In This Review

The Evolution of Strategy: Thinking War from Antiquity to the Present
The Evolution of Strategy: Thinking War from Antiquity to the Present
By Beatrice Heuser
Cambridge University Press, 2010, 592 pp.

Heuser's history of strategic theory and practice demonstrates extraordinary range, erudition, intelligence, and insight. She appears to have read everything, in many languages, about attempts to apply armed force effectively. The Evolution of Strategy will be the first port of call for those wanting to check up on the development of land strategy in the eighteenth century, maritime strategy in the nineteenth century, nuclear strategy in the twentieth century, or counterinsurgency strategy in the twenty-first century. She charts the continuing quest for reliable, even scientific, principles to guide the conduct of war and notes recurring themes, such as attempts to bridge the gap between war and ethics and the problems of translating battlefield victories into lasting peace. The book's great strength lies in the breadth of its author's reading. By paying attention not only to the broader political and cultural context but also to the writings of practitioners and some of the more secondary theorists, Heuser is able to show which ideas took root and why.

In addition to old favorites such as Machiavelli, Clausewitz, and Sir Basil Liddell Hart, Heuser likes to draw on less familiar figures, such as the pre-Napoleonic Enlightenment thinker Comte de Guibert. In her companion volume, The Strategy Makers, she provides extracts from the works of these forgotten men who shaped thinking about war from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century and whose work still resonates today.