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Strategy: A History

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  128 ratings  ·  21 reviews
Selected as a Financial Times Best Book of 2013
In Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world's leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives.
The range of Freedman's narrative is extraordina...more
Hardcover, 751 pages
Published October 2nd 2013 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2013)
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Strategy is a loose baggy monster of a book. It's less of a history, but more of an enormous compendium of strategy and its theorists and practitioners.

The term 'strategy' has been used so often recently that it has barely any set definition. Freedman loosely defines it as the ability to plan and interact with the environment and our circumstances on a large scale. He begins with a few illustrative sketches from the Bible, the Iliad, Paradise Lost, and Sun Tzu before dashing to the 1800s.

Only t...more
Tim Pendry

This is a wise and highly intelligent, if very long, attempt to come to grips with the slippery term 'strategy' by a prominent British academic distilling at least two decades of thinking on the subject.

Although a Professor of War Studies, Freedman does not restrict himself to the conduct of war but reviews revolutionary and dissident stategy on the one hand and business strategy on the other.

He is highly critical of some of the nonsense (he is too kind to call it that) from business gurus and I...more
Mo Tipton
Whew, this is quite the (long) book. Freedman covers a wide swath of Western history, and the book is divided into the following sections: a "prehistory" of strategy (my favorite section, covering everything from the Trojan horse to God versus Satan), military strategy (not a topic I'm normally interested in, but I found Freedman's take pretty fascinating), political strategy (focusing more on what Freedman calls "efforts on behalf of underdogs"), and finally, managerial strategy (mainly busines...more
A wide ranging if not exactly thorough overview of strategists of many types-though those of before the Napoleonic era are proportionally neglected. Another author which seemed to misunderstand Sun Tzu (many of them really do seem to) but this was a minor quibble compared to the complete omission of Soviet Deep Battle strategy or Ibn Khaldun.

Still, I liked the addition of managerial and domestic political strategy which seem proportionally overlooked in most other works.
This book attempts to provide a history of "strategy" in all of its varied meanings, spanning from classical literature, to traditional military strategy, to political strategy, to modern business and organizational strategy. Having some familiarity with these literature areas, I was intrigued with the idea but somewhat skeptical about the prospects for such a project. For example, while I have read deeply in military history, allusions to corporate "offensives" seem to me to mask a lack of subs...more
Richard Newton
This is a well written, lengthy book on the concept of strategy - from a military, political and business viewpoint. You have to be interested in strategy as a subject, and enjoy the history of ideas, but if you do, you will find a surprisingly easy read. Given its size there are one or two bits which drag, but overall Freedman has done a masterful job of weaving a huge range of material into a coherent book.

A couple of small criticisms and hence 4 rather than 5 stars. The introductory section o...more
Tuong Van
A tour de force blazing through many centuries of strategic thinking from different perspectives military, politics, sociology and economy, a gem crystallised wisdom of giants like Clausewitz, Jomini, Marx, Gandhi, King, etc. their triumphs and falls, a detailed accounts of evolution of many if not most concepts that laid the foundation of how humanity's attempt to deal with one of its basic struggles older than itself: conflicts (one common thing between chimps, David, God, and us). After readi...more
An excellent primer on the history of strategy. However, excepting a few notable exceptions, it is almost exclusively from the Western perspectives. General readers are in desperate need of a global history on, well, just about everything.

Still and all, for what it is, Strategy is an excellent book--large, but excellent.

Recommended for students of history and those interested in strategy.

Tom Jarmyn
Thoroughly canvasses the history of Western strategic thought. Sometimes seems like thirty separate essays on different aspects of strategy which makes it difficult to hold the plot and tempting to put the book down. However, the concluding chapter ties things together very nicely.
Paulo Reimann
Tremendous historic perspective. The book describes superbly the cycles of strategy from biblical and acient greek (deceptive) times till today. Onething is for sure. To strategize or understand strategy per se, still the mandatory reading is Clausewitz's On War reading...and re reading...
This is one of those books that are good for a review or to learn a little bit of many various points in history where strategic thinking made a difference. The book did cover all the major incidences in history from ancient Greece to fairly modern times and had good examples. However, I was a little disappointed the book didn't contain obscure incidences in history that played a major role or any revelations that are new. Reading the book was 'yup, that was one of those moments", or maybe I jus...more
Chris Ong
Easily the most interesting book I read of the last ten ... Can't believe that there's so much in this book ... it's like a toured journey through fun :)
There were guys in the horse! In. The. Horse!

(Couldn't finish this monster)
Linus Ragnhage
This is as complete an account of the art of strategy as I have ever encountered. Reading it as a series of anecdotes and a window into the past it deserved full marks, but each section ends without a sufficient weighing of the various arguments against each other and when conclusions appear they never seem to be fully justified by the earlier anecdotes. A more rigorous last chapter could have helped this book and an insight into the authors own effects on some of the portrayed events would have...more
Max Nova
Strategy is a big book that doesn’t really seem to say much. It certainly is a grand sweep through history - from Sun Tzu, the Greeks, and the Bible all the way up to the current day. Lawrence’s military analysis is pretty solid (more for the anicent stuff than the modern), but when he tries to extrapolate into social movements and business strategy stuff in the second half of the book, he lost me. There’s also not much original content in here - the book is largely a summary of some (better wri...more
Tarek Cherif
This is not an easy read, but it provides a relatively good summary of what strategy is and how it came to be. It is the best starting point I have come across for anyone interested in the field, but it requires supplementation with a great deal of other readings following it. Most probably I will come back to it once more after I have read a little more relevant literature. It also looks great in a library.
It's hard not to respect a book that bites off as much as this one. Discussion of American military strategy during the second half of the 20th century proved a bit dry, but a great read on the whole. It's nice to have a serious academic not only highlight the frameworks at play in 21st century business, but also expose their historical underpinnings.
The first few chapters were enthralling. They opened avenues of thinking for me that I had never considered before. But as I entered the second section of the book, I found the prose extremely dense and I couldn't concentrate enough to make sense of it. I've had to move on, but if time permits, I may venture back to this book.
Jason Larke
Interesting, but so meandering and comprehensive that I found it hard to maintain interest.
Federico Campagna
good and wide historical overview, but could do with more theoretical analysis.
Only the juvenile term "awesome" can render justice to this book.
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“Having a strategy suggests an ability to look up from the short term and the trivial to view the long term and the essential, to address causes rather than symptoms, to see woods rather than trees.” 1 likes
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