Books and the British Army in the Age of the American Revolution

Ira Gruber, an emeritus military historian at Rice, has a book coming out this fall under the title of Books and the British Army in the Age of the American Revolution that I’ll probably have to read in my copious free time.  For ten years or so I’ve been very interested in military thought.  I’ve worked on Russian military thought, Salafi jihadist military thought and recently, with my dissertation American military thought on intelligence, so I’m primed to want to read this.  Besides, it’s got an awesome cover.  I am one of those people who think that you CAN judge a book by its cover.

Anyway, here is the description of the book from the publisher.

Historians have long understood that books were important to the British army in defining the duties of its officers, regulating tactics, developing the art of war, and recording the history of campaigns and commanders. Now, in this groundbreaking analysis, Ira D. Gruber identifies which among over nine hundred books on war were considered most important by British officers and how those books might have affected the army from one era to another. By examining the preferences of some forty-two officers who served between the War of the Spanish Succession and the French Revolution, Gruber shows that by the middle of the eighteenth century British officers were discriminating in their choices of books on war and, further, that their emerging preference for Continental books affected their understanding of warfare and their conduct of operations in the American Revolution. In their increasing enthusiasm for books on war, Gruber concludes, British officers were laying the foundation for the nineteenth-century professionalization of their nation’s officer corps. Gruber’s analysis is enhanced with detailed and comprehensive bibliographies and tables. [Emphasis in original.]

I’m interested by the comment about the importance of British officers starting to read foreign books.  The Americans started to bring themselves out of their post-Civil War military doldrums when they (or at least some of them) started learning from foreigners, as well.  I guess this is the equivalent in military theory of the old adage that “two heads are better than one.”  I occasionally worry about this with regard to today’s US military.  It is an extraordinarily capable organization that adapts as well or better than any military in the world.  That said, I see little evidence that it learns much from other militaries.

In any event, I look forward to reading this tome.  And enjoying the cover.

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 6:55 AM  Comments (2)  

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