Clausewitzean Ideas of War and how they Relate to Present Conflicts

Clausewitzean Ideas of War and how they Relate to Present Conflicts As I am getting ready to begin the final class for my MA and complete my Thesis I have been re-reading Clausewitz and his ideas and theory of War.  One of the things that that has struck me the most and made me realize how much Clausewitz is misunderstood is the way in which his most famous quote from the book about how “War is the continuation of policy by other means”[1] is completely taken out of context in most history. If you read his book further, and I assume that most generals, staff chiefs, and even military historians … Read more…

Learning a Language

I was thinking this morning about how important learning a second language is to good scholarship. It hit me because I was not required to learn a second language for my undergrad, I wish I had been. My chosen historical specialty is 18th – 19th century Prussian history. It is kind of hard to see how I could do any really good research without learning German and maybe French. Luckily, I am married to a German woman and had no choice but to learn German if I want to talk to any of my in-laws since most of them don’t speak a lick of English. How could I expect them … Read more…

Why Military History

I ran across this piece by Jay Luvaas again today and it got me thinking about why I like Military history and if it is a worthwhile pursuit.  My short answer is that I don’t know why I like it and yes it is. The long answer is that I guess I like military history because war is the most extreme pursuit man engages in.  Extreme sports such as base jumping, free diving, mountain climbing, etc have nothing on the sheer rush and danger of engaging in the single most dangerous thing man has come up with; hunting our fellow man.  I have personally been to combat but I studied military … Read more…

The Dreyse Needle Gun

One of the most consistent features of accounts of the German Wars of Unification are the assertions that the Prussian possession of the Dreyse Needle Gun was decisive in and of itself because of its impact on Prussian tactical formation and the flexibility it gave the average infantryman. Make no mistake, the Dreyse was a technological marvel for its time, it indeed gave the Prussians tactical flexibility and radically increased their rate of fire when compared to muzzleloader equipped armies of the time.  The tactical innovations it allowed were few but important.  Perhaps the single most important innovation it allowed was that it allowed the infantry to reload from the … Read more…

Book Review: Intervention in Russia: 1918-1920, A Cautionary Tale

             Intervention in Russia: 1918-1920, A Cautionary Tale, is a very well written account of a little known part of the First World War.  Mr. Hudson writes in the style that I find to be the most readable and enjoyable.  Perhaps it is because he is British.  I have always found that British historians have a more lyrical and artistic writing style as compared to American historians.  Most of my favorite historians are British, whereas Americans tend to make history books dry and boring; the British, and Australians for that matter, can make the most boring subject interesting simply by the style with which they write.

Book Review: The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, edited by Hew Strachan

            The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War, edited by Hew Strachan,  is one of those rare history books that manages to be both readable scholarly at the same time.  Indeed, it is an even rarer breed of book because it is an anthology and not by a single author.  Where many history books are written for the specialist historical crowd and there is an element of haughtiness in the writing, that condescension is entirely missing here.  This history book does not assume knowledge on the part of the reader, but at the same time does not present its material in such a way that the non-historian would … Read more…

Book Review: Decisions for War, 1914-1917

            In Decisions for War, 1914-1917, Richard Hamilton and Holger Herwig present a new thesis for the origins of World War I.  They argue that in all the belligerent countries the decision for war was made by a one person or at most a small group of individuals regardless of the type of government.  Given the wealth of material written about the origins of the First World War it seems incredible to me that this possibility has, if not been overlooked in all previous scholarship, then certainly ignored, as the authors claim[1].  While Hamilton and Herwig do not entirely discount that other factors than pure national self-interest on the part … Read more…