John Keegan

Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan OBE FRSL (15 May 1934 – 2 August 2012) was an English military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He was the author of many published works on the nature of combat between the 14th and 21st centuries concerning land, air, maritime, and intelligence warfare, as well as the psychology of battle.

Sir John Keegan
John Desmond Patrick Keegan

15 May 1934
Clapham, London, England
Died2 August 2012 (aged 78)
Academic background
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
Academic work
Main interestsMilitary history, history of warfare, First World War
Notable worksThe Face of Battle, Soldiers: A History of Men in Battle, The Mask of Command and other major works

Life and career

At the age of 13 Keegan contracted orthopaedic tuberculosis, which subsequently affected his gait. The long-term effects of his tuberculosis rendered him unfit for military service, and the timing of his birth made him too young for service in the Second World War, facts he mentioned in his works as an ironic observation on his profession and interests.[1] The illness also interrupted his education during his teenage years. However, his education included a period at King's College, Taunton, and two years at Wimbledon College, which led to entry to Balliol College, Oxford, in 1953. Following graduation he worked at the American Embassy in London for three years.[2]

In 1960 Keegan was appointed to a lectureship in military history at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the training establishment for officers of the British Army. In holding the post for 26 years, he became senior lecturer in military history during his tenure, during which he also held a visiting professorship at Princeton University and was Delmas Distinguished Professor of History at Vassar College.[3]

Leaving the academy in 1986,[4] Keegan joined the Daily Telegraph as a Defence Correspondent and remained with the publication as Defence Editor until his death, also writing for the American conservative website, National Review Online. In 1998 he wrote and presented the BBC's Reith Lectures, entitled War in our World.

Keegan died on 2 August 2012 of natural causes at his home in Kilmington, western England. He was survived by his wife, their two daughters and two sons.[5]

Opinions on contemporary conflicts

  • Vietnam: When asked about the Vietnam War, Keegan repled: "I will never oppose the Vietnam War. Americans were right to do it. I think they fought it in the wrong way. I don't think it's a war like fighting Hitler, but I think it was a right war, a correct war."[6]
  • Kosovo: Keegan believed that NATO's bombing of Serbia and Serbian targets in Kosovo in 1999 showed that air power alone could win wars.[7]
  • Iraq War: An article in The Christian Science Monitor called Keegan a "staunch supporter" of the Iraq War. The article quotes Keegan: "Uncomfortable as the 'spectacle of raw military force' is, he concludes that the Iraq war represents 'a better guide to what needs to be done to secure the safety of our world than any amount of law-making or treaty-writing can offer.'"[8]


Keegan was also criticised by peers, including Sir Michael Howard[9] and Christopher Bassford[10] for his critical position on Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian officer and author of Vom Kriege (On War), one of the basic texts on warfare and military strategy. Keegan was described as "profoundly mistaken" and Bassford stated that "Nothing anywhere in Keegan's work – despite his many diatribes about Clausewitz and 'the Clausewitzians' – reflects any reading whatsoever of Clausewitz's own writings." The political scientist Richard Betts also criticised Keegan's understanding of the political dimensions of war, writing that Keegan was "a naïf about politics."[11]

Noting Keegan's works on the Waffen-SS, the military historian S.P. MacKenzie describes him as a popular historian "partially or wholly seduced by [its] mystique". He connects Keegan with the contemporary Waffen-SS historical revisionism, first propounded by HIAG, the Waffen-SS lobby group from the 1950–1990s. Commenting on this contemporary trend, Mackenzie writes that "as older generation of Waffen-SS scribes has died off, a new, post-war cadre of writers has done much to perpetuate the image of the force as a revolutionary European army" and includes Keegan in this group.[12]

In August 2015, Russia's government considered banning Keegan's works, accusing him of Nazi sympathies.[13]


On 29 June 1991, as a war correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, Keegan was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) "in recognition of service within the operations in the Gulf".[14] In the 2000 New Year Honours, he was knighted "for services to Military History".[15]

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL) in 1986.[16] In 1993 he won the Duff Cooper Prize.[17]

In 1996, he was awarded the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for lifetime achievement given by the Society for Military History.[18]

He was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) by the University of Bath in 2002.[19]

Published work

In A History of Warfare, Keegan outlined the development and limitations of warfare from prehistory to the modern era. It looked at various topics, including the use of horses, logistics, and "fire". One key concept put forward was that war is inherently cultural.[20] In the introduction, he vigorously denounced the idiom "war is a continuation of policy by other means", rejecting on its face "Clausewitzian" ideas. Keegan's discussion of Clausewitz was, however, heavily criticised as uninformed and inaccurate, by writers like Peter Paret, Christopher Bassford, and Richard M. Swain.[21]

He also contributed to work on historiography in modern conflict. With Richard Holmes he wrote the BBC documentary Soldiers: A History of Men in Battle. Frank C. Mahncke wrote that Keegan is seen as being "among the most prominent and widely read military historians of the late twentieth century".[22] In a book-cover blurb extracted from a more complex article, Sir Michael Howard wrote, "at once the most readable and the most original of living historians".[23]

Keegan's Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America, which gave accounts of many of the wars fought on the soil of North America, also contained opening and closing essays on his own personal relationship to America. He continued his interest in American military history with the publication of his book The American Civil War: A Military History (2009, Hutchinson).


  • Waffen SS: the asphalt soldiers (New York: Ballantine, 1970) ISBN 0-345-32641-5
  • Barbarossa: Invasion of Russia, 1941 (New York, 1971) ISBN 0-345-02111-8
  • Opening Moves – August 1914 (New York: Ballantine, 1971) ISBN 0-345-09798-X
  • The Face of Battle (London, 1976) ISBN 0-670-30432-8
  • Who Was Who in World War II (1978) ISBN 0-85368-182-1
  • The Nature of War with Joseph Darracott (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981) ISBN 0-03-057777-2
  • Six Armies in Normandy (1982) ISBN 0-14-005293-3
  • Zones of Conflict: An Atlas Of Future Wars with Andrew Wheatcroft (New York, 1986) ISBN 0-671-60115-6
  • Soldiers: A History of Men in Battle with Richard Holmes (New York: Viking Press, 1986) ISBN 0-670-80969-1
  • The Mask of Command (London, 1987) ISBN 0-7126-6526-9
  • The Price of Admiralty (1988) ISBN 0-09-173771-0
  • The Illustrated Face of Battle (New York and London: Viking, 1988) ISBN 0-670-82703-7
  • The Second World War (Viking Press, 1989) ISBN 0-670-82359-7
  • A History of Warfare (London, 1993) ISBN 0-679-73082-6
  • The Battle for History: Refighting World War Two (Vintage Canada, 1995) ISBN 0-679-76743-6
  • Warpaths (Pimlico, 1996) ISBN 1-84413-750-3
  • Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America (1997) ISBN 0-679-74664-1
  • War and Our World: The Reith Lectures 1998 (London: Pimlico, 1999) ISBN 0-375-70520-1
  • The Book of War (ed.) (Viking Press, 1999) ISBN 0-670-88804-4
  • The First World War (London: Hutchinson, 1998) ISBN 0-09-180178-8; (New York: Knopf, 1999) ISBN 0-375-40052-4
  • An Illustrated History of the First World War (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001) ISBN 0-375-41259-X
  • Winston Churchill (2002) ISBN 0-670-03079-1
  • Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda (2003) ISBN 0-375-40053-2 (also published with alternative subtitle as Intelligence in War: The value - and limitations - of what the military can learn about the enemy ISBN 0-375-70046-3)
  • The Iraq War (2004) ISBN 0-09-180018-8
  • Atlas of World War II (ed.) (London: Collins, 2006) ISBN 0-00-721465-0 (an update of the 1989 Times Atlas)
  • The American Civil War (London, Hutchinson, 2009) ISBN 978-0-09-179483-5


  1. ^ Interview (transcripted May 1994).
  2. ^ Daniel Snowman: John Keegan History Today, volume 50, issue 5.2000
  3. ^ Back cover of The First World War. Keegan, John, ISBN 0-375-40052-4
  4. ^ "Booknotes". Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  5. ^ "British military historian John Keegan dead at 78". 4 August 2012. Archived from the original on 12 August 2012.
  6. ^ Binder, David (2 August 2012). "John Keegan, Historian Who Put a Face on War, Dies at 78". Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  7. ^ Byman, Daniel L.; Waxman, Matthew C. (2000). "Kosovo and the Great Air Power Debate" (PDF). International Security. 24 (4): 5–38. doi:10.1162/016228800560291. I didn't want to change my beliefs, but there was too much evidence accumulating to stick to the article of faith. It now does look as if air power has prevailed in the Balkans, and that the time has come to redefine how victory in war may be won.
  8. ^ Scott Tyson, Ann (8 June 2004). "America's bewildering battle in Iraq follows new rules". Retrieved 10 August 2012.
  9. ^ Michael Howard, "To the Ruthless Belong the Spoils," The New York Times Book Review, 14 November 1993.
  10. ^ War in History, November 1994, pp. 319–336, Christopher Bassford available at "
  11. ^ Betts, Richard (Fall 2000). "Is Strategy and Illusion?". International Security. 25 (2): 25. doi:10.1162/016228800560444.
  12. ^ MacKenzie 1997, pp. 139–40.
  13. ^ Ignacio Villarreal. "Russia orders libraries to ditch 'Nazi' books by British historians". Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  14. ^ "No. 52588". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 June 1991. pp. 23–28.
  15. ^ "No. 55710". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1999. pp. 1–2.
  16. ^ "Royal Society of Literature All Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2010.
  17. ^ "Past Winners of The Duff Cooper Prize". Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  18. ^ "Samuel Eliot Morison Prize previous winners". Society for Military History. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  19. ^ "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". University of Bath. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  20. ^ Binder, David (3 August 2012). "John Keegan, Historian of War and Warriors, Dies at 78". The New York Times. p. 10. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  21. ^ Christopher Bassford, "John Keegan and the Grand Tradition of Trashing Clausewitz," War in History, November 1994, pp. 319–36
  22. ^ Naval War College – Frank C. Mahncke, Naval War College
  23. ^ The New York Times Book ReviewSir Michael Howard


External links

A History of Warfare

A History of Warfare is a book by military historian John Keegan, which was published in 1993 by Random House.

Archduke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen

Archduke Albrecht Friedrich Rudolf Dominik of Austria, Duke of Teschen (3 August 1817 – 18 February 1895) was an Austrian Habsburg general. He was the grandson of Emperor Leopold II and one of the chief military advisors of Emperor Francis Joseph I. As Inspector General for 36 years, he was an old-fashioned bureaucrat who largely controlled the Austro-Hungarian Army and delayed modernization. he was honored with the rank of Field Marshal in the armies of Austria-Hungary (1888) and Germany (1893).

According to historians John Keegan and Andrew Wheatcroft:

He was a firm conservative in all matters, military and civil, and took to writing pamphlets lamenting the state of the Army’s morale as well as fighting a fierce rearguard action against all forms of innovation…. Much of the Austrian failure in the First World War can be traced back to his long period of power…. His power was that of the bureaucrat, not the fighting soldier, and his thirty years of command over the peacetime Habsburg Army made it a flabby instrument of war.

John C. Keegan

John Charles Keegan is a retired judge of the Justice Court in Maricopa County, Arizona. He was Mayor of Peoria, Arizona from June 1997 to January 2007. Keegan served as a commissioned officer in both the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy and held elected office in all three branches of government. While on the bench, he chaired the Professional Standards Committee and was an outspoken advocate for increased accountability of judges. Additionally, Judge Keegan was a juvenile hearing officer and actively involved in issues of underage drinking, truancy, and other youth offenses.

John Casey

John Casey may refer to:

John Casey (academic), British academic and a writer for The Daily Telegraph

John Casey (Chuck), fictional character portrayed by Adam Baldwin on the television show Chuck

John Casey (commentator) (born 1964), Australian journalist and sports broadcaster

John Casey (footballer) (fl. 1935–1941), Dumbarton FC player

John Casey (mathematician) (1820–1891), Irish geometer

John Casey (politician) (1823–1893), Newfoundland politician

John Casey (novelist) (born 1939), American novelist and translator

John Casey (rugby league), rugby league footballer of the 1920s and 1930s

John J. Casey (CEO), former chairman of Braniff International Airways

John J. Casey (1875–1929), Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania

John Casey (climate change author), American author

John Casey (Australian convict) (died 1882), Irish rebel transported to Australia in 1826

John Keegan Casey (1846–1870), Irish poet, orator and republican

Jack Casey (John Casey, born 1935), member of the New Jersey General Assembly

John Keegan (disambiguation)

John Keegan (1934–2012) was a British military historian.

John Keegan may also refer to:

John C. Keegan (born 1952), Retired American judge and politician from Arizona

John Keegan (footballer) (born 1981), English professional footballer

John Keegan (politician) (1867–1941), Australian trade unionist and politician

John Keegan (writer), Irish mythologist

John Keegan (footballer)

John Kevin Paul Keegan (born 5 August 1981) is an English former professional footballer who played as a defender in the Football League for York City, and in non-League football for Scarborough. and Chester City F.C.

John Keegan (politician)

John Walter Keegan (30 June (?) 1867 – 25 August 1941) was an Australian trade unionist and politician.

Born at Bulldog in Victoria to miner John Walter Keegan and Mary, née Flood, he worked as a local agent for the Australian Workers' Union at Wyalong in the 1890s. His brother, Tom Keegan, was an organiser for William Holman and would later become a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. John was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1925 as a Labor Party councillor; he was also a longtime member and official of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners. He moved to Sydney due to his third wife's illness in 1925 and worked for Sydney Municipal Council until he fractured his elbow. He supported the Legislative Council's abolition in accordance with party policy and focused on child endowment and workers' compensation in the Council.He found work with the Department of Public Works and became a gardener in the Botanic Gardens, but in 1927 he was dismissed by Agriculture Minister Harold Thorby, who allegedly found workers engaged in political business during their shifts. He gradually came to oppose Jack Lang's leadership and did not renominate for the newly reconstituted Council in 1934. He ran for the 1934 federal election as the Federal Labor candidate for Parramatta and for the state seat of Annandale in 1935. He died in 1941.

John Keegan (writer)

John Keegan (1809 or 1816–1849) was an Irish ballad-writer.

John Keegan Casey

John Keegan "Leo" Casey (1846 – March 17, 1870), known as the Poet of the Fenians, was an Irish poet, orator and republican who was famous as the writer of the song "The Rising of the Moon" and as one of the central figures in the Fenian Rising of 1867. He was imprisoned by the English and died on St. Patrick's Day in 1870.

Keegan de Lancie

John Keegan de Lancie (born October 31, 1984) is an American actor and son of actor John de Lancie and Marnie Mosiman. He is known for his role as Q, or Q Junior, on Star Trek: Voyager, where he played the son of Q, a longstanding character in the Star Trek franchise portrayed by his father, John de Lancie, in the episode "Q2". He has also appeared in several other popular television shows such as Ally McBeal and The Drew Carey Show. Keegan has one brother, Owen de Lancie (born 1987).

Keegan went to Amman, Jordan, on a Fulbright scholarship to study Iraqi refugees. He previously worked for the International Organization for Migration and helped Iraqi Christians move to Iraq's Kurdish regions to avoid violence against them. He currently serves as a member of the U.S. Foreign Service.


Liberty! The American Revolution is a six-hour documentary miniseries about the Revolutionary War, and the instigating factors, that brought about the United States' independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. It was first broadcast on the Public Broadcasting System in 1997.

The series consists of six hour-long episodes. Each episode is introduced by Forrest Sawyer and narrated by Edward Herrmann. Period photographs and location filming are intercut with stage and screen actors in appropriate period costume reading as figures of the time, including Campbell Scott (Thomas Jefferson), Philip Bosco (Benjamin Franklin), Victor Garber (John Dickinson), Alex Jennings (King George III), Roger Rees (Thomas Paine), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Joseph Plumb Martin), Terrence Mann (Gen. John Burgoyne), Colm Feore (Alexander Hamilton), Sebastian Roché (The Marquis de Lafayette), Donna Murphy (Abigail Adams), Austin Pendleton (Benjamin Rush) and Peter Donaldson (John Adams). Stephen Lang read the words of George Washington, but is not seen on camera.

British and American historians and authors, including Carol Berkin, Bernard Bailyn, Ron Hoffman, Claude-Anne Lopez, Pauline Maier, George C. Neumann, Richard Norton Smith, Gordon S. Wood (U.S.) and Jeremy Black, Colin Bonwick, John Keegan, and N.A.M. Rodger (U.K.) add historical background, explaining life and society of the time while interpreting events from the perspectives of the two sides of the conflict. Historical perspectives also include the status of black slaves and freemen, the participation of American Indians, and the strivings of American women as events progress.

Maurice Keen

Maurice Hugh Keen OBE (30 October 1933 – 11 September 2012) was a British historian specializing in the Middle Ages. His father had been the Oxford University head of finance ('Keeper of the University Chest') and a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and after schooling at Winchester College, Maurice became an undergraduate there in 1954. He was a contemporary and lifelong friend of Tom Bingham, later the Senior Law Lord, as well as of the military historian, Sir John Keegan, whose sister Mary he married.

Keen's first success came with the writing of The Outlaws of Medieval Legend while still a Junior Research Fellow at The Queen's College, Oxford, 1957–1961. He was elected a tutorial Fellow of Balliol in 1961, retaining his fellowship until his retirement in 2000, when he was elected a Fellow Emeritus. He also served as Junior Dean (1963–68), Tutor for Admissions (1974–1978), and Vice-Master (1980–83).

In 1984, Keen won the Wolfson History Prize for his book Chivalry. The book redefined in several ways the concept of chivalry, underlining the military aspect of it.Keen was elected a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

He appears in the 1989 fictional novel The Negotiator by Frederick Forsyth.

He was an enthusiastic governor of Blundell's School in Tiverton for many years, the school being linked to Balliol by a scholarship and fellowship foundation gift.

Military history of Algeria

The military history of Algeria covers a vast time period and complex events. It interacts with multiple military events in the region for independence and stability.

Military history of Greece during World War II

The military history of Greece during World War II began on 28 October 1940, when the Italian Army invaded from Albania, beginning the Greco-Italian War. The Greek Army was able to halt the invasion temporarily and was able to push the Italians back into Albania. The Greek successes forced Nazi Germany to intervene. The Germans invaded Greece and Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, and overran both countries within a month, despite British aid to Greece in the form of an expeditionary corps. The conquest of Greece was completed in May with the capture of Crete from the air, although the Fallschirmjäger (German paratroopers) suffered such extensive casualties in this operation that the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (German High Command) abandoned large-scale airborne operations for the remainder of the war. The German diversion of resources in the Balkans is also considered by some historians to have delayed the launch of the invasion of the Soviet Union by a critical month, which proved disastrous when the German Army failed to take Moscow. However, John Keegan points out that the German timetable depended on the drying of the Soviet Union's dirt roads after an unusually wet spring and that the German conquest of the Balkans ended much faster than the German planners had expected.Greece itself was occupied and divided between Germany, Italy and Bulgaria, while the King and the government fled into exile in Egypt. First attempts at armed resistance in summer 1941 were crushed by the Axis powers, but the Resistance movement began again in 1942 and grew enormously in 1943 and 1944, liberating large parts of the country's mountainous interior and tying down considerable Axis forces. However, political tensions between the Resistance groups resulted in the outbreak of a civil conflict among them in late 1943, which continued until the spring of 1944. The exiled Greek government also formed armed forces of its own, which served and fought alongside the British in the Middle East, North Africa and Italy. The contribution of the Greek Navy and merchant marine in particular was of special importance to the Allied cause.

Mainland Greece was liberated in October 1944 with the German withdrawal in the face of the advancing Red Army, while German garrisons continued to hold out in the Aegean Islands until after the war's end. The country was devastated by war and occupation, and its economy and infrastructure lay in ruins. Greece suffered more than 400,000 casualties during the occupation, and the country's Jewish community was almost completely exterminated in the Holocaust. By 1946, however, a vicious civil war erupted between the British and American-sponsored conservative government and leftist guerrillas, which would last until 1949.

Quartered Safe Out Here

Quartered Safe Out Here: A Recollection of the War in Burma is a military memoir of World War II written by the author of The Flashman Papers series of novels George MacDonald Fraser that was first published in 1993.

It describes in graphic and memorable detail Fraser's experiences as a 19-year-old private in The Border Regiment fighting with the British 14th Army against the Imperial Japanese Army during the latter stages of the Burma Campaign in late 1944 and 1945. This included his participation in the Battle of Meiktila and Mandalay and the Battle of Pokoku and Irrawaddy River operations.

The military historian Sir John Keegan wrote: "There is no doubt that it is one of the great personal memoirs of the Second World War." The book has also been praised by the English author Melvyn Bragg and the American playwright David Mamet.The book's title is a quotation from Rudyard Kipling's 1890 poem "Gunga Din" and is ironic since Fraser certainly was not "quartered safe out here" while serving in Burma during one of the final campaigns of the war.

Rose Keegan

Rose Keegan is a British actor of stage, film and television. She trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She is the daughter of the military historian Sir John Keegan, and grew up at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.


Shanahoe is a small village in County Laois, Ireland, situated in the centre of the county, 8 km west of Abbeyleix and 7 km south of Mountrath.

Sword of Honour (2001 film)

Sword of Honour is a 2001 British film directed by Bill Anderson. It was scripted by William Boyd and is based on the Sword of Honour trilogy of novels by Evelyn Waugh.Commenting in The Daily Telegraph, its Defence Editor, John Keegan, said: "To reduce Waugh's enormous text to a short television treatment presented William Boyd with a daunting challenge. He has met it magnificently... Boyd's compressions improve Waugh's plot. At the literary level, therefore, Boyd passes all the tests. The failure is at the directorial level. Bill Anderson has either simply not grasped or has flinched from depicting how utterly different the Britain of 1939-45 is from Tony Blair's. His lack of grasp or nerve has affected his actors – though some of them may also be guilty of not having immersed themselves in the books, inexcusably, since Waugh is the most readable of novelists. As a result, characters appear either as caricatures or as pale approximations of Waughian realities".

The Face of Battle

The Face of Battle is a 1976 non-fiction book on military history by the English military historian John Keegan. It deals first with the structure of historical writing about battles, the strengths and weaknesses of the "battle piece," and then with the structure of warfare in three time periods—medieval Europe, the Napoleonic Era, and World War I—by analyzing three battles: Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme, all of which involved English soldiers and occurred in approximately the same geographical area.

When published, the work was groundbreaking. It does not examine the battles only from the point of view of the generals nor does it simply accumulate quotes from ordinary soldiers. Instead, it focuses on the practical mechanics of battle and critically examines popular myths about warfare. For instance, Keegan disputes the effectiveness of cavalry charges in the Middle Ages. At Agincourt, the lightly-armored archers dug stakes into the ground to impede horses, while heavy infantry who stood their ground had little to fear from cavalry. Focusing on the mechanics of battle, Keegan discusses troop spacing, the effectiveness of weapons and formations, and other measures of tactical importance. He also examines the experience of the individual soldier of the time.

The book was originally published in United Kingdom by Jonathan Cape and in the United States by the Viking Press. A new edition was published by Viking in 1988 titled, The Illustrated Face of Battle, with additional maps, diagrams, paintings, and photographs. The Folio Society issued an edition in 2009.

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