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The Art Of War Paperback – September 4, 2001

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About the Author

Neal Wood is Professor Emeritus of political science at York University, Toronto.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Revised edition (September 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030681076X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306810763
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #568,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Luciano Lupini on September 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
Today, when you mention The Art of War, people refer immediately to the book by Sun Tzu. However, the only works published for the general public during Macchiavelli's life are the Decennale Primo, the Mandragola, and this one. The work being review was published in Florence by Macchiavelli in august 1521 and it had an immediate success and many reprints.
Having completed already The Prince and the Discorsi, and not foreseeing any possibility of returning to public service, Macchiavelli decided to write a book about warfare, in part as a result of his meetings and conversations with a group of young alumni and friends at the Orti Oricellari. Some of these were involved, in 1522, in a conspiracy to kill Cardinal Giulio de'Medici,Master of Florence.
The Art of War is not a textbook, but rather a humanistic treatise on the subject, written under the form of dialogues, divided in seven books. The interlocutors are Fabrizio Colonna, Cosimo Ruccellai and the young men Buondelmonti, della Palla and Alamanni. The first book deals with recruitment, the second with the weapons of infantry and cavalry, the relationship between this corps and military exercises. Colonna and Ruccellai are the protagonists of the dialogues here, while in the III book the role of interlocutor to Colonnais vested upon the younger Alamanni. Alamanni inquires about the role of the artillery and is substance Macchiavelli's judgement (through Colonna's words) is negative. In the IV book Buondelmonti inquires about the importance of military formations and other possible combat formations (different from the traditional roman and others).
The final three books deal with logistics, accommodations, military discipline, fortifications, sieges and defensive tactics.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Sam Butler on June 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
Machiavelli's "The Art of War" is only half the story. To fully understand the point and purpose of these conversations, you must read Machiavelli's other and more important book: "The Prince". Both books are exercises in the logic extending from the premise that the ends justify the means.

You should either obtain both books or the new volume: "The Art of War & The Prince by Machiavelli - Special Edition" which combines both books into one. Both books are important in the history of philosophy, logic, politics and strategy. Reading both helps put them in their proper context.

Machiavelli's vision was always clear that success is all that is important. His detailed insights on the methods and means for achieving success, however clever and convoluted, were always right to the main point: To the victor there is fame and glory and to the loser there is humiliation and oblivion.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Chris on August 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First off, The title of my review might be misleading, When i say outdated tactics, i don't mean because this book was written in the early 1500s, and they don't apply today. More simply, i mean that they didn't even apply in the 1500s.

I'll start by saying that Machiavelli thought that superior tactics of war from any period in time were still valuable and practical in his time. He took tactics, strategies and disciplines used by a plethora of empires far before his time. His mentality of "It worked for the Romans in 315 CE, it will work now!" Could lead to a downfall in any sense. Plain and simple, innovation is the key to war. Innovation in concept, principle, weaponry, and idealism. While original in some aspects, his strategies and "art" remain a collection and culmination of outdated military strategies throughout different stages of European history.

However, the detail of this book is uncanny. The layout of the book is genius as participants in a conversation continue to ask questions for clarification and to challenge the strategies presented by Machiavelli. The translation is perfect, and the footnotes / references are extremely helpful. Neal Wood's introduction provides just enough of a history lesson to make even the more esoteric parts of this book a little more comprehensible.

5/5 stars for the translation, references, and introduction.
3/5 stars on the tactics theorized and implemented by Machiavelli (though proven in the test of war, the "it worked then, it'll work now" mentality proves risky to this day.)

Overall: 4/5 stars
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 13, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
-- but I found Macchiavelli's content frankly disappointing. The translation is modern and readable, I have no problem with that. The original was centuries behind Sun Tzu's book of the same name, even though Sun Tzu wrote around 500BC, 2000 years before Macchiavelli. Macchiavelli gives a bit of advice about soldierly temperament and training. There's also a brief checklist, just two pages, of strategic advice, near the end of the book. That's all that really has lasting value.

The bulk of the text is taken up with the right way to position each kind of soldier and arm, rank and file, in marching order. Basically, these were detailed directions for a military parade, suited to the set-piece wars of the time, as much pageant as combat. He also goes on about the right kinds of pennants, flags, and colors to use, proper military music, how to make camp, and proper pillaging and distribution of booty.

Directions on how to make camp are subject to errors, though: a measurement 1360 feet long, minus 100 feet at each end, is said to leave a row 1260 feet long rather than 1160 - perhaps an error introduced by the translator, but I tend to think not. He also takes the "reduction" and sacking of conquered towns for granted. I think Master Sun was a bit more merciful (or prgamatic), on the grounds that the wealth of newly annexed parts of the kingdom should be preserved, and the citizens kept happy enough for easy rule. With a startling lack of foresight, Macchiavelli dismisses serious use of artillery in pitched battles. Instead, he falls back on strategies of the Greeks and Romans, 1000 to 2000 years old even when he wrote. Sun Tzu's warfare had a much more modern look to it, including hit-and-run tactics that the West barely understood until the American revolution.

The quality of the translation worth four or five stars, partly because of helpful notes and diagrams. It's the original work that I found weak.

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