Clausewitz’s On War
Books that Changed the Worldby Hew Strachan
An engaging and vivid look at the most important treatise on war ever written, by a renowned military historian.
Carl von Clausewitz’s On War, first published in Germany after the Napoleonic Wars, is perhaps the most important book on military strategy ever written. It has influenced generations of generals and politicians, has been blamed for the unprecedented death tolls in the First and Second World Wars, and is still required reading at military academies to this day.
But On War, which was never finished and was published posthumously, is obscure and fundamentally contradictory. What Clausewitz declares in Book 1 he discounts in Book 8. The language is confusing and the relevance not always clear. For a book that has truly changed the world, On War is extremely difficult for the general reader to approach, to reconcile with itself, and to place in context.
Clausewitz’s On War by Hew Strachan is a timely and fascinating answer to these problems. Strachan, one of the world’s foremost military historians, explains in this addition to the Books That Changed the World series how and why On War was written, elucidates what Clausewitz meant, and offers insight into the impact it made on conflict and its continued relevance.
“Strachan [is] a persistent and imaginative scholar. . . . Sentences about insurgencies seem pregnant with present relevance.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Clausewitz’s On War is widely regarded as the most authoritative analysis of war in any language, and Mr. Strachan provides a thorough evolutionary treatment of it. . . . it is done with elegance and impressive command of the underlying material.” —David C. Acheson, Washington Times
“What Strachan offers is history as only the professional can do it, and rarely enough even then.” —Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
“[A] spending series.” —Bill Ward, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“[His] breadth of reading is nothing short of staggering.” —Eliot A. Cohen, Foreign Affairs
“[Clausewitz’s On War] is done with elegance and impressive command of the underlying material.” —David C. Acheson, The Washington Times
“Historian Strachan takes on the Prussian masterwork On War and emerges victorious. . . . He works hard at defining what Clausewitz meant, comparing various writings, discussing precise meanings of German words, filling in textual gaps and quarreling with other interpretations.” —Publishers Weekly