jump to navigation

Book Review: The Great War for Civilisation by Robert Fisk March 19, 2007

Posted by Andreas in Book Reviews, History.

My rating: 8 out of 10 – insightful and shockingly tragic.

For the last thirty years or so, Robert Fisk has been the English-language correspondent in the Middle East and The Great War for Civilisation – The Conquest of the Middle East is his monumental masterpiece.

This is not the kind of book you are likely to finish on a lazy long weekend. It’s heavy, both in size (1368 pages!) and content, and will leave you shocked and terrified. Even if you have kept abreast with developments in the Middle East over the last few decades, this book provides first-hand insights and between-the-lines details from one of the greatest, old-school investigative journalists and war reporters of our time that will keep you turning the pages.

Fisk has seen it all. He was there when the Russians invaded Afghanistan; during the eight year long Iraq-Iran war he spend harrowing days under fire with both the Iraqi and Iranian armies; he has interviewed Osama bin Laden three times and he was the last western journalist to enter Baghdad before the start of the second Gulf War.

This book is part history, part personal testimony and part political analysis from an engaged and angry writer who has remained steadfast in his condemnation of the horrors of war, genocide, oppression and injustice whoever the perpetrators or aggressors may be.

Fisk’s compassion for the thousands of innocent victims shines through in all of his work. He is not the kind of reporter who is content with being “embedded” with an invading army and he is not the kind of reporter who is prepared to sit on the fence or the sidelines. He tells it how he sees it. He does not simply repackage the latest government press release, but insists on visiting the morgues and the hospitals and the missile impact sites himself – even at grave danger to his life.

This book is required reading for anyone who cares about what is happening in the Middle East, but be warned: its pages are stained with blood and littered with accounts of murder, torture and atrocities. Fisk insists on telling the gory details of the human tragedy that has pervaded so much of Middle Eastern history because no body else will.



1. Robert Pfeffer - March 21, 2007

So far I made it to page 150 and it sure is one hell of a book. I tramped the Middle East as a 19 year old hitch hiker back in winter 1962/63. Incredibly, what happened in the meantime!

2. Andreas - March 22, 2007

For an up to date account of Fisk’s problems in getting the book published in Turkey – mostly, of course, because of his description of the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman empire – read his article from The Independent re-published on ZNet:


3. husnulsa - March 22, 2007

“War for Civilisation ????” What do you think about it. I have no read the Robert Fisk book..Can you explain what is the point of Fisk refiews why he tell that “the war for civilization”..Glad to see your antidote ..Thank’s..

4. Andreas - March 22, 2007

Fisk took the “The Great War for Civilisation” part of the title for this book from a medal that his father received for fighting in World War I.

A small part of the book deals with his father’s experiences in France, but throughout the book, Fisk draws connections between WW I (and II) and what has happened in the Middle East since. I guess one of his points is that a number of the underlying issues and problems in the Middle East had their historical origin in the outcome of WW I…

5. Concerned Citizen - October 3, 2008

Fisk is intellectually honest, eminently grounded in the history of the region, unsparing in his observations, and masterful in his narrative style. It’s a wonderful, albeit potentially depressing book (only because of the realities which it eloquently describes). If one were to read only a single volume on the history of the Middle East, this book would be an excellent choice!

6. Narendersingh - March 3, 2009

i am Narendersingh grandson of sepoy khemsing No. 1783 of 37, Dogras who fought for British Empire in the great war for civilisation from 1914-1919. also got medals from the empire. I want to know further details about him serving the British Empire. Please provide details from where can i find the details of him fighting the war. in that he got bullet in the chest and the bullet got out from other side and he survived. i you can give the details of the address or website for this then please intimate me the details of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: