In This Review

Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order
Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order
By Charles Hill
Yale University Press, 2010, 384 pp

Hill, a career diplomat who now teaches grand strategy at Yale, has written a fascinating book that has the feel of a life's work. He journeys through the Western literary and philosophical canon in search of insights about power, order, and strategy. At each stop along the long arc of world history, Hill pauses to consider the thoughts of poets, playwrights, novelists, and essayists -- Homer, Thucydides, Virgil, Cervantes, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Defoe, Rousseau, Schiller, Dickens, Nietzsche, and many more -- who illuminated the grand political developments of their day. (In Gulliver's Travels, to take one example, Jonathan Swift reflected on the various types of states at a time when the future of the modernizing state was uncertain.) Hill affirms the intellectual endeavor of looking at the world through a literary lens -- seeing literature as a "tutor of statecraft" -- as much as the strategic insights that specific texts might yield. At a deeper level, the book is about the fragility of order and the struggle of statesmen to balance, restrain, and legitimate state power.