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Strategy: A History Paperback – September 1, 2015
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"[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.
- Item Weight : 2.44 pounds
- Paperback : 768 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0190229238
- ISBN-10 : 0190229233
- Dimensions : 6.13 x 1.73 x 9.25 inches
- Publisher : Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (September 1, 2015)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #46,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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What is most maddening about the book is its consistent ducking responsibility for saying that any strategy is good under certain circumstances. It is an "academic" book in both the best and worst ways. It has massive erudition, keen critical intelligence and brilliant insights. But it sticks to criticism, and fails to offer any positive advice on good strategy. For every thinker Freedman follows this formula: he summarizes the theory of the thinker, describes the initial case for it or temporary success, and then points out where it has failed. Then he magisterially pronounces all views limited in applicability. This is a maddening ivory tower game, because the author is so risk averse that in his evasion of possible criticism he avoids also avoids insights that might actually be helpful to a decision maker.
In spite of the avoidance of positive recommendations, Freedman does have themes that he keeps coming back to, and are interesting and informative. One of these themes is that leaders often radically get wrong what can be accomplished by victory in a battle. G.W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" is the most glaring example of this, but Freedman has numerous other illustrations, including Napoleon. In this respect, clearly Clausewitz is one of his heroes for his insight that battles need to serve political ends.
As far as military strategy, one of Freedman's really interesting insights is that the decisive thing in wars is more often alliances more than any cleverness on the battle field. The weight of allies tips the balance. This would indicate, as with Napoleon and Hitler, ISIL has now doomed itself by allying the world against it.
A third theme, and the one that he returns to most and is perhaps the most innovative in the book is that persuasion is a key part of strategic leadership, whether in battle, politics or business. Freedman's breathtaking breadth of scope really works in discussing this theme, where he brings people as disparate as Foucault and Lee Atwater into the same story--rightly.
I couldn't put the book down, all 650 pages of it, and will return to study parts of it, which I made note of. But I had the weird sensation of being continually dazzled, grateful, and disappointed all at the same time.
While the book is long, the most important contributions occur near the end when Freedman offers his take on "best practices" in developing strategy. Here, he reveals his predilection for literature and story. It's a refreshing take, eschewing platitudes and cheerleading in favor of a more measured approach about the logic of the narrative versus formal logic, about the need to build in improvisation for any sort of resilient strategy, about the need to adapt, and so on. I found myself looking back at earlier parts of the piece and only then noticing the delicate foreshadowing of his views. To see this, reread his long passage on Churchill and note the similarities to Churchill's approach, as the author sees it, and the author's own approach.
I like it so much, I intend to assign it to my MBA Game Theory class.
So what is the topic of this book: this book is about the history and the evolution of strategy through the ages. To do that, Mr. Freedman invites you to a voyage of four thousand years to see how this method for solving problems was changing over time, and how, despite of the changes, kept its tenets until today.
So the book is not only about war which is the strategy's most natural and common environment but also about politics, management, religion, bureaucracies, and so on. And that is so because strategy is a discipline that needs to be nurtured through other sciences and disciplines. Perhaps this is the most dependent of all disciplines and that's why it captures the attention and the dedication of scholars like Mr. Freedman. And of readers like myself. Or yourself.
Some reviews say that this is not a book for amateurs, but who is an expert on strategy if it is so hard to define what strategy is. Maybe an expert in strategy is a general who has lost all his battles. Or the scholar who follows and studies him. I don't know, but I do know that strategy is about the facts of the world when the world posses questions with no definitive answers. So all that you have as a capital is a handful of solutions. Which one will you pick?
As long as the complexity of a problem increases, less certain is the future even if you don't do nothing at all. And this is because to do nothing is a strategy too. And it has its costs. Sometimes to lose today is a way of winning tomorrow. Sometimes that excellent strategy won't work. And this is the point in Mr. Freedman's book: there is no prescription or recipe. And if this is so, what we can do?
Strategy is one of the best approaches to the topic I've ever read. The strategy of the devil in Milton's Lost Paradise or the strategy of the nonviolence's promoters in the U.S. during the twentieth century, both share the same dilemmas and the same old conundrums that faced Julius Cesar and Napoleon. To link people, facts and ideas with a very elusive concept like strategy is a task that demands not only a good professor but a good writer also.
Mr. Freedman exercises the art of writing with the same simplicity that Hemingway used to encourage. And this is no small. To talk about strategy is one thing; to write about it, is another. I highly recommend this book to whoever want to know about this topic which mingles science and art in strange and veiled proportions. Just as the author says, this is not a book for those interested in being advised on how to win a "battle." This is a book for knowing what strategy is and how has changed over time to become what it is today.
Top reviews from other countries
Contained is every conceivable strategy, from Biblical understandings of the role of divine intervention, to an examination of Milton’s Paradise Lost, wherein Satan is a Machiavellian fallen Angel, competing against a superior opponent in a struggle he cannot possibly win.
As one may expect, all the major exponents of strategy are examined, including Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and Clausewitz. Indeed, the two latter strategists, Sun Tzu and Clausewitz, receive the most frequent reference outside of their own respective chapters.
An interesting part to note is the section on strategies of mass movements, particularly those of Revolutionaries, whether the theoreticians behind revolution, such as Marx and Engels, to the practitioners of revolutionary Marxism, particularly Rosa Luxemburg.
The Civil Rights era contains interesting reference points, and it is entirely ironic that the fatal errors of the opponents of civil rights are replaying such errors in this present day, such as heavy handed responses that simply galvanize the opposition and attract wider sympathy for the cause.
The section on Mao Zedong is of particular note, examining the role of strategy that ran contrary to official Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary strategy was applied to a largely agricultural nation, and in some ways how Maoism earned its place as a unique revolutionary strategy.
The section on management strategy and the latter chapters become slightly muddled, and by the time these sections are reached, the book seems somewhat overlong, but that in itself is not a serious glitch on what is otherwise a masterful work.
A work for all times and all peoples, which in time should earn itself a high place in the world literary cannon.
Still a good one stop shop on the subject.
Also, Freedman has structured the book in short digestible chapters which makes the whole thing a lot more approachable.