Strategy and War

Hew Strachan

in The Oxford Handbook of War

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199562930
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Politics & International Relations

 Strategy and War

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This article focuses on different interpretations of strategy as applied to the conduct of war. The tradition of European strategic thought shaped by Clausewitz, which traced its origins to the eighteenth century and was refined by the wars fought thereafter, was concerned overwhelmingly with the conduct of war on land. The Napoleonic Wars did not produce a comparable articulation of naval or maritime strategy. Not until the 1870s did British authors begin to address this deficiency, and they did so precisely because Britain's maritime supremacy was being called into question by the progressive and accelerating industrialization of its neighbours. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, powers other than Britain sought colonies and developed navies. Britain's imperial and maritime interests needed to be shaped by rational thought if they were to be defended. The upshot was strategy, and a form of strategy which pointed more to its twentieth-century understanding than it did to Clausewitz's idea that it was the use of the battle for the purposes of the war.

Keywords: strategy; conduct of war; Clausewitz; Napoleonic Wars; imperial interests; strategist

Article.  7039 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations

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