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The Enlightened Soldier: Scharnhorst and the Militarische Gesellschaft in Berlin, 1801-1805

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  54 ratings  ·  13 reviews
This volume explores the essence of German military professionalism as exemplified by the nineteenth century Prussian German Staff. The study focuses on the most important Prussian military reformer--Gerhard Johann David von Scharnhorst, who in 1801 founded the Militarische Gesellschaft (Military Society) in Berlin. The Gesellschaft became the focal point for the transform ...more
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published November 17th 1988 by Praeger
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Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: military, non-fiction
Heavy-duty, well-researched, military history. Definitely not for everyone, but I agree with folks who consider this a must read for that unique collection of "enlightened" academics who focus their research and teaching on the art of war. Having said that, this historical vignette is much less of a how to guide or handy reference for planning an assault or defending valuable terrain ... and instead chronicles the transition from a feudal/royal monopoly over the arms-bearing "arts" to the more m ...more
William Goode
Oct 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Charles Edward White’s The Enlightened Soldier puts military education in an intriguing perspective. The emphasis on Scharnhorst’s influence attributes worthy credit to him. This book reminds the reader of the importance of a liberal education in the arts and sciences for the military leader. White supports his acclaim of Scharnhorst with the historical success of the Prussian military over Napoleon in contrast to its prior humiliating defeat a few years prior. Count Friedrich Wilhelm, Scharnhor ...more
Ryan W.
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’ve wanted to read this book for quite some time—it did not disappoint. I once read that Lord Admiral Nelson died at the Battle of Trafalgar and no one noticed due to the ensuing victory of his forces. Only after the battle did his forces realize their commander had died, because through his leadership, he had made them all Nelson’s. Great leaders do just that, and Scharnhorst was in fact a great leader both in the classroom and on the battlefield, producing pupils such as Clausewitz who remain ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Probably the best book i have read on the development of the Prussian General Staff (this makes #3). Scharnhorst understood that nations should never rely on the "great man theory" for a military, rather they must create systems that allow for the continual replacement of each individual. Further, Scharnhorst took to ensure that the military became a profession, where the officers read and studied their profession.
It's an expensive book, one that I had to receive through an inter-library loan (
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A good look into the life of Scharnhorst and the reforms that he instituted to create the modern professional soldier. The book does a great job of showing how the events and circumstances of the world around him influenced Scharnhorst. I feel like there was some topics of the reform that could've been covered in greater detail such as the reforms at the lower levels of the Prussian military after 1806, such as with the enlisted or the lowest officer ranks, but the amount of focus on the reforms ...more
Bryan Davenport
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read on the man who reformed Prussia and trained the Prussian greats. The legacy of Scharnhorst is, arguably, the most profound impact on the 19th Century Profession of Arms. A must read and keeper on the shelf with the classics; especially if you do not read German.
Thor Toms
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book. Unbelievable how much the military profession can owe to a single person.
Roy Draa
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the foundation of study in maneuver warfare. A must read for those interested in organizational change.
Ulysses Sosa
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
An absolute must read for military officers, educators, and political officials.
Jul 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After their defeat in 1806 at the hands of Napolean, the Prussian Army regrouped and became a model fighting force that is still worth emulating today. What many don't know is that the seeds for their reformation were planted years before Jena by a group of officers devoted to advancing the profession. This book is about Scharnhorst and his military society who met from 1801-1805, discussing books, debating doctrine, writing articles, and truly studying their profession. These young leaders adva ...more
Dustin Stewart
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My Captains Career Course small-group instructor put this book on his reading list for the our class. Contrary to what the title of the book might imply, the book has more than military implications.

Scharnhorst's story was a story of humanitarian ideals and principles and how to influence people to patiently adapt broad organizational change as a part of a modern, sophisticated hyper-opinionated society over decades.

For example, he cultivated a group of officers that would write essays about mil
Aug 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Prior to reading this book I was not aware of how significantly Prussian military reform affected our present-day military education system. White provides a clear discussion of the genius that was Gerhard Johann David von Scharnhorst.

Overall, it has a textbook feel, but one could clearly follow the arguments.
Richard Jahelka
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
A lot of potential here.
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