HISTORY 419M—Special Topics in History
Colloquium in Military History
for Advanced Undergraduates
Classical Military Strategic
Fall Semester 2002
Instructor: Professor Jon
1. Course Description
The main subject of this course is Carl von Clausewitz’s On War,
which was published posthumously in 1832. This work is widely regarded
as the most important book written on major conflict between nation-states,
and for this reason is the starting point for the study of strategic theory
in many war colleges. That being said, On War is a notoriously
difficult read: elusive, hard to follow, apparently incomplete, and much
of it seemingly obsolete or otherwise inapplicable. Many readers
confine their attention to the first of eight sections, or consider only
a few isolated fragments. The purpose of this course is to make Clausewitz’s
great book comprehensible as a whole. Students will be prepared
to approach On War by reading a study of human cognitive function
and its relationship to volition, two of the instructor’s studies of strategic
theory that were informed by consideration of the central importance of
these matters, and a short history of Napoleon’s Prussian campaign of 1806.
The second half of the course will be devoted to reading On War in its entirety. The reading will be discussed in one-hour classes that
will meet twice each week. Students will be expected to read the
assigned text several times, produce a two- to three-sentence written
statement on each sub-section of the week’s reading, and be prepared to
explain the meaning of the text and to explore its ramifications freely
in discussion. The semester will be divided into two seven week sections.
Evaluations of student performance will be based on class-participation
and two take-home essay examinations.
This course will consider the following major questions:
What is the relationship
between strategic theory and strategic practice? [Or, put another way,
What is the difference between planning and the execution of plans?]
Are there such things as immutable
principles of strategy, or is the validity of even classic strategic theory
affected by changing times and circumstances?
What is the significance of
the historical context of classical strategic theory?
What is the relevance of On
War to current military education and practice?
How might the uses of strategic
theory by academics and military professionals differ?
2. Reading List
Carl von Clausewitz, On
War, edited by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1976/84).
Guy Claxton, Hare
Brain, Tortoise Mind: How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less (New York: Harper Collins, 1997).
Jon Sumida, Inventing
Grand Strategy and Teaching Command: The Classic Works of Alfred Thayer
Mahan Reconsidered (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1997; paperback 1999).
Jon Sumida, “The Relationship between History
and Theory in On War: the Clausewitzian Ideal and Its Implications,” Journal
of Military History, 65 (April 2001): 333-54.
3. Schedule [subject to modification during the semester]
Week 1 (Sept. 3/5)
Introduction to Claxton, Chapters 1-3.
Week 2 (Sept. 10/12)
Claxton, Chapters 4-7.
Claxton, Chapters 8-10.
Week 3 (Sept. 17/19)
Claxton, Chapters 11-13.
Sumida, Chapters 1-2.
Week 4 (Sept. 24/26)
Sumida, Chapters 3-4.
Sumida, Chapters 4-6.
Week 5 (Oct 1/3)
Sumida, JMH article.
Any short account of Napoleon’s campaign against Prussia in
Week 6 (Oct. 8/10) — No
On War, Introductory essay by Paret and Howard.
Week 7 (Oct. 15/17) — No
Exam discussion (schedule individual meetings).
Week 8 (Oct. 22/24)
Clausewitz, On War, Author’s Preface and Notes.
Brodie's concluding "Commentary" to On War.
On War, Bk. 1 "On the Nature of War," Chapter 1.
Week 9 (Oct. 29/31)
On War, Bk. 1, Chapters 2-3.
On War, Bk. 1, Chapters 4-8.
Week 10 (Nov. 5/7)
On War, Bk. 2 "On the Theory of War," Chapters 1-4.
On War, Bk. 2, Chapters 5-6.
Week 11 (Nov. 12/14)
On War, Bk. 3 "On Strategy in General," Chapters 1-8.
On War, Bk. 3, Chapters 9-18.
Week 12 (Nov. 19/21)
On War, Bk. 4 "The Engagement."
On War, Bk. 5 "Military Forces."
Week 13 (Nov. 26)
On War, Bk. 6 "Defense."
Week 14 (Dec.3/5)
On War, Bks 7-8 "The Attack" & "War Plans."
Week 15 (Dec. 10/12) — No
Take-home Final Exam [due 17 December].
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