Clausewitz in English: The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America, 1815-1945

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9780195083835: Clausewitz in English: The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America, 1815-1945
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This intellectual history examines the reception of Carl von Clausewitz's military theories in Britain and the United States. In the first comprehensive study of the literature, Christopher Bassford argues that the impact of Clausewitzian theory has been underestimated and he follows the trail of Clausewitzian influence from pre-1873 Britain to 1945. Bassford finds that among those who explicitly discussed Clausewitz and his theories were soldiers, journalists, historians, political scientists and propagandists. In bringing this literature to light, Clausewitz in English makes a persuasive case for Clausewitzian theory having a major impact on the broad development of the British and American military thinking. It will be of interest to a wide range of military and intellectual historians.

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The ideas of the Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) underlie most modern military thought. This intellectual history of the reception of Carl von Clausewitz's military theories in Britain and the United States thus provides an important and revealing examination of the evolution of military thinking in both countries. In the first comprehensive study of the literature, Christopher Bassford argues that the impact of Clausewitzian theory - particularly the classic On War, published in 1832 - has been widely misunderstood, and he follows the trail of Clausewitzian influence from early-Victorian Britain to 1945. He examines the attitudes and interpretations of a large array of commentators, ranging from soldiers like the Duke of Wellington, "Wully" Robertson, and Dwight Eisenhower to theorists like Julian Corbett, to journalists and historians like Spenser Wilkinson and Basil Liddell Hart, to a wide range of reformers, special pleaders, and propagandists. By exploring the changing ways in which Clausewitz's ideas have been received by these various groups of commentators, Bassford also offers some penetrating lessons concerning the manner in which ideas are ignored, acclaimed, rejected, distorted, or re-transmitted. In bringing this literature to light, Clausewitz in English makes a persuasive case for Clausewitzian theory having had a broad impact on the development of British and American military thinking. It will be of interest to a wide range of military and intellectual historians.

About the Author:

Christopher Bassford is Professor of Strategy at the National War College in Washington, DC.

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