The excellent radio program on BBC4, In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, covered Clausewitz’s On War on 12 May 2012.  I almost can’t say enough about the value of this 43 minute recording, but here are a couple snippets that might give away the quality of the scholarship:

“…we need to understand that Clausewitz is a man who is constantly engaged in intellectual activity across a very broad range of subjects.”

“…this intellectual figure – Scharnhorst – is really an incredibly important figure between 1806 and 1812 in the history of the Prussian army. But the man who had said to Clausewitz that the study of war is not just a theoretical exercise, its not just something you can just do by engaging with the works of the Enlightenment which is what he had done after 1795; you have to engage with experience. And if you haven’t got experience, then you’ve got to read military history, that’s the nearest thing you can do – to put the ideas against the reality and to think about the relationship between the two.”

“[Clausewitz was] someone who [saw] human knowledge as interrelated and as worthy of exploration, rather than being thought of in terms of small disciplines.”

Professor Hew Strachan, Oxford University
In very general terms, the book had two purposes: “It was to be read by military analysts in general, and that is both theorists of war…but also practitioners of war.  He would hope that by reading On War they would become more proficient…it would search for deeper truths about the nature of war and about how you actually went about fighting it. And I think it’s not too far to say that he would have hoped that some senior commanders would have used On War as a means of improving their judgment in war, because certainly it wasn’t a blueprint for how to fight.”
Professor Saul David, University of Buckingham
Professor Beatrice Heuser of the University of Reading also participated – what a great roundtable and contribution to discourse on an important academic figure.


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