- The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World
"The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World: from Marathon to Waterloo" is a
bookwritten by Sir Edward Shepherd Creasyand published in 1851 . This book tells the story of the fifteen military engagements (from Marathon to Waterloo) which, according to the author, had a significant impact on world history.
Each chapter of the book describes a different battle. The fifteen chapters are:
Battle of Marathon, 490 BC
#* Excerpt: "Two thousand three hundred and forty years ago, a council of Athenian Officers was summoned on the slope of one of the mountains that look over the plain of Marathon, on the eastern coast of
Attica. The immediate subject of their meeting was to consider whether they should give battle to an enemy that lay encamped on the shore beneath them; but on the result of their deliberations depended, not merely the fate of two armies, but the whole future progress of human civilization."
#Defeat of the Athenians at Syracuse, 413 BC
#*Known as the Battle of Syracuse.
#*Excerpt: "Few cities have undergone more memorable sieges during ancient and mediaeval times than has the city of Syracuse."
Battle of Gaugamela, 331 BC
#*Also called the Battle of Arbela.
#*Excerpt: "... the ancient
Persian empire, which once subjugated all the nations of the earth, was defeated when Alexander had won his victory at Arbela."
Battle of the Metaurus, 207 BC
#*Excerpt: "That battle was the determining crisis of the contest, not merely between Rome and
Carthage, but between the two great families of the world..."
Arminiusover the Roman Legions under Varus, 9 AD
#*Known as the
Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.
#*Excerpt: "..that victory secured at once and forever the independence of the
Battle of Chalons, 451 AD
#*Also called the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields or the Battle of the Catalun.
#*Excerpt: "The victory which the Roman general, Aëtius, with his Gothic allies, had then gained over the
Huns, was the last victory of imperial Rome."
Battle of Tours, 732 AD
#*Also called the Battle of Poitiers.
#*Excerpt: "the great victory won by
Charles Martel... gave a decisive check to the career of Arabconquest in Western Europe, rescued Christendomfrom Islam, [and] preserved the relics of ancient and the germs of modern civilization..."
Battle of Hastings, 1066 AD
#*Excerpt: "..no one who appreciates the influence of
Englandand her empire upon the destinies of the world will ever rank that victory as one of secondary importance."
Joan of Arc's Victory over the English at Orléans, 1429 AD
#*Known as the
Siege of Orléans.
#*Excerpt: "..the struggle by which the unconscious heroine of
France, in the beginning of the fifteenth century, rescued her country from becoming a second Irelandunder the yoke of the triumphant English."
#Defeat of the
Spanish Armada, 1588 AD
#*Excerpt: "The England of our own days is so strong, and the
Spainof our own days is so feeble, that it is not easy, without some reflection and care, to comprehend the full extent of the peril which England then ran from the power and the ambition of Spain, or to appreciate the importance of that crisis in the history of the world."
Battle of Blenheim, 1704 AD
#*Excerpt: "Had it not been for Blenheim, all Europe might at this day suffer under the effect of French conquests resembling those of Alexander in extent and those of the Romans in durability."
#The Battle of Pultowa, 1709 AD
#*Also called the Battle of Poltava.
#*Excerpt: "The decisive triumph of
Russiaover Swedenat Pultowa was therefore all-important to the world, on account of what it overthrew as well as for what it established"
#Victory of the Americans over Burgoyne at Saratoga, 1777 AD
#*Known as the
Battle of Saratoga.
#*Excerpt: "The ancient Roman boasted, with reason, of the growth of Rome from humble beginnings to the greatest magnitude which the world had then ever witnessed. But the citizen of the
United Statesis still more justly entitled to claim this praise."
Battle of Valmy, 1792 AD
#*Excerpt: "..the kings of Europe, after the lapse of eighteen centuries, trembled once more before a conquering military republic."
Battle of Waterloo, 1815 AD
#*Excerpt: "The exertions which the allied powers made at this crisis to grapple promptly with the French emperor have truly been termed gigantic, and never were
Napoleon's genius and activity more signally displayed than in the celerity and skill by which he brought forward all the military resources of France..."
Point of view
The book is a product of the
Victorian era, and Creasy's descriptions of the battles and their impact on history are from a decidedly Eurocentric, and specifically Anglocentric, point of view. For example, every one of Creasy's choices involve Europeans as one or both of the combatants. Of the ten battles fought among Europeans, five of these involve the English. Five of the battles are described as a clash of civilizationsbetween European and Asiatic powers (or between the Indo-European and Semiticlinguistic families), with each one being a European victory and with the view that the Europeans are superior. Creasy's comments about Alexander's victory at Arbela are::"Alexander's victory at Arbela not only overthrew an Orientaldynasty, but established European rulers in its stead. It broke the monotony of the Eastern world by the impression of Western energy and superior civilization, even as England's present mission is to break up the mental and moral stagnation of Indiaand Cathayby pouring upon and through them the impulsive current of Anglo-Saxon commerce and conquest."
In his discussion of the Battle of Marathon, he writes::"The Greeks, from their geographical position, formed the natural vanguard of European liberty against Persian ambition ; and they pre-eminently displayed the salient points of distinctive national character which have rendered European civilization so far superior to Asiatic."
Since the publication of Creasy's book, other historians have attempted to modify or add to the list.
* In 1920 the Viscount D'Abernon published "The Eighteenth Decisive Battle of the World: Warsaw, 1920", in which he claimed that the next battle on the list was the battle of Warsaw, fought in 1920 by the Polish and Bolshevik forces during the
Texashistorian Clarence Whartonpublished "San Jacinto: The Sixteenth Decisive Battle", in which he made the case for adding the final battle of the Texas Revolutionto Creasy's list. In 1936 the San Jacinto Monumentwas given an inscription that echoed Wharton's view: "Measured by its results, San Jacinto was one of the decisive battles of the world. The freedom of Texas from Mexicowon here led to annexation and to the Mexican-American War, resulting in the acquisition by the United Statesof the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utahand parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansasand Oklahoma. Almost one-third of the present area of the American Nation, nearly a million square miles of territory, changed sovereignty."
*In 1954-1956, British historian
J.F.C. Fullerpublished "The Decisive Battles of the Western World and their Influence upon History".
*In 1956, historian and author
Fletcher Prattpublished "The Battles that Changed History", stories of conflicts that forever changed the course of world events. He listed 16 battles from Arbela to Midway.
*In 1964, American historian Lt. Col.
Joseph B. Mitchellpublished "Twenty Decisive Battles of the World", an update of Creasy's list with five additions:
Vicksburg Campaign, 1863. By capturing the Mississippi Riverduring the American Civil War, the Union separated the Confederacy into two halves.
Battle of Sadowa, 1866. This Prussian victory over the Austrians during the Seven Weeks Warpaved the way for a German empire.
First Battle of the Marne, 1914. The French prevented a German assault of Parisand an early German victory in World War I.
Battle of Midway, 1942. The beginning of the United Statesoffensive in the Pacific Oceanduring World War IIand the devastating loss of four Japanese aircraft carriers.
Battle of Stalingrad, 1942-43. The defeat of the German attempt to conquer the Soviet Unionand a significant loss of German resources in World War II.
Noble Franklandand Christopher Dowlingpublished "Decisive Battles of the Twentieth Century", which listed 23 battles, from the Battle of Tsushimato the Tet Offensive.
In popular culture
*Referring to Creasy's work in the
Gilbert and Sullivanoperetta The Pirates of Penzance, Major-General Stanley claims he is able to "quote the fights historical; from Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical."
*gutenberg|no=4061|name=The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World
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