History of Modern Strategic Thought

History of Modern Strategic Thought

Professor Azar Gat


Course description

This course traces the evolution of strategic ideas from the eighteenth century to the present, presenting them against their wider cultural and political background. It starts with the quest for a general theory of war that manifested itself during the Enlightenment, and proceeds to examine Clausewitz’s influential ideas, developed within the framework of Romanticism. The seminar then examines the various doctrines of land and naval warfare that held sway during the nineteenth century. Finally, it discusses the twentieth century visions of mechanized warfare and the strategic ideas of containment, cold war and limited war, as they evolved in the West after the First World War.


1.     The Enlightenment and the origins of modern military thought

o    Michael Howard, War in European History, Oxford, 1976, Ch. 4.

o    Azar Gat, A History of Military Thought: From the Enlightenment to the Cold War (Oxford, 2001), 27-96.

o    Martin van Creveld, Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton (Cambridge, 1977), 17-39.


2.     The Revolution in war, Napoleonic strategy, Jomini

o    Howard, War in European History, Ch. 5, 75-86.

o    Gat, Military Thought, 108-137.


3.     Romanticism and Clausewitz

o    Howard, War in European History, 86-87.

o    Gat, Military Thought, 141-151, 170-252.

o    Carl von Clausewitz, On War (Princeton, 1976, 1984), trans. by M. Howard and P. Paret, pp. 133-141, 258-261, 605-610, 75-89 (in this order).


4.     The Prussian-German school of the nineteenth century

o    G. Rothenberg, ‘Moltke, Schlieffen, and the Doctrine of Strategic Envelopment’, in Peter Paret, Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton, 1986), 296-325.

o    Gat, Military Thought, 341-377.


5.     The French school and the cult of the offensive (1871-1914)

o    Gat, Military Thought, 377-440.

o    Ivan S. Bloch, Is War Now Impossible? (London, 1899), the prefatory conversation with the author by W.T. Stead.


6.     From sail to steam: naval doctrines in the modern era

o    Gat, Military Thought, 441-493.


7.     Doctrines of mechanized warfare

o    Heinz Guderian, Panzer Leader, New York, 1952, 1952, Ch. 2, 18-47.

o    Richard Simpkin, Deep Battle: The Brainchild of Marshal Tukhachevskii, New York, 1987, 32-65.

o    R. Ogorkiewicz, Armor: A History of Mechanized Forces (New York, 1960)

o    Azar Gat, British Armour Theory and the Rise of the Panzer Arm, London, 2000.


8.     Air war

o    Gat, Military Thought, 561-597, 789-791, 802-804.

o    Gat, ‘Ideology, National Policy, Technology and Strategic Doctrine between the World Wars’, The Journal of Strategic Studies, 24 (2001), 1-18.

o    Williamson Murray, Luftwaffe (Baltimore, 1985), Ch. I, 1-27.


9.     Strategy for the West: isolation, appeasement, containment, cold war, limited war

o    B. H. Liddell Hart, Strategy (New York, 1967), 333-372.

o    A. Gat, ‘Isolationism, Appeasement, Containment, and Limited War: Western Strategic Doctrine from the Modern to the “Postmodern” Era”, in Zeev Maoz and Azar Gat (eds.), War in a Changing World (Ann Arbor, 2001), 77-91.

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