For God, Gold, and Glory: A History of Military Service and Man's Search for Power, Wealth, and Adventure
Not for nothing did Napoleon say, “give me enough ribbon and I will conquer the world.” Soldiers fight for a variety of reasons: a sense of patriotic duty, the lure of financial gain, or the desire for honor and glory. Some want a bit more than what life has to offer. Others feel that war is their destiny; they can see the writing on the wall and know they must be part of it.
The field of military history is rich and complex and is closely tied to cultural, social, and political history. In addition to battle history, it involves a study of the personal journeys of the soldiers and the underlying currents that shaped their lives. This book examines the factors that drive young men and women into voluntary military service for their country (or for somebody else’s). The book is composed of five parts discussing events from world history and military service related to patriotism, financial gain, adventure, heroism, and disillusionment.
Why is this book important?
The field of military history with its subfields of social and political history—ranging from battlefield history and combat leadership to political and social complexities on both worldwide and personal scales—continues to fascinate the general populace, as evidenced by the great number of books that have been written and published, for example, about the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and, more recently, Iraq and Afghanistan. The movie industry, the Military History Channel, historical societies, and the news media in which war and politics are discussed on a daily basis, further fuel popular interest in the subject. In light of the decade’s long U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, I believe that a broad range of people, including those enrolled in military, political, and social university courses, will find this book attractive and view it as a valuable study about factors that influence a person’s decision to join a volunteer fighting force.
The prospect of war has for millennia lured men into military service. In his classic, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph, T. E. Lawrence said, “All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.” For God, Gold, and Glory: A History of Military Service and Man’s Search for Power, Wealth, and Adventure will be of interest to military and social historians, as well as to armchair warriors dreaming of the glory that “mischance” prevented them from obtaining.
World War I propaganda poster appealing to a man's self-image. Recruiters have tried all kinds of tricks to get men and increasingly more women to voluntarily join the Armed Forces. (Image Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, reproduced under Wikimedia Commons license.)