Course Goals  Grading & Assignments  Lecture & Reading Schedule  Academic Honesty  Required Textbooks  Web Resources  Contacting Dr. Isaac Articles for Review

Course Overview

(**Still Under Construction!**)

This course is an exploration of military history before gunpowder became the dominant technology on the battlefield. It is also—perhaps even more so—a study of societies in relation to warfare: how and why they waged it, how it affected them once underway, and how they have chosen to view war through religious, literary, and other lenses. Why stop with the advent of gunpowder? Primarily because it changed the way in which successful competitors organized for war and actually conducted wars. In no small way, gunpowder led to the modern nation-state. We shall be looking herein at both precursors to such entities, and in some interesting cases, clashes between the last survivors without gunpowder.

This course will operate as a seminar. That means the emphasis will be on the participation of all (students and the benighted professor), less on formal lectures. Ideas and analysis, argument and discussion--these will hold the primary place. Be warned, then: come to class with the reading not merely completed, but considered. After all, unpreparedness is a terrible thing to witness.

Course Goals

What are we interested in here? In many ways, this will be determined by the direction this seminar takes. Still, there are broad issues which constitute our starting road map. What contours has military history followed, and are there parts of the landscape yet to be explored properly or fully? What is war? What isn't? And the concomitant questions concerning peace. Is war, unfortunately, a constant in human history and society? Do our forebears have anything to teach us about steps to take or to avoid? Does technology really matter in shaping human conflict?

We will be asking the above questions all under the aegis of the course goals outlined by Longwood University's catalog:

Upon completion of the course, students will have gained an appropriate increase in:
1. An understanding and appreciation of history and historical inquiry through the use of research, critical thinking, and problem solving.
2. A sense of how historical knowledge has been affected by new findings and approaches.
3. An appreciation for how history poses ethical dilemmas and challenges, both for men and women who lived in the past, and for those pondering its significance now.
4. An appreciation for how knowledge of history helps clarify the consequences of collective action, both in the past and in the present.
5. A sense of history as combining a variety of disciplines, approaches, and perspectives.
6. An awareness of the diverse modes of gathering, analyzing and interpreting information.
7. An ability to express oneself clearly and concisely on paper, by means of a substantive written assignment or series of written assignments.
8. An understanding of how history relates to other disciplines and modes of inquiry.
9. An awareness of how historical inquiry can contribute to understanding the issues and dilemmas that face the contemporary citizen.
10. An understanding of the historical development of Western civilization in its formative stages.
11. A sense of how to relate the development of Western civilization to other regions of the world.
12. An understanding of how historical cultural developments influence the present day.

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Note the importance of Goal 7: the writing component. History is a discipline of writing as much as reading. The papers and exam essays will be your opportunity to demonstrate your ability to express your conclusions about historical events and historical scholarship. Don’t blow this off and do slipshod work.

Grading &Assignments

For the academic year 2011–12 and onward, Longwood has adopted a system wherein a letter grade with a + or a - is weighted in the computations of the student’s GPA. Look to my “General Policies” for how I will be assigning such grades from the numerical basis that I use in the course.

Participation: (20%) As a seminar, this course will need your active participation. Be ready to discuss the issues before us, and to do so with relevant comments drawn from your readings. Your contributions are valuable and needed. My assessment of your preparedness will come from your participation, and from the effort you give your assignments. This is the heaviest-weighted participation grade I assign, so hopefully you understand how critical this is!

Book Reviews: (20%) Each of you will do one book review. You may choose these from a list on the Discussion Board section of the course's Blackboard site. These will typically be over specific chapters from monographs or articles from scholarly journals. You will need to submit your review to me two class periods (i.e., one week) before it will be presented to the class. I expect a three-page, double-spaced review, which ought—generally—to follow the guidelines that I outline elsewhere. I will mark up your review within 24 hours and return it, giving you time to make corrections and resubmit it to me, at which point I will e-mail it to the class.

Exams: Unfortunately, they must occur. We shall have two, and both will be take-home essays. They will account together for 35% of the course grade.

Research Paper: (25% ) Finally, the fun part of the course. You get to explore any topic of your choice (provided I have approved it, of course). This paper will need to be in the neighborhood of nine pages, double-spaced, show original scholarship in both primary and secondary material, and follow the Turabian/Chicago style of citation. In many ways, this is more of an essay than a research paper; the goal is for you to tackle a military/social issue within the context of a specific culture. For further specifics and mechanics, follow the link (yet to be built) from here. There are a number of deadlines built into the syllabus that you will want to adhere to. Missing them will affect both this grade and the participation grade.

Required Reading

We've much, much, much to read (a real surprise in a Longwood history course, no?). We have five assigned texts, plus readings available through myself or the electronic reserve of the library. Be sure to acquire the following monographs:

Schedule of Topics & Assignments

Despite the claims of many psychologists, there is a method to my madness. I've set up the topics so as to explore the very nature of military history first. From there we will segue into the effort to understand/define war itself in its most basic components and through its first manifestations. After this prologue of several weeks, we will then take time to survey military history and culture worldwide across several millennia. Having (hopefully) established a common ground of data, we will then engage ourselves for the last part of the class in analyses of such diverse topics as War and X (where x = gender, animals, religion, etc.).

  • Date Topic General Readings Review Assignments
    14 Jan Introduction to Course Go over syllabus and assignments  
    16 Jan The State of Military History Keegan: “Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things”  
    21 Jan Doing Military History Keegan: “Agincourt”  
    23 Jan Defining War
  • Kelly,1-39
  • Otterbein, “The Anthropology of War”, 159-165 (Canvas)
  • Otterbein, “The Evolution of War”
    28 Jan War and Warlessness Kelly, 41-119  
    30 Jan Primitive War
  • Kelly, 121-161
  • Paper Topic Proposal Due
  • 4 Feb Ancient Near East
  • Morillo Excerpt: 2-18 (Canvas)
  • Pleiner & Bjorkman, "The Assyrian Iron Age"
  • 6 Feb War in the Bible
  • Carroll: “War in the Hebrew Bible” (Canvas)
  • Moorey, "Emergence of the...Chariot"
  • 11 Feb The Persian Empire R&R: 105–128
    13 Feb Archaic Greece R&R: 129–141
    18 Feb Classical Greece
  • R&R: 141–148
  • Xenophon, 3–77
  • 20 Feb The Hoplite Legacy
  • Morillo: 38-44, esp. contra Hanson
  • Xenophon, 78–133
  • First Bibiliography Due
  • 25 Feb Change and Continuity
  • R&R: 163–192
  • Xenophon, 134–193
    27 Feb The Roman Republic R&R: 193–216  
    4 Mar Spring Break Research??  
    6 Mar Spring Break More Research??  
    11 Mar Early Medieval Warfare
  • R&R: 271–308
  • Mid-term Exam Due!
    13 Mar Islamic Patterns R&R: 309–332
    18 Mar Central Middle Ages Conquest of Lisbon, 53–127
    20 Mar Religious Aspects I: Sacrifice and killing
  • Burkert, Homo Necans, 1-22
  • Keegan, History of Warfare, 106-115
  • 25 Mar Religious Aspects II: Crusade and Jihad
  • Conquest of Lisbon, 127–185
  • Bonner, Jihad selection 
  • 27 Mar War as Passage/Game
  • Ehrenreich, Blood Rites, 117-131, 144-158 (Canvas)
  • Annotated Bibliography Due
  • 1 Apr Nomads Morillo et al., "The Nomadic World," (Canvas)
    3 Apr Meso-America R&R: 333–388
    8 Apr China and Japan R&R: 7–70  
    10 Apr Environment and Technology
  • DeVries, excerpt from Medieval Military Technology (Canvas)
  • France, "Technology and Success" (Canvas)
  • 15 Apr War and Gender
  • Hardwick: “Ancient Amazons - Heroes, Outsiders or Women?”
  • Keegan, History of Warfare, 75-76 (Blackboard)
  • Sex & War excerpt
  • 17 Apr Taking to the Sea Research Paper Due!!
    22 Apr Mercenaries
  • Excerpt from Machiavelli
  • Isaac, “Questions of Community”
  • 24 Apr State-Formation Cohen: “Warfare and State Formation”
    TBA   Final Exam Due


    Contacting Dr. Isaac

    Office: Ruffner 226-A
    Office Phone: 395-2225
    Office Hours: 11:00–noon daily
    Send me an E-mail
    Feel free to drop in at anytime; if I can’t see you then, I will gladly set up an appointment at your convenience.

    (A Woefully Incomplete)

    Primitive Warfare (Anthropological Approaches)

    Biolsi, Thomas. "Ecological and Cultural Factors in Plains Indian Warfare," in Warfare, Culture, and Environment, R. Brian Ferguson, ed. New York: Academic Press, 1984.

    Chagnon, Napoleon. Yanomano protein.

    Dart, Raymond. "The Predatory Transition from Ape to Man". International Anthropological and Linguistic Review 1 (1953): 201-219.

    Divale, "An explanation for primitive warfare: population control and the significance of primitive sex ratios" The New Scholar (Fall 1970): 173-192.

    Dyson-Hudson and Smith, "Human Territoriality: an ecological reassessment." American Anthropologist 80 (1978): 21-41.

    Gabriel, Richard A. "The Biology of War". In The Culture of War. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

    ------. "The Archaeology of War". In The Culture of War. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

    Harris, Marvin. "A Cultural Materialist Theory of Band and Village Warfare: The Yanomano Test," in Warfare, Culture, and Environment, R. Brian Ferguson, ed. New York: Academic Press, 1984.

    Otterbein, Keith. The Evolution of War.

    Turney-High, "War and the Organization of Society", from Primitive War. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1949 (1991 reprint).

    Ancient Near East

    Carrol, Robert. "War in the Hebrew Bible." In War and Society in the Greek World, ed. by John Rich and Graham Shipley. London: Routledge, 1993.

    Drews, Robert. The End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe ca. 1200 B.C.. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

    Gabriel, Richard A. "The Iron Army of Assyria". In The Culture of War. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

    ------. "Persia: the Emergence of Logistics". In The Culture of War. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

    Spalinger, Anthony J. War in Ancient Egypt. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005


    Bryant, J.M. "Military Technology and Socio-Cultural change in the Ancient Greek City." Sociological Review 38 (1990): 484-516.

    Cartledge, Paul. "The Birth of the Hoplite", in Spartan Reflections. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

    Frost, Frank J. "The Athenian Military before Cleisthenes." Historia 33 (1984): 283-94.

    Gabrielsen, Vincent. Financing the Athenian Fleet: Public Taxation and Social Relations. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

    Garland, Robert. The Piraeus from the Fifth to the First Century B.C. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987.

    Hanson, Victor Davis, ed. Hoplites: The Classical Greek Battle Experience. London: Routledge, 1991.

    Hall, Edith. "Asia Unmanned." In War and Society in the Greek World, ed. by John Rich and Graham Shipley. London: Routledge, 1993.

    Krentz, Peter. "Casualties in Hoplite Battles." Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 26 (1985): 13-20.

    ------. "The Nature of Hoplite Battle." Classical Antiquity 4 (1985): 50-61.

    Meigs, Russell. Trees and Timber in the Ancient Mediterranean World. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982.

    Rihll, Tracey. "War, Slavery, Settlement in early Greece." In War and Society in the Greek World, ed. by John Rich and Graham Shipley. London: Routledge, 1993.

    Rosivach, Vincent. "Manning the Athenian Fleet." American Journal of Ancient History 10 (1993): 41-66. {Written 1985}

    ------. "Enslaving barbaroi and the Athenian Ideology of Slavery." Historia (forthcoming): .

    Snodgrass, Anthony M. "The Hoplite Reform and History." Journal of Hellenic Studies 85 (1965): 110-122.

    ------. "The 'Hoplite Reform' Revisited." Dialogues d'histoire ancienne 19 (1993): 47-61.

    Vernant, Jean-Pierre, ed. Problèmes de la guerre en Grèce ancienne. Paris: Mouton, 1968.


    Braund, David. "Piracy under the Principate and the ideology of imperial eradication." In War and Society in the Roman World, ed. by John Rich and Graham Shipley. London: Routledge, 1993.

    Rich, John. "Fear, greed, and glory: the causes of Roman war-making in the middle Republic." In War and Society in the Roman World, ed. by John Rich and Graham Shipley. London: Routledge, 1993.

    Sidebottom, Harry. "Philosophers' attitudes to warfare under the principate." In War and Society in the Roman World, ed. by John Rich and Graham Shipley. London: Routledge, 1993.

    Middle Ages

    Geremek, Bronislaw. "The Marginal Man" in The Medieval World, ed. Jacques Le Goff, and trans. Lydia G. Cochrane. London: Collins and Brown, 1990. pp. 343-73.

    Duby, Georges "Au XIIe siècle: les 'jeunes' dans la société aristocratique dans la France du nord-ouest." Annales. Economie, société, civilisation V (Sept/Oct 1964).

    Isaac, Steven. "Down Upon the Fold: Mercenaries and Twelfth Century Society" (unpublished dissertation). Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1998.

    J.O. Prestwich, "War and Finance in the Anglo-Norman State" in Anglo-Norman Warfare. Edited by Matthew Strickland. Rochester: Boydell and Brewer, 1992.

    Smith, John Masson, Jr. "Mongol Society and Military in the Middle East: Antecedents and Adaptations." In War and Society in the Eastern Mediterranean, 7th-15th Centuries. Leiden: Brill, 1997.

    The Islamic World

    Kennedy, Hugh. The Armies of the Caliphs. New York: Routledge: 2001.

    Lev, Yaacov. "Medieval Egypt." In War and Society in the Eastern Mediterranean, 7th-15th Centuries. Leiden: Brill, 1997.


    Hassig, Ross. War and Society in Ancient Mesoamerica. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Schele, Linda and David Freidel. A Forest of Kings. New York: Morrow, 1990.

    General Works

    Cohen, Ronald. "Warfare and State Formation: Wars Make States and States Make Wars," in Warfare, Culture, and Environment, R. Brian Ferguson, ed. New York: Academic Press, 1984.

    Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997.

    O'Connell, Robert. Ride of the Second Horseman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.