- LAST REVIEWED: 19 April 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 06 February 2012
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0057
- LAST REVIEWED: 19 April 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 06 February 2012
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0057
The term strategy is difficult to define and to circumscribe. It was not used in the Occident until the late 18th century, and since then its meaning has changed considerably. Today, strategy is largely taken to mean, in its original military-political context, a comprehensive plan in pursuit of political ends, including the threat or actual use of force, in a dialectic of wills between at least two sides in a conflict. These sides interact; thus, a strategy will rarely be successful if it shows no adaptability. This bibliography will not consider the now more popular use of the term strategy to refer merely to a complex plan in any walk of life. Strategy, in the aforementioned definition, can be taken to be either theoretical—with war in general in mind or a specific situation—or applied. Few applied strategic concepts have survived from earlier times, because for many centuries practitioners made do without writing them down. Once strategic concepts were generated systematically by governments, they were invariably compromise documents drawn up jointly by a number of actors, which usually deprived them of the coherence found in most of the single-authored theoretical works. Moreover, applied strategic concepts (or strategic concepts drawn up in times of peace for the eventuality of war) are often lacking in explicit articulation of the reasons why certain courses of action are preferred. Because they were more readily accessible, theoretical works have enjoyed more scholarly attention than has the fragmentary evidence we have of applied strategic concepts throughout history. Applied strategic concepts, in so far as these existed or can be surmised from circumstantial evidence (e.g., the Schlieffen Plan), will be discussed under other Oxford Bibliographies articles relating to individual wars.
The two most illuminating works on warfare through the ages are Delbrück 1975–1985, a four-volume survey from antiquity to the author’s own times, and Chaliand 1994, a reader containing excerpts from key texts, both from Europe and other areas of the world, again from antiquity to the author’s own times. Besides illustrating how war was prepared for and fought in practice, both deal with the art of war, emphasizing links with political, economic, social, or ideological (including religious) aims transcending narrowly military ones. This nexus is central to what would later be called strategy, even though the word did not feature in Western literature before the late 18th century. Liddell Hart 1967 (originally published in 1929) prepared the ground for a quantum leap in English-language writing about strategy by seeking out recurring patterns for success in war. The edited volumes Earle 1944 and Paret 1986, both consciously with the same title, anachronistically but justifiably use the term strategy retrospectively, to describe the works of the great writers on war in modern European history; they have defined the subject for generations to come, and several contributions in these two volumes have not been bettered. Chaliand 1994, Earle 1944, and Paret 1986 should be essential reading for any course on strategy. Kennedy 1991 is a collection of invaluable case studies across Western history. Heuser 2010 complements these collections in offering in the form of a monograph a full narrative of the development of thinking on strategy in its cultural-ideological context. Handel 1996, again essential reading on which generations of US officers were raised, contains great insights but is limited by the author’s ahistorical approach. Baylis, et al. 2007 is a widely used teaching aid for beginners, useful also for distance learning.
Baylis, John, James Wirtz, Colin S. Gray, and Eliot Cohen, eds. Strategy in the Contemporary World: An Introduction to Strategic Studies. 2d ed. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
The most useful handbook for an instructor new to the subject who is teaching a Strategy 101 course, with short texts covering aspects from theoretical and historical to contemporary and useful bibliographies.
Chaliand, Gérard, ed. The Art of War in World History: From Antiquity to the Nuclear Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
The best anthology of texts dealing with war, containing approximately eighty excerpts, ranging from the Egyptian Kadesh inscription of c. 1300 BCE to the nuclear strategists of the 20th century, some translated into English here for the first time.
Delbrück, Hans. The History of the Art of War within the Framework of Political History. 4 vols. Translated by Walter J. Renfroe Jr. Contributions in Military History. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1975–1985.
Volume 4 originally published in 1920, in German. Delbrück’s last volume addresses the evolution of strategic thought, little of which had existed in medieval times, other than in the form of reiterations of Vegetius and concerns about restraints on war. We find allusions to Delbrück’s bugbear (fully developed in Die Strategie des Perikles )—that there are mainly two forms of war, one focusing on the slow attrition of the enemy’s armed forces and the other on a decisive battle of annihilation.
Earle, Edward Mead, ed. Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1944.
Published during World War II, this volume conveys an acute sense of the relevance of past thinking to very real problems of the present. In addition to Earle’s introduction, the articles by Felix Gilbert (on Machiavelli), Hans Rothfels (on Clausewitz), Jean Gottmann (on Bugeaud, Galliéni, Lyautey), and Gordon Craig (on Delbrück) are still points of reference.
Handel, Michael I. Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought. 2d ed. London and Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 1996.
Examination of the writings of Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and others. Very good on extrapolating general reflections on war, but without any attempt to reach a more thorough understanding of the texts by studying the use of language in its historical context.
Heuser, Beatrice. The Evolution of Strategy: Thinking War from Antiquity to the Present. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Survey of the evolution of thinking about warfare and its political aims from late Roman times. Shows how after centuries of a more balanced approach, the Napoleonic paradigm introduced a long period of obsession with victory at the expense of fruitful peace settlements.
Kennedy, Paul. Grand Strategies in War and Peace. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.
Collection of articles showing how comprehensive grand strategy has been in case studies ranging from ancient Rome to the Cold War, invariably including economic dimensions, alliance dimensions, considerations of domestic politics, and many other factors. Includes particularly interesting contributions by Dennis E. Showalter and Douglas Porch.
Liddell Hart, Basil Henry. The Strategy of Indirect Approach. London: Faber and Faber, 1967.
Originally published in 1929 as The Decisive Wars of History (London: Bell and Sons). This particular narrative of history is that wars have tended to end successfully for the side that sought to maximize its own strength by attacking an adversary not head-on but indirectly, exploiting weaknesses and using surprise and stratagems. The dichotomy of direct versus indirect approach recalls Delbrück’s attrition versus annihilation.
Paret, Peter, ed. Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.
This volume consciously updates Earle 1944, retaining some of the earlier articles while adding new chapters on such topics as nuclear strategy (Lawrence Freedman), the American way of war (Russell F. Weigley), and Soviet doctrine (Condoleezza Rice).
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email email@example.com to express your interest.
- 1812, War of
- Aerial Bombardment, Ethics of
- Afghanistan, Wars in
- Africa, Gunpowder and Colonial Campaigns in
- African Wars of Independence
- Air Transport
- Allenby, Edmund
- All-Volunteer Army, Post-Vietnam to Present
- American Colonial Wars
- American Indian Wars
- American War of Independence
- Animals and the Military
- Antietam, Battle of
- Arab-Israeli Wars, 1948-Present
- Arctic Warfare
- Armed Forces of the Ottoman Empire, 1683-1918
- Armored War
- Arms Control and Disarmament
- Army, Roman
- Australia from the Colonial Era to the Present
- Austrian Succession, War of the
- Balkan Liberation, 1878-1913, Wars of
- Boer Wars
- Bonaparte, Napoleon
- Brazilian Armed Forces
- Britain and the Blitz
- British Armed Forces, from the Glorious Revolution to Pres...
- British Army of the Rhine, The
- British-India Armies from 1740 to 1849
- Canada from World War I to the Present
- Cavalry since 1500
- China's Modern Wars, 1911-Present
- Chinese Civil War, 1945-1949
- Clausewitz, Carl von
- Coalition and Alliance War
- Cold War, 1945-1990
- Communications, French Revolution to Present
- Cornwallis, Charles
- Counterinsurgency in the Modern World
- Cromwell, Oliver
- Crusades, The
- Defense Industries
- Dien Bien Phu, Battle of
- European Wars, Mid-Nineteenth-Century
- Frederick the Great
- French Armies, Early Modern
- French Military, 1919-1940
- French Revolutionary Wars, The
- German Air Forces
- German Army, 1871-1945
- German Unification, Wars of
- Grant, Ulysses S.
- Guerrilla Warfare, Pre-20th-Century
- Hippolyte, Comte de Guibert, Jacques Antoine
- Hundred Days Campaign of 1918
- Hundred Years War
- Hungary, Warfare in Medieval and Early Modern
- Imperial China, War in
- India 'Mutiny' and 'Revolution,' 1857-1858
- Indian Army in World War I
- Indian Warfare, Ancient
- India-Pakistan Wars
- Indochina Wars, 1946-1975
- Information Warfare
- Intelligence, Military
- International Efforts to Control War
- Iraq Wars, 1980s-Present
- Irish Civil War, 1922-1923
- Irish Revolution, 1911-1923, The
- Italian Armed Forces in the Modern Age
- Japanese Army in the World War II Era, The Imperial
- Jomini, Antoine-Henri
- Justice, Military, the Anglo-American Tradition
- Justice of War and Justice in War
- Khan, Genghis
- Kursk, Battle of
- Lee, Robert E.
- Lepizig, Battle of
- Literature and Drama, War in
- Louis XIV, Wars of
- Low-Intensity Operations
- Manzikert, Battle of
- Medicine, Military
- Medieval Japan, 900-1600
- Meuse-Argonne Offensive
- Mexico and the United States, 1836–1848, Wars of
- Midway, Battle of
- Military Officers, United States
- Mongol Wars
- Montgomery, Bernard Law
- Napoleonic Wars, The
- Navy, British
- Nelson, Horatio
- New Zealand
- Nimitz, Chester
- Nuclear Weapons
- Occupations and Military Government
- Operational Art
- Ottoman Navy
- Passchaendale, Battle of
- Patton, George
- Polish Armed Forces, 1918-present
- Political Purges in the 20th Century
- Poltava, Battle of
- Psychiatric Casualties
- Race in the US Military
- Red Cross
- Religio-Military Orders
- Roman Empire
- Roses, Wars of the
- Russian and Soviet Armed Forces
- Russian Campaign of 1812
- Russian Civil War, 1918-1921
- Russian Military History
- Russian Military History, 1762-1825
- Russo-Japanese War
- Science and Technology in War
- Science Fiction, Military
- Semi-Military and Paramilitary Organizations
- Seven Years' War
- Seven Years' War in North America, The
- Sino-Japanese Wars, 1895-1945
- South West Pacific, 1941–1945, Campaigns in
- Southeast Asian Military History, Colonial
- Southeast Asian Military History, Precolonial
- Space and War
- Spain since the Reconquista
- Spanish Civil War
- Special Operations Forces
- Stalingrad, Battle of
- Steppe Nomadic Warfare
- Submarine Warfare
- Swedish Armed Forces
- The Allied Bombardment of Occupied Europe During World War...
- Trench Warfare
- Urban Warfare
- US Air Force
- US Air Power
- Verdun, Battle of
- Vietnam War
- War, Chemical and Biological
- War Correspondents
- War, Culture of
- Warfare, Precolonial, in Africa
- Warships, Steam
- Women in the Military
- World War I in Film
- World War I Origins
- World War I: The Western Front
- World War II and the Far East
- World War II in the Mediterranean and Middle East
- World War II, Indian Army in
- World War II, Russo-German War
- Yugoslavian Civil War, 1991-1999
- Zhukov, Georgii
- Zulu Wars