The Western Way of War

Authored by: Jeremy Black

The Ashgate Research Companion to Modern Warfare

Print publication date:  February  2010
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754674108
eBook ISBN: 9781315613284
Adobe ISBN: 9781317042495


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I am most grateful to John France, Stephen Morillo and Rich Schneid for their comments on an earlier draft.

The conceptualisation of war and of military history is a sparse field. This might appear a surprising remark given the number of words deployed about Clausewitz, Jomini, Sun Tzu, Mahan, Corbett and others, but is in fact the case. Firstly in comparative terms, the writing on the theory of social, gender or cultural history, for example, is far more extensive. Secondly, although particular writers, themes and episodes in military affairs and history have attracted conceptual literature, many have not. Moreover, the conceptualisation has frequently been fairly simple. Whiggish notions of improvement in terms of a clear teleology are rampant, not least with regards to weapons technology. War and Society approaches have also attracted teleological treatment, not least with the idea of improved social mobilisation in modern industrial warfare. Alongside teleology came determinism, notably with the assumption that superior resources explained results. Thus, determinism has become bound up with the material-culture approach to war.

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