clear.

This book addresses crucial issues in an era in which historians have come to appreciate that a full understanding of war must address its victims as well as its victors, and when policymakers are perhaps more concerned than ever with minimizing the impact of war on civilian society.

Author Bio

Mark Grimsley is an associate professor of history at Ohio State University. He is the author of The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy toward Southern Civilians, 1861–1865 and coauthor of The Collapse of the Confederacy (Nebraska 2001). Clifford J. Rogers is an associate professor of history at the United States Military Academy. He is the author of War Cruel and Sharp: English Strategy under Edward III, 1327–1360 and editor of The Military Revolution Debate: Reading on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe.


"Contributes much to the study of how armed conflicts and military forces affect the larger societies they serve and/or threaten. That the volume is so well integrated is a tribute to the hard work and skills of editors Mark Grimsley and Clifford J. Rogers. . . . This book is one that scholars, students, and concerned citizens should study with care, because only the dead have seen the end of war, and there will, sadly, be a next time."—Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, State of North Carolina Department of Natural Resources

“This edited collection nobly aims to engage scholars in a discussion of how warfare, soldiers, and decisions made by military and political leaders affected civilians in a number of wars throughout history. . . . Each of the authors provide interesting insights and ably balance the need to assign blame for wartime atrocities without anachronistically criticizing the past based on twenty-first century standards.”—David E. Settje, Northwest Ohio Quarterly

“The essays make for gripping reading. They demonstrate that decisions to attact or spare civilians have historically been guided above all by instrumental calculations—the question whether military operations would be better served by brutality or forbearance.”—Roger Chickering, War in History

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