10 Great Reads in Military Science

Military science is more than just the history of warfare. It is a discipline that looks into the complex issues that have backed successful military campaigns. While it is a highly interesting topic on its own, a lot of the key lessons from the study of military science can help in other areas. The strategic, logistical, and leadership elements are applicable to anyone who has to organize a group of people to achieve a goal.

Photo Credit: PhotosNormandie at Flickr.

How to learn more about military science? The best way would be to read military science classics. Some of these books are millennia old. Others are modern studies based on research. Take a look and see what you can learn.

1) The Are of War by Sun Tzu

Photo Credit: Amazon.com.

The Art of War” is considered one of the great classics of military science. Originally written by a Chinese strategist in the 5th century BC, the novel came to western countries in 1772 and has remained recommended reading for people in many professions. It is a very organized, systematic rundown of military strategy, covering logistics, military maneuvers, and even the use of spies. It is not very emotional and is focused on what it takes to win a military campaign. This books is a great primer for anyone interested in military science.

2) On War by Carl Von Clausewitz

On War” is the second great classic of military science. Clausewitz was a Prussian soldier during the Napoleonic Wars. His writings are the source of a lot of modern and political thought. It is a more philosophical work The Art of War, discussing not only tactics and thought but also what the reasoning behind actions should be. It is a good follow-up to the drier Sun Tzu, as the philosophical element is a major part of modern military science.

3) The Face of Battle: A Study Of Agincourt, Waterloo, And The Somme by John Keegan

John Keegan is one of the most important figures in the study of military history. This chronicle of three major battles across three very different time periods discusses the experience of the men on the front lines. This is not a novel about building up a myth or telling a touching tale. It is instead an analysis of what fighting in these battles was like. This is the attitude found in a lot of more recent books on military science, which often compare battles across different periods of history to find common points of interest. Buy it here.

4) Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power by Victor Davis Hanson

Carnage and Culture” looks at nine different battles from Ancient Greece to the Vietnam War. It discusses the way warfare has evolved since ancient times. Hanson traces modern effective tactics to Greek Hoplites and charting how the core ideas behind that from of warfare carried over through technological changes. It also provides a look at how culture effects the way armies fight. Pick up this novel for an interesting overview of how wars are fought throughout the ages.

5) Strategy by B.H. Liddel Hart

A lesser known classic of military science, this book is often recommend alongside The Art of War and On War. Liddel Hart is often regarded as the ‘Clausewitz of the 20th Century”. His analysis of the conflicts of the past century distill their complexity into core principles and ideas. He juxtaposes different strategies, looking at their advantages and disadvantages. This is a unique and smart study of the wars of the 20th century. Collect this book now.

6) Belisarius: The Last Roman General by Ian Hughes

Belisarius is often regarded as the ‘Last Roman’. He was one of the last great generals of the Byzantine Empire before it fell. His tactics of ‘defensive offense’ seem almost modern and pulled off incredible victories. This book—one of the few dedicated to the general—is very factual and dry. It has a lot of helpful maps and diagrams that help you read through each battle. This is a very good set of battle analyses.

7) How Great Generals Win by Bevin Alexander

This another set of analyses of warfare that spans multiple time periods. This one looks into how generals decided what their goals should be in situations that presented them with conflicting priorities. This is more personal than many of the books on this list, as it strives to get into the psychology of the decision-makers. It offers an interesting look into one of the most important questions in the study of military science: how do leaders make the right decisions in complex, high-pressure scenarios? Read more.

8) The Price of Admiralty: The Evolution of Naval Warfare from Trafalgar to Midway by John Keegan

Here, Keegan tackles naval warfare, which is a different animal. Keegan analyzes all the elements that changed the course of many great naval battles, from technology to logistics. There are battles between wooden ships and others between massive aircraft carriers. This is not light reading and is very scholarly. Give yourself time to read it. This book is definitely something you should pick up to learn more about naval warfare. You can buy it here.

9) The Science of War: Defense Budgeting, Military Technology, Logistics, and Combat Outcomes by Michael E. O’Hanlon

This book digs deep into what makes an army run. Militaries are massive, complex organizations that require a lot of resource management. “The Science of War” is focused on the modern U.S. Army. It looks into budget, the assessment and use of new technology, the development of strategy, and logistics. All of these elements feed each other and they are hard to pull out and analyze, but O’Hanlon does an excellent job. If you want to understand how complex organizations work, as well as getting a new view on government policies, pick this one up.

10) The Gallic War: Seven Commentaries on The Gallic War by Julius Caesar

Written by the legendary Julius Caesar himself, the Commentaries cover his campaign in Gaul (ancient France). It can be a challenging read because the sentences are translated from Classical Latin and the original purpose of the Commentaries was political posturing. However, it is interesting to see how Caesar dealt with the complexities of Gallic tribes as well as his noted use of engineering, something not often discussed in ancient warfare. If you are looking for something different to read, take the time to read this classic.

Leave a Reply