- LAST REVIEWED: 19 April 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0089
- LAST REVIEWED: 19 April 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0089
Antoine-Henri Baron de Jomini (b. 1779–d. 1869) has become one of the most influential military theorists of the modern age. His principles, which at some point formed the basis for military education, have influenced teaching in European and North American military academies through the 19th century. A Swiss of the French extraction, Jomini received first-hand experience in the Napoleonic Wars (1805–1814) by serving in various capacities as a staff officer beginning in 1805, first as a volunteer. He was quickly promoted, and by the end of 1810 Jomini had become brigadier general and was given the title of Baron of the French Empire. At that time, he was also a renowned military theorist; his first two editions of Treatise on Grand Military Operations, published between 1805 and 1811, embraced the campaigns of Frederick the Great and Napoléon in Italy and compared 18th-century warfare with the new Revolutionary combat doctrine. In 1812–1813, Jomini served with Napoléon’s Grande Armée, where he headed various offices on the lines of communications and as a chief of staff of one of Napoléon’s corps. However, being disillusioned by the entire course of war, in the August of 1813, he joined the Allied forces organizing against France. Admitted to the Russian service, he withdrew from the active duties in early 1814 when the Allies violated Swiss neutrality. After several years of retirement and literary work, in 1823 Jomini resumed his post in the Russian army. He served as an advisor during the Russo-Turkish War (1828–1829). He is also credited with the creation of the Russian Military Academy on General Staff in 1832. Jomini soon retired from the active service and settled in Belgium, where he continued his works on military writings. In 1853, Jomini was called to the Russian service to act as a military adviser to Tsar Nicholas I during the Crimean War (1853–1855). After the peace he settled in Switzerland; in 1858, however, Napoléon III requested Jomini to furnish plans for his campaign in Italy. Jomini moved to Paris, where he continued his military writing until his death.
Despite the fact that Jomini created a good amount of epistolary legacy, there is no single volume embracing his own life as narrated by himself. One of the first biographies was Lecomte 1860, based on long personal discussions, observation, and correspondence with Jomini. Sainte-Beuve, a French journalist, had limited Jomini’s biography only to 1813 in Sainte-Beuve 1869. Almost all works on Jomini, including the Russian publications that appeared before the Great War (1914–1918), generally followed material from Lecomte 1860, the first biographical version of Jomini’s career. Courville 1935, written by Jomini’s distant relative, became the pioneer work describing a “legendary Jomini.” The facts the author claims to be extraordinary are in many instances suspicious and unreliable; the book was full of anecdotes and unverifiable or overemphasized events. Däniker 1960, a biographical book, shows that the author was still under the serious influence of Lecomte 1860 and Courville 1935. Elting 1989 was the first who put under test Jomini’s military abilities as a French staff officer. Baqué 1994 has some footnotes and a bibliography of the general works on Jomini and the Napoleonic period. Alger 1994 (cited under From Reading to Writings) is a useful bibliographical survey. Two Russian professors, Alexey Mertzalov and Lydmila Mertzalov, direct descendants of Jomini, in Mertzalov and Mertzalov 1999 for the first time revealed Jomini’s life during his service in Russia. Recently, Langendorf 2002 used a vast spectrum of mémoires, contemporary correspondence, and eyewitness accounts to reconstruct Jomini’s daily life. The influence of Lecomte 1860, Sainte-Beuve 1869, and even Courville 1935 still appears in many modern works.
Baqué, Jean-François. L’homme qui devinait Napoléon: Jomini. Paris: Perrin, 1994.
More a work in the popular genre than a serious historical work, in which the author overemphasizes and idolizes Jomini while ignoring the sufficient corpus of primary sources, including archival material.
Courville, Xavier de. Jomini, ou devin de Napoléon. Paris: Libraire Plon, 1935.
A clear approach on the image of a “hero” prevailing at that time in French literature and culture. The author furnishes his research with many unreliable and unverifiable citations and thus becomes the promoter of a “legendary Jomini.”
Däniker, Genrich. Général Antoine-Henri Jomini. Darmstadt, West Germany: Klassiker der Kriegskunst, 1960.
Written along Lecomte’s line, the author emphasizes the importance of Jomini and other Swiss volunteers, who served in various European armies without any ideological affiliations.
Elting, Col. R. John. “Jomini and Berthier.” In Proceedings 1989 to Commemorate the Bicentennial of the French Revolution. Edited by Donald D. Horward and John C. Horgan, 247–251. The Consortium of Revolutionary Europe, 1750–1850, v. 19, Tallahassee: Florida State University, 1989.
The author correctly raises suspicions about certain inconsistencies and events surrounding Jomini’s earlier biographies, especially the relationship with his superiors, but looks at Jomini through the prism of the contemporary American system of military organization.
Langendorf, Jean-Jacques. Faire la guerre: Antoine-Henri Jomini. Paris: Georg, 2002.
Composed in a chronological year-by-year order, the work is noted for a careful selection of events surrounding Jomini’s long life, which disposes of obviously fabricated and outdated information. A good reference guide type of work.
Lecomte, Ferdinand. Le général Jomini: Sa vie et ses écrits. Paris: Ch. Tanera, 1860.
One of the first biographies, which was written in an equitable temper and dedicated to Jomini on his eightieth birthday. The manner of presentation very much reflects on ethos of the mid-19th-century biographical genre, where the major emphasis is given to a main character without paying much attention to other actors and events of the period.
Mertzalov, Alexey, and Lydmila Mertzalov. A.-H. Jomini: Osnovatel’ naychnoi voennoi teorii. Moscow: Pandora, 1999.
This is a pioneering biographical essay where the authors used many contemporary documents preserved in the Russian archives and provided a comprehensive analysis on Jomini’s military works, but the overall inability to comprehend specific military terminology and extremely vague familiarity with the Napoleonic period minimized the biographical quality. (Title translates as A.-H. Jomini: founder of a scientific military theory.)
Sainte-Beuve, Charles-Augustine. Le général Jomini. Paris: M. Levy et frères, 1869.
Analyzes Jomini’s career as a military officer in Napoléon’s army in a rather romanticized style but limits its narrative to 1813 and before.
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