The New Makers of Modern Strategy: From the Ancient World to the Digital Age

The New Makers of Modern Strategy: From the Ancient World to the Digital Age

"The New Makers of Modern Strategy: From the Ancient World to the Digital Age" is a comprehensive and thought-provoking anthology edited by Peter Paret, Gordon A. Craig, and Felix Gilbert. It follows in the footsteps of its 1986-published predecessor, "Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age," (edited by none other than Clausewitz's "On War" translator Peter Paret), but with a keen focus on the evolving landscape of warfare and the strategic challenges brought about by the digital age.

The book's most notable strength (let alone length, at 1200 pages!) lies in its breadth of coverage. It spans several millennia, exploring the strategies of prominent historical figures such as Alexander the Great, Sun Tzu, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Winston Churchill. Moreover, it examines the theories and practices of contemporary strategists like Henry Kissinger and Colin Gray, providing a balanced blend of historical analysis and modern perspectives.

One of the book's key achievements is its ability to draw parallels between historical and modern strategic thought. The authors of each of the 45 essays effectively demonstrate the enduring nature of certain strategic principles, highlighting the ways in which ancient and classical strategists continue to inform contemporary military thinking. For example, some discuss how Sun Tzu's emphasis on understanding the enemy and exploiting their weaknesses remains relevant in today's asymmetric warfare scenarios. Furthermore, the book shines a light on the changing nature of warfare in the digital age. It explores how technological advancements, such as cyber warfare and unmanned aerial vehicles, have transformed the strategic landscape. This focus on the digital age is a notable departure from its predecessor, which primarily examined the strategic dynamics of the nuclear age. By including these discussions, the book successfully captures the complexities and challenges of warfare in the twenty-first century.

While "The New Makers of Modern Strategy" offers an impressive breadth of coverage, some readers may find its depth lacking--hard for me to say that given its overall length. My reason for this is that the book primarily consists of condensed essays, limiting the level of analysis and detail provided on each strategist and their ideas. While this approach allows for a wide range of contributors and topics, it occasionally leaves the reader wanting a more in-depth exploration of certain subjects.

Moreover, the book's organization could be improved. The chapters are arranged thematically rather than chronologically, which can occasionally lead to a disjointed reading experience. This structure makes it challenging to track the evolution of strategic thought over time--a strategist's best companion for comparison--particularly for readers less familiar with the subject matter. A clearer timeline or a more coherent narrative thread would have enhanced the book's overall flow and readability, in my humble opinion.

In terms of comparison with its predecessor, "Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age,"--a book I still have and use, and marked up by highlighter, underlines, and dog-eared pages--the two books have distinct focuses and strengths. While the 1986 volume delves deep into the strategic theories that emerged during the nuclear age, the new anthology takes a broader approach, incorporating insights from across history and connecting them to the digital age.

Both books offer valuable contributions to the study of military strategy. "Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age" remains an indispensable resource for understanding the strategic challenges of the twentieth century, particularly in relation to nuclear weapons and the Cold War. On the other hand, "The New Makers of Modern Strategy" is a timely and relevant addition, addressing the strategic landscape of the twenty-first century and the impact of technology on warfare. This is not even to mention the very first edition of this work, published in 1943, called "Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler," and edited by Edward Meade Earle--which was also the quintessential volume for budding strategists of that era.

"The New Makers of Modern Strategy: From the Ancient World to the Digital Age" is a commendable anthology providing a wide-ranging exploration of strategic thought throughout history. By drawing connections between the past and the present, the book highlights the enduring relevance of certain strategic principles while addressing the unique challenges posed by the digital age. While it may lack depth in some areas and would benefit from improved organization, it offers valuable insights for both scholars and practitioners of military strategy. When compared to its predecessor, it stands as a worthy companion, extending the analysis of strategic thought to encompass the complexities of contemporary warfare, and will also, like its 1986 predecessor, become required reading in various forms for all military professionals attending various levels of career professional military education.


Brigadier General, USAF (Retired) Chad Manske was the former Commandant of National War College, is a prolific reader, author and publisher of dozens of book reviews and articles, and is the Special Advisor to the NDU Foundation CEO (