Classics of Military History

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Period Military History

Lt. General William G. Pagonis (U.S. Army, Ret.), Moving Mountains: Lessons in Leadership and Logistics from the Gulf War” (1992).

by Christopher R. O’Deavia Classics of Military History
Monday, November 4, 2019

Consider the 3x5 card. In all the video and still images of the Gulf War—lines of tanks and armored personnel carriers stretching to the dusty horizon, ships unloading supplies and ordnance, aircraft delivering a weeks-long bombardment before the ground invasion—there was no sign of what the author calls the “humble little cards” that played a crucial role in the logistics operations that underpinned the planning and execution of the conflict and the post-combat redeployment.

Weapons & Technology

Sextus Julius Frontinus, Stratagems (after 84 A.D.) & The Aqueducts of Rome (97–98 A.D.), Loeb Classical Library 174 (Mary B. McElwain, ed.; Charles E. Bennett, trans.)

by Christopher R. O’Deavia Classics of Military History
Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Roman Empire flourished in large measure because it built logistics infrastructure to support civil administration of conquered territories. Roman roads enabled commodities and other goods from interior estates to be transported to coastal ports for shipment to the capital, and also provided an efficient network for moving its legions among the growing roster of provincial seats. But those provincial cities, often in arid areas, could not have grown beyond the size of military garrisons without the water supplied by Roman aqueducts.

Weapons & Technology

John E. Clark, Jr., Railroads in the Civil War: The Impact of Management on Victory and Defeat (2001)

by Christopher R. O’Deavia Classics of Military History
Monday, October 14, 2019

This short volume illustrates the importance of management practices and political culture in adapting an emerging technology to the demands of war. The author’s position is clear—Clark contends that despite having a considerable number of rail lines within its territory, the basis of the claim that the South had an advantage early in the conflict in the form of “internal lines of communication,” and the legal authority to take control of the railroads for military purposes, the Confederate leadership “proved unable” to recognize the increasing importance of logistics as the conflict wore on.

Period Military History

Rear Admiral Worrall Reed Carter, Beans, Bullets, and Black Oil: The Story of Fleet Logistics Afloat in the Pacific During WWII (1953)

by Christopher R. O’Deavia Classics of Military History
Thursday, October 10, 2019

In the introduction to this detailed history of the operations that kept his combatant forces supplied with everything from ordnance to water, Admiral Raymond A. Spruance writes, “a sound logistic plan is the foundation upon which a war operation should be based.” That might leave the impression that this is a dry treatise in logistics science, but this overlooked gem tells the story of how the U.S. Navy created mobile logistics service squadrons to support Spruance’s “island-hopping” assaults on Japan’s eastern defense perimeter in the Central Pacific.

Military Fiction

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, 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.

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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.

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