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Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order Hardcover – June 22, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A truly masterful synthesis. . . . A kaleidoscopic masterpiece that illuminates all it surveys.”--Edward N. Luttwak, American Interest
(Edward N. Luttwak American Interest)

"A fascinating book that has the feel of a life's work. . . . Hill affirms the intellectual endeavor of looking at the world through a literary lens. . . . At a deeper level, the book is about the fragility of order and the struggle of statesmen to balance, restrain, and legitimate state power."--John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs
(John Ikenberry Foreign Affairs)

Grand Strategies concerns statesmanship and strategy: the uses of power, the fate of alliances, war and peace. It also, happily, provides a tour through the Great Books, giving special attention to nation-states and their vexed relations.”--William Anthony Hay, Wall Street Journal


(William Anthony Hay Wall Street Journal)

"A remarkable book. . . . Hill is the exemplification of the Clausewitzian coup d’oeil—the ability to see how everything connects to everything else."—John Gaddis, Yale University
(John Gaddis)

"Charles Hill's Grand Strategies is a gem that combines long and valuable practical experience with the wisdom that comes from a broad and deep knowledge of history, literature and philosophy to produce a wisdom badly needed by statesmen and diplomats."—Donald Kagan, Yale University

(Donald Kagan 2009-12-21)

"In an age of short attention spans and disaggregated facts, Charles Hill does much to revive two venerable traditions—the classical ideal of statesmanship, and the close engagement with great texts.”—Henry A. Kissinger
(Henry A. Kissinger 2009-12-22)

"Charles Hill's Grand Strategies transcends the tired categories of realism and idealism in the study of politics. Drawing from such as Aristotle and Homer, he spans centuries and circles the globe, always gazing from the standpoint of greatness. A sage and powerful book."—Harvey Mansfield, Harvard University

(Harvey Mansfield 2010-01-05)

"The originality of this book lies . . . in the argument that these works have actually shaped the world of nations because of the influence they have on kings, princes, generals, and statesmen. . . . Grand Strategies is an unusual volume, filled with sharp insights about a daunting list of writers and circuitous pathways and detours that eventually lead the reader to hidden destinations. It makes its case diplomatically by drawing the reader into a way of thinking about the political world rather than by pressing a single argument or set of conclusions. It is as original as it is unusual, the rare volume that provokes neither agreement nor disagreement, but rather independent thought about the worlds we have lost and the one we have inherited."—James Piereson, The New Criterion
(James Piereson The New Criterion)

About the Author

Charles Hill, a career minister in the U.S. Foreign Service, is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution as well as Brady-Johnson Distinguished Fellow in Grand Strategy, Senior Lecturer in International Studies, and Senior Lecturer in Humanities at Yale University. He lives in New Haven, CT.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030016386X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300163865
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,022,285 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is a case for having diplomats trained as scientists. Paul Nitze, the arms control strategist and negotiator, used to explain how the United States needed to approach the USSR by using a diplomatic version of Niels Bohr's principle of complementarity: "Light can be both wave and particle at the same time"; the United States should have to be adversarial and accommodating at the same time. Strobe Talbott, expert on foreign relations and former classmate to Bill Clinton, was once praised for having established the diplomatic equivalent of impedance matching, a process used by electronics engineers, in the strategic dialogue he conducted with his counterpart Jaswand Singh following India's nuclear testing in 1998. The two countries were on different planes, but the current between them somehow got through.

But this case for the diplomat-engineer is seldom made. More often than not, it is considered that the statesman and his close kin, the diplomat, should be trained in the humanities. Charles Hill, a diplomat turned educator and a lover of great books, takes as his aim "the restoration of literature as a tutor for statecraft". The argument of his book is that the world should recognize high political ideas and actions of statecraft as aspects of the human condition that are fully within the scope of literary genius, and ones that great writers have consistently explored in important ways. For Charles Hill, the international world of states and their modern system is a literary realm; it is where the greatest ideas of the human condition are played on. Even literary works read and praised for insights on personal feelings and intimate matters, such as Jane Austen's Emma, possess a dimension wholly apt for statecraft--in Emma's case, the gathering and misanalysis of intelligence.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am sympathetic to those who are critical of the author, as I myself was frustrated at many points and also I confess feeling very ignorant about many of the literary works that were mentioned. However, and despite a rotten index and the lack of a syntopicon or annex with literature and politics and economics at least, side by side, this is for me beyond 5 stars, a category where no more than 10% of my reviewed works can be found (at Phi Beta Iota, the Public Intelligence Blog).

It is true the book is not so much about grand strategy in the classical political science or military sense, but for that I recommend Colin Gray's Modern Strategy. The book also does not address the impoverished nature of the nation-state system or how to build civilizations. There I recommend Philip Allott's The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State and Richard Spady's The Leadership of Civilization Building: Administrative and civilization theory, Symbolic Dialogue, and Citizen Skills for the 21st Century.

Read to the bitter end this magnificent book is both an indictment of the nation-state system, and an ode to the role of literature as a foundation for understanding and enhancing civilization and relations among peoples rather than nations.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Hill's Grand Strategies is an important modern contribution on the powerful and nowadays often neglected connection between literature, governance, philosophy and history. His profound and deep understanding of these important topics is apparent on every page. Anyone in the foreign service or military would gain a better appreciation for "how we got here" and the obstacles that were overcome (or not overcome, and why). Hill covers the globe, starting with the classical Greeks (Homer, Xenophon, & Thucydides to name a few) and working his way towards more modern works/times---to include "The Imported State" and the evolution of China.

For me Hill's book was an a reintroduction to works I read many years ago (TE Lawrence, Kipling, Proust, Milton, & Locke) and an introduction to author's I've never read, but should.

This small, 300-page "introduction" of sorts would provide an excellent foundation for anyone with an interest in the intersection of literature and history, and should be required reading at foreign service schools and military academies at a minimum. We would be wise to reestablish the connection between a complete liberal arts background and the career fields determining our national policies/strategies.

Highest recommendation; this is an important book.
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Format: Hardcover
I wanted to like it, but Hill's book is a remarkable disappointment. It floats vague theses followed by a rambling series of synopses. It offers scattershot insights without clear organizing principles. It insults political science without understanding it. Most lamentably, given this opportunity to explore how literature might illuminate and even affect international politics, Hill merely samples the typical set of Western writings that speak more to classic, domestic political theory than "world order."

And after all its praise for literature, it's a dull read.

And it has nothing to do with grand strategy.

Hill begins with a lot of claims. The Westphalian state system is a "moral order." Literature reveals the "sources and motivations" behind accepting that state system. Today, "state order and literature are under assault." Most fundamentally, he's arguing that "high political ideas and actions of statecraft [are] aspects of the human condition that are fully within the scope of literary genius."

However, a basic logic behind choosing or analyzing texts is missing. Hill wants to highlight the intangible art of strategy and diplomatic thinking, but without SOME guiding principles, the work incoherently drifts outward. For instance, Hill dwells in depth on Dante's "Inferno" without a word on writers like Grotius or Vattel, whose work actually and broadly shaped Europeans' international thinking and practice. Similarly, Hill (with some disdain) discusses French revolutionary writers but offers nothing from Edmund Burke. Why not? There may be good reasons, but the reader suspects Hill's idiosyncratic tastes and personal reading history are the only logics behind the book's parameters.
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