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Strategy: A History Hardcover – October 2, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (October 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199325154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199325153
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 2.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"[Freedman's] books manage to delight the experts yet are still comprehensible to the general reader, a rare skill in this genre. On this occasion, he has produced what is arguably the best book ever written on strategy." --Washington Post


"Magisterial... wide-ranging erudition and densely packed argument." --The Economist


"This is a book of startling scope, erudition and, more than anything, wisdom." --Financial Times


"Comprehensive, vigorous survey of strategy and its evolution...A lucid text that raises questions while answering others--of great value to planners, whether of an advertising campaign or a military one." --Kirkus Reviews


"Sir Lawrence Freedman's 750-page magnum opus, Strategy: A History, is encyclopedic, although not alphabetical, a pleasure to dip into here and there...There are grand strategies set forth in several of the greater works covered by Freedman, but Strategy: A History holds the reader to the strategic level, a subset of grand strategy." --New Criterion


"Strategy: A History is easily the most ambitious book that I have read in many years... With a book of this scope anybody can find something to disagree with but nobody can come away from this book without feeling enriched and intellectually challenged. It will live on as a classic. " --Mark Stout, War on the Rocks


"Strategy: A History, is an ambitious and sprawling book by a British military historian who has written widely, and very well, about nuclear and cold war strategy, the Falklands War, and contemporary military affairs, among other subjects... With admirable candor, Freedman tells us that he received the contract for this book in (gulp!) 1994, and that he made a 'number of false starts' with the manuscript. Considering the daunting scope of the subject, this is entirely understandable. Considering the wisdom and analytical brilliance he brings to bear on that subject, it's been well worth the wait." --The Daily Beast


"Tour de force... Unusually thoughtful and clearly written, Freedman's dense tome is a serious academic study in political theory, but it has crossover potential and will attract readers interested in military planning, strategic systems, and the nature of power." --Publishers Weekly starred review


"A vast exploration of strategy... full of surprises, and marked by unsurpassed erudition. It also is witty and reminds us that he in the world who knows most about strategy may be the one who is the most unimpressed with it."--National Review


"An erudite, encyclopedic study that will surely become a standard reference in the discipline." --strategy + business


"A fascinating review of the tools available to all of us to create agile, informed and interesting decisions." --Sheridan Jobbins, the World Economic Forum blog


"Lawrence Freedman shows here why he is justly renowned as one of the world's leading thinkers about strategy, which he defines as the central art of getting more out of a situation than the starting balance of power would suggest." --Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Harvard University and author of The Future of Power


"A marvelous grand tour of the meaning, implications, and consequences of strategic thinking through the ages and in multiple contexts. Freedman is a master of the subject and unsurpassed in his ability to unravel the twists and turns of strategic complexities and paradoxes." --Robert Jervis, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics, Columbia University


"This is a wonderful book--a comprehensive yet deeply considered summation of the very nature of strategy by the premier social scientist of the subject. Strategy: A History is lucid and dispassionate, sometimes rueful, often ironic, always informative." --Philip Bobbitt, author of The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History


"This substantial, comprehensive, hermeneutic work examines the various dimensions and history of "strategy," which Freedman defines as "the art of creating power"...this very ambitious exploration provides readers with a useful introduction to the field of strategic studies." --CHOICE


About the Author


Lawrence Freedman has been Professor of War Studies at King's College London since 1982, and Vice-Principal since 2003. Elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1995 and awarded the CBE in 1996, he was appointed Official Historian of the Falklands Campaign in 1997. He was awarded the KCMG in 2003. In June 2009 he was appointed to serve as a member of the official inquiry into Britain and the 2003 Iraq War. Professor Freedman has written extensively on nuclear strategy and the cold war, as well as commentating regularly on contemporary security issues. His most recent book, A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East, won the 2009 Lionel Gelber Prize and Duke of Westminster Medal for Military Literature.

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Customer Reviews

Pointless, rambling and disorganized, it had really very little to do with the rest of the book, or strategy in general.
W. COX
If you have ever had to read a "strategy" document - and particularly if you have ever been assigned the responsibility to write one - you should read this book.
Justin Anderson
The concept of strategy is applied to many other things, and no consistent understanding of the idea of strategy as a whole emerges from the book.
Vincent J. Curtis

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By R. Blanchard on December 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book presents a sweeping historical narrative in a way that is intellectually challenging and stimulating. Even "experts" (those heavily engaged in military, business or other strategic studies or research) will enjoy a nicely-written (and flawlessly edited) overview that starts with chimps (as a proxy for prehistoric man) and ends with contemporary theories of rational decision-making based on the latest brain science (Kahneman, et al). The book is long (650 pages) and has an additional 100 pages of annotated footnotes. Freedman is careful to credit the many other writers and specialists upon whom he relies both in the text and notes. However, there is no bibliography. Nevertheless this book is an ideal starting point for the serious student or researcher who is in the early stages of delving into the history and challenges of strategic thinking.

Freedman may be a specialist in war studies but I found his chapters on business and other non-military topics more interesting and insightful. He does an especially good job of weaving game theory into the narrative (without the math that so often gets in the way).

The book is not without biases (he tears Tom Peters and his ilk to shreds). There are also a few imbalances and peculiarities. The sections on biblical analysis (David and Goliath, etc.) bring nothing new to the discussion. And, like many authors and historians before him, he occasionally gets lost in the endless cast of revolutionaries and the equally endless permutations in bottom-up strategic thinking in the decades after the French Revolution.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By W. COX on January 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The reviewer who said that this is not one history but several histories was spot on. The first third of the book, dealing with military strategy, was very good, although the first couple of chapters dealing with chimpanzees and Biblical history did not add much. The second third of the book, dealing with "bottom-up" strategy and including revolutionaries and Marxism, was terrible. Pointless, rambling and disorganized, it had really very little to do with the rest of the book, or strategy in general. I didn't go back and check but I would guess that there the book would go 20, 30 pages at a time without addressing anything related to strategy. It became really a history of political change and revolutionaries at that point, but tough to tell as it jumped around quite a bit.

I was thankful that I did not stop reading during the middle third (I was tempted many times) because the final third, dealing with business and economic strategy, was much better. The conclusion, talking about strategy as a script or story, was a decent attempt at bringing the subject together and moving it forward, probably the best that could be done with such a broad subject.

I think the author could have done a better job with half the pages. I recommend reading the first section, skimming the second and then reading the third section and conclusion.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Justin Anderson on December 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book arrives at an important time for "strategy," which in the early 21st century is a term that is applied everywhere, from public and private organizations to every aspect of personal life. As a result, strategy - once associated most closely with military or geopolitical endeavors, but gradually appropriated by institutions or individuals who wished to convey a sense of purpose, importance, and long range thinking to their corporate plans or personal goals - has become a buzzword essentially devoid of meaning.

On one level, Freedman's book is a history of strategy, with the first section tracing military strategy from ancient to modern times, before moving on to in depth discussions of strategy in other fields, such as business. The book nimbly moves between eras and strategic thinkers, offering rich insights into strategy as it was developed (and practiced) by individual philosophers and field marshals and then bringing these key strategic thinkers into dialogue with one another. In doing so, it stands on its own as a compelling work of history both in terms of strategists and strategizing. But the book goes beyond historical narrative in offering a compelling commentary on how strategy as a distinct concept is defined and used, while also serving up a pointed critique of the the idea that no challenge, in whatever field, is beyond the reach of near-omniscient "strategists." History, commentary, and critique are brought together seamlessly by Freedman's writing, which simultaneously educates and charms the reader with crisp prose and wry anecdotes. In addition to representing an important work of scholarship, it serves to raise important questions for the consideration of strategies (and strategists) from a across a range of fields. If you have ever had to read a "strategy" document - and particularly if you have ever been assigned the responsibility to write one - you should read this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lawrence Freedman thoroughly reviews the permutations of strategy in war, politics, and business mainly in the Western thinking since its beginnings in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Greece. Mr. Freedman defines strategy as the art of creating power which is measured as the difference between the outcome anticipated by reference to the prevailing balance of power and the actual outcome after the application of strategy. Strategy comes to the fore in the presence of conflict.

To his credit, the author convincingly demonstrates that strategy is not about reaching some prior objective due to its dynamic and fluid nature. This conclusion remains true regardless of the use of superior force and / or guile for that purpose. Think for example about the evolving fortunes of Honda in business after WWII, the early victories of Nazi Germany during the Second World War, or the successes and failures of Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. in the last decades.

Strategy is at best a tool that will allow you to move from one stage to the next one, which will not necessarily be a better place. The next stage is a place that can be realistically reached from the current stage. Mr. Freedman adds that without some sense where the journey should be leading it will be challenging to assess alternative outcomes for reaching the next stage. The author also recommends that the strategist display both flexibility and imagination so that he / she can better keep up with an evolving situation, regularly re-evaluating risks and opportunities.

In summary, strategy invites its practitioners to display humility and realize its strengths and weaknesses in the absence of a final, stable destination.
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