Book Title:  War in European History                                                                                                          

Author (Top-3 notes on author): Michael Howard

1.     Professor of military history at Kings College, London, and author of 20+ books

2.     Numerous literary awards

3.     Chairman on the board of several ivy league schools in US and UK

Big Picture (Skim bullets):

1.     Discusses how warfare has shaped and influenced European political and societal development

2.     Conversely, book points out that warfare has been influenced by societal factors such as politics, religion, technology, and economics.

3.     Book presents a circular argument that the study of military history is intertwined with the study of cultural history; studying one leads to the study of the other

Main Thesis:

            The study of warfare, in isolation to the study of the society that fought it, is useful for the purpose of drawing lessons learned, etc, about conducting warfare. It’s the wrong perspective, however, if attempting to understand why the war was fought, what were the factors that led to it, what was the definition of victory, etc.  Warfare must be studied in the context of the society that fought it in order to understand it completely.  Similarly, societies can’t be truly understood unless you study the history of the wars that helped shape the society. 

            Howard believes the two entities are intertwined: society influences and shapes the conduct of war, and warfare influences and shapes society.  The book’s argument follows a chronologic order of themes that characterize the major influence of each phase of European development. 


1.     First major shift is between the mercenary armies and the professional armies. 

2.     French revolution was a significant influence on development of staff functions and the sustainment of standing professional armies.  Even given the resource limitations of the French society.

3.     One major societal impact on the development of the military is the ability for governments to draw upon the resources of a large scale economy and manpower pool.  This factor changed the scene from small professional armies to wars of nations.

4.     Next major shift was between professional armies still doing the bidding of a monarchy/dictator and an entire nation bringing every element of society into the fight. 

5.     The split between wars of nations and wars of technologists is slight, almost unperceivable except in the intensity and scope of the actual fighting.

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