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D.Phil. Dissertation

1. Yuval Noah Harari, “History and I: War and the Relations between History and Personal Identity in Renaissance Military Memoirs, c. 1450-1600”. Written under the supervision of Dr. Steven J. Gunn. D.Phil. received 2002.



2. Yuval Noah Harari, Renaissance Military Memoirs: War, History and Identity, 1450-1600 (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2004).

3. Yuval Noah Harari, Special Operations in the Age of Chivalry, 1100-1550 (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2007).

4. Yuval Noah Harari, The Ultimate Experience: Battlefield Revelations and the Making of Modern War Culture, 1450-2000 (Houndmills: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008).  



5. Yuval Noah Harari, “The Military Role of the Frankish Turcopoles - a Reassessment”, Mediterranean Historical Review 12 (1) (June 1997), pp. 75-116.

6. Yuval Noah Harari, “Inter-Frontal Cooperation in the Fourteenth Century and Edward III’s 1346 Campaign”, War in History 6 (4) (September 1999), pp. 379-395. 

7. Yuval Noah Harari, “Strategy and Supply in Fourteenth-Century Western European Invasion Campaigns”, The Journal of Military History 64 (2) (April 2000), pp. 297-334.

8. Yuval Noah Harari, “Eyewitnessing in Accounts of the First Crusade: The Gesta Francorum and Other Contemporary Narratives”, Crusades 3 (August 2004), pp. 77-99.

9. Yuval Noah Harari, “Martial Illusions: War and Disillusionment in Twentieth-Century and Renaissance Military Memoirs”, The Journal of Military History 69 (1) (January 2005), pp. 43-72.

10. Yuval Noah Harari, “Military Memoirs: A Historical Overview of the Genre from the Middle Ages to the Late Modern Era”, War in History 14:3 (2007), pp. 289-309.

11. Yuval Noah Harari, “The Concept of ‘Decisive Battles’ in World History’, The Journal of World History 18 (3) (2007), 251-266.

12. Yuval Noah Harari, “Knowledge, Power and the Medieval Soldier, 1096-1550”, in In Laudem Hierosolymitani: Studies in Crusades and Medieval Culture in Honour of Benjamin Z. Kedar, ed. Iris Shagrir, Ronnie Ellenblum and Jonathan Riley-Smith, (Ashgate, 2007).

13. Yuval Noah Harari, “Combat Flow: Military, Political and Ethical Dimensions of Subjective Well-Being in War”, Review of General Psychology (September, 2008)



Synopsis of Books

1. Yuval Noah Harari, The Ultimate Experience: Battlefield Revelations and the Making of Modern War Culture, 1450-2000 (Houndmills: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008).  

The experience of war is often viewed today as an experience of revelation. The harsh conditions of war dispel myths and illusions, uncover hidden reservoirs of courage and altruism, and generally reveal truths that only war’s initiates can fully understand. By revealing these truths, war transforms the combatants’ personalities, and confers on them a unique kind of knowledge and authority. The typical hero of late modern Western war stories is the naïve youth who enters war full of ignorance and delusion, acquires in war knowledge of himself and the world, and leaves war a much wiser – albeit disillusioned – man. Some stress war’s negative and traumatic revelations, others stress its positive and uplifting revelations, but all agree that war is a revelatory experience.

    This revelatory interpretation of war seems today natural and universal, and researches in the Humanities and the Social Sciences alike often take it for granted when exploring cultures throughout history. This book contends that this interpretation is in fact a unique product of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and nineteenth-century Romanticism, which gained prominence in the West between 1750 and 1850, and which is not necessarily shared by other cultures. The book aims to map and explain the rise of this interpretation.

   In order to map the rise of the revelatory interpretation of war, the book studies early modern and late modern war as a cultural and mental phenomenon, aiming to integrate military history with intellectual history, literary history, and cultural history. The book relies partly on an examination of theoretical and philosophical writings and of literary and artistic representations of war. Yet the book focuses to a larger extent on combatants’ war memoirs. The book studies war memoirs written between 1450 and 2000 throughout Europe and North America, focusing on memoirs written in French, Spanish, English, German, Russian and Hebrew.

   The book argues that the rise of the revelatory interpretation of war is connected in particular to changing conceptions of mind, body, and self. Before the eighteenth century combatants almost never interpreted war as a revelatory experience, because Western culture in general tended to view bodily experiences as dubious bases for systems of knowledge, and because bodily experiences were viewed as particularly inappropriate sources for military knowledge. During that era, war was usually interpreted as a paradigmatic model for the victory of soul and mind over body. The harsh physical conditions of war were only a test for the mind/soul, rather than a creative and independent source of knowledge.

    From the eighteenth century and through the early nineteenth century cultural developments such as Sensationism, Materialism and Romanticism highlighted bodily experiences as independent and even privileged sources for knowledge. This led to the rise of the revelatory interpretation of war, which subsequently gained cultural dominance in the Twentieth Century.

   By the middle of the Twentieth Century, war was usually interpreted as a paradigmatic model for the victory of body over mind. It became widely accepted that the truths of war can be known only through direct bodily experiences, and not through peaceful meditations. It is the harsh bodily conditions of war that disillusion combatants about false ideals developed and acquired in the comfortable conditions of peace. It is these harsh bodily conditions that reveal to combatants who they really are and what the world is really like. And it is these harsh but revealing bodily conditions that arguably grant veterans a privileged authority to interpret reality and guide humanity. Such arguments have been extensively used in the late modern political arena both by pacifist veterans such as the Vietnam-veterans-against-the-war, and by militaristic and fascist veterans. Hitler, for example, was portrayed in Nazi propaganda as the archetypical common soldier who gained his political wisdom in the trenches of World War I.

   The rise of the revelatory interpretation of war amounted to a major paradigm shift, and was one of the key components in the unprecedented revolution in the culture and mentality of war that occurred during the late modern era, and that radically transformed the way war has been both understood and waged. The proposed book offers a critical look at the cultural foundations of this revolution, and aims to shed light on contemporary Western war culture and its relations with alternative cultures of war.


2. Yuval Noah Harari, Special Operations in the Age of Chivalry, 1100-1550 (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2007)

This book takes an unconventional look at medieval and early modern warfare. Alongside pitched battles, regular sieges, and large-scale maneuvers, medieval and early modern wars also involved assassination, abduction, treason and sabotage. These underhand operations were aimed chiefly against the person of princes and against fortified places, and occasionally against infrastructure facilities such as bridges, dams and mills.

   The book surveys a wide variety of such operations, from the eleventh to the sixteenth century. It also analyzes in greater depth six select operations: the betrayal of Antioch in 1098; the attempt to rescue King Baldwin II from the dungeon of Khartpert in 1123; the assassination of Conrad of Montferrat in 1192; the attempt to storm Calais in 1350; the “dirty war” waged by the rulers of France and Burgundy in the 1460s and 1470s; and the demolition of the flour mill of Auriol in 1536.

   The book argues that special operations played a critical role in medieval and early modern warfare, occasionally deciding the outcome of entire campaigns. The book further examines how these underhand operations fitted into chivalric culture, and to what degree cultural views influenced them and were influenced by them.