Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present (2013)

“Enormous, brilliant and important…. Terrific… Astute… Boot’s Invisible Armies should be required reading in the White House and Pentagon—the breadth of his knowledge, his first-hand experience, and his sensible point of view make this the best and most realistic book on the subject since that classic work Colonel C. E. Caldwell’s Small WarsTheir Principles and Practice, with the additional advantage that it is well-written, and as readable as a novel…. Lucid, enlightening, and highly readable.”

–Michael Korda, The Daily Beast

“A definitive survey of the long history of irregular warfare…. One of the most pleasing aspects of “Invisible Armies” is the superb character sketches that Mr. Boot provides of some of the most important individual actors in military history, insurgent leaders like Washington, T.E. Lawrence, Mao, Castro, Ho Chi Minh and Osama bin Laden…. Mr. Boot’s impressive work of military history is destined to be the classic account of what may be the oldest as well as the hardest form of war.

–John Nagl, Wall Street Journal

“A sweeping panorama that ranges over a vast terrain…. Thoughtful, smart, fluent, with an eye for the good story.”

–Mark Mazower, New York Times Sunday Book Review

As fitting for the twenty-first century as von Clausewitz’s On War was in its own time, Invisible Armies is the only complete account that assesses the impact of guerrilla uprisings throughout world history. Beginning with the first insurgencies in the ancient world — when Alexander the Great discovered that fleet nomads were harder to defeat than massive conventional armies — bestselling author Max Boot masterfully guides us from the Jewish rebellion against the Roman Empire up through the horrors of the French-Indochina War and the shadowy, post-9/11 battlefields of today. Relying on a diverse cast of unforgettable characters – not only Mao, Che, and Castro but also the legendary heartthrob Giuseppe Garibaldi, the eccentric Zionist, Orde Wingate, and the “Quiet American,” Edward Lansdale — Boot explodes everything we thought we knew about unconventional warfare. The result is a rollicking read that is also our most important work of non-traditional military history—and a new way to think about the threats of the future.

“Works rather well. Even when the author is rattling through fairly familiar territory, such as the failures of the French against the Vietminh, he usually finds something fresh or pithy to say…. Counter-insurgency may be out of fashion again, but it remains necessary to know how to do it. Mr Boot offers a timely reminder to politicians and generals of the hard-earned lessons of history.”

The Economist

“The word “magisterial” is bandied about far too freely these days, but in the case of Max Boot’s sweeping and deeply researched history of guerrilla warfare, it proves fair. Somewhere in the first third of Boot’s book, you begin to realize that guerrilla wars (and terrorism and insurgencies) are the way we fight, while the formal set battles of, say, the Napoleonic wars are but an exception.”

–Lucas Wittmann, The Daily Beast

“There’s no better guide to both the past and the future than Invisible Armies, the tour de force of a scholar as well as a man who’s seen American adversaries and soldiers at work up close.” 

The Weekly Standard

“Remarkably comprehensive… Boot sustains the reader’s interest with lively writing and sharp characterizations.”

–Lawrence Freedman, Foreign Affairs

A sweeping, well-written, and comprehensively documented history of guerrilla war…. A compelling narrative and perceptive analysis: a must read in today’s world.

Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Sweeping, meticulous, and exceptionally thoughtful. Max Boot’s Invisible Armies is an important, compelling contribution to our understanding of how men make war.”

–Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn and The Day of Battle 

“Max Boot has produced the most definitive and comprehensive work to date on the dominant form of warfare of our times. From the origins of guerrilla warfare to current conflicts the reader travels through the centuries of time understanding the nature and character of unconventional warfare yet because of the power of Boot’s narrative and sheer ability to tell a story, the reader can live the experience. A must read for scholars, military and government professionals and a fascinating journey for the general public.”

–General (ret.) Jack Keane, former Army Vice Chief of Staff  

“Guerrilla wars will dominate our future, and in this valuable and fascinating book, Max Boot recounts their historic antecedents — beginning with the barbarians at the gates of the Roman Empire. It is filled with many lessons on how to wage effective counterinsurgencies. But it is also simply a wonderful and readable historic narrative filled with colorful characters.”

–Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin  

“This is the definitive treatment of guerrilla warfare through the ages — a tour de force by a preeminent military historian who has advised generals, policymakers and political leaders on the subject.”

–Senator John McCain

“With precision and a quiet passion, Max Boot has written a landmark book about a perennial and important challenge: guerrilla warfare. A scholar with a great gift for storytelling, Boot takes us on a grand and vivid tour of millennia of a kind of conflict that confronts us even now.”

–Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House and Franklin and Winston

“In Invisible Armies, Max Boot, with flair and insight, delivers a rich and enthralling history of guerrilla warfare. This is an important work with a powerful message: throughout the years counterinsurgency has more often than not been the norm, and if we are not prepared to deal with such nasty little wars in the future, there’ll be a heavy price to pay.  A serious, sobering book, this epic work belongs on the shelf of military history buffs and policymakers alike.”

–Jay Winik, author of April 1865 and The Great Upheaval 

“An expansive nuts-and-bolts historical survey from a keen military mind.”

–Kirkus Reviews

“…impressively researched, astutely synthesized, and eminently readable.”


“A considerable achievement…. A valuable scholarly research tool as well as popular history… A disinterested examination of a method of war that is still poorly understood, yet increasingly relevant to our own security…  Magisterial.”

–Victor Davis Hanson, The New Criterion