Classics of Military History

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Philosophy

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (1929)

by John Yoovia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Upon its publication in 1929, All Quiet on the Western Front became a landmark of antiwar literature. It sparked a literary sensation almost overnight. Within a year of publication, it had been translated into twenty languages, including Chinese, and by April 1930, sales for twelve of the twenty editions stood at 2.5 million. Author Erich Maria Remarque was reputed to have the largest readership in the world.

Philosophy

Hugo Grotius’s De Jure Belli ac Pacis (1625)

by John Yoovia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Hugo Grotius’s De Jure Belli ac Pacis (1625) exerts a vast influence on international law and politics. Yet Grotius, known widely as the father of international law, is difficult to interpret. Philosopher Michael Walzer claims that Grotius “incorporated just war theory into international law.” Philosopher Richard Tuck, however, argues that Grotius “reminded his audience that he was still an enthusiast for war around the globe.”

Philosophy

Marcus Tullius Cicero, De Officiis

by John Yoovia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, February 6, 2019

More than any of the other ancients, the Romans understood war in ways that foreshadowed our own. Marcus Tullius Cicero’s De Officiis first raised questions of just war that concern us even today. Cicero first introduced the idea that war should advance some good beyond merely self-interested expansion. For Cicero, the natural state of mankind was of peace; war was an unnatural rupture. “Wars, then, are to be waged in order to render it possible to live in peace without injury,” wrote Cicero.

Philosophy

Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars (1977)

by John Yoovia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Almost immediately upon its 1977 publication, Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars became the most influential modern work on the laws of war. Though written by an avowed anti-war activist who opposed Vietnam, the work won popularity and praise because it rejected both amoral realism and pacifism and sought to resuscitate the tradition of just war.

Autobiography & Memoir

Jean Hanoteau, ed., Memoirs of General de Caulaincourt, Duke of Vicenza (1935)

by Andrew Robertsvia Classics of Military History
Monday, January 21, 2019

Armand Augustin Louis de Caulaincourt, Duke of Vicenza and Master of the Horse to Napoleon, came from an ancient Picardy family and was the son of a general. He was a sixteen-year-old soldier when the French Revolution broke out, but survived despite his noble background. He saw active service under General Hoche, but was recognized as being well-suited to diplomacy, and was sent on a mission to St Petersburg in 1801 by the French foreign minister, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, before becoming one of Napoleon’s aides-camps. 

Battle History

John H. Gill, With Eagles to Glory: Napoleon and his German Allies in the 1809 Campaign (2nd ed. 2011)

by Andrew Robertsvia Classics of Military History
Monday, January 21, 2019

The acknowledged world expert on Napoleon’s 1809 campaign against Austria is the American historian John “Jack” H. Gill, author of the great Thunder on the Danube trilogy, which was published between 2008 and 2010. Sixteen years earlier, however, Gill had published his groundbreaking With Eagles to Glory, which utterly revolutionized the way historians viewed the campaign, putting Napoleon’s German contingents center stage in the struggle against the Hapsburgs and subsequently the repression of popular rebellions in the Austrian Empire.

Period Military History

Maurice Matloff, Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1943-1944 (1959)

by Andrew Robertsvia Classics of Military History
Monday, January 21, 2019

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Pentagon published its official history of the U.S. Army in World War Two under the general editorship of Kent Greenfield, of which the sixth volume was Maurice Matloff’s masterful Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare 1943-1944. In his Foreword written in April 1958, Major General R. W. Stephens, who had the splendid title of “Chief of Military History,” wrote, “Within a generation the attitude and policy of the United States toward alliances have undergone a revolutionary reversal.

Period Military History

Michael Howard, Grand Strategy, Volume IV: August 1942–September 1943 (1972)

by Andrew Robertsvia Classics of Military History
Monday, January 21, 2019

In the 1960s and 1970s, the British Government published its official history of the Second World War, edited by Sir James Butler. The fourth volume, covering the period from August 1942 to September 1943, was written by Professor Sir Michael Howard, then a Fellow of All Souls, Oxford. It is a stupendous work of scholarship, the product of ten years working in what he called “the catacombs of Whitehall.” 

Period Military History

Ricarda Huch, Der Dreißigjährige Krieg (The Thirty Years War) (1937)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This is the most important portrayal of war that remains untranslated into English. A profound study of how military behavior, values, and entire societies degenerate under the stress of extended warfare, this is a book that shaped the reviewer’s thinking for the past forty years.

Period Military History

Bruce W. Menning, Bayonets Before Bullets: The Imperial Russian Army, 1861-1914 (1992)

by Ralph Petersvia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

This unique book has never gotten the broad recognition it deserves. The finest available study of the late-czarist Russian army as an institution, it analyzes bureaucratic and cultural problems that continue to afflict Russian forces today. 

Pages


The Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict strives to reaffirm the Hoover Institution's dedication to historical research in light of contemporary challenges, and in particular, reinvigorating the national study of military history as an asset to foster and enhance our national security. Read more.

Over time, a popular and scholarly consensus has been reached that a few singular military histories and philosophies of war offer unparalleled wisdom. Yet these landmark studies span 2,500 years of history, appear in a myriad of languages, and reference thousands of conflicts, and thus require brief, analytical introductions by contemporary military historians to guide the reader of how best to approach such a vast but often underappreciated literature.

The banner image is Gabriel Salmon's Hercules Fighting the Giants. Additional information available from the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.