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Masters of War: Classical Strategic Thought

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  274 ratings  ·  15 reviews
This is the first comprehensive study based on a detailed textual analysis of the classical works on war by Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Mao Tse-tung, and to a lesser extent, Jomini and Machiavelli. Brushing stereotypes aside, the author takes a fresh look at what these strategic thinkers actually said--not what they are widely believed to have said. He finds that despite their ap ...more
Paperback, 482 pages
Published October 1st 2000 by Routledge (first published September 1992)
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Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Far easier read than the source material (Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Mao, Jomini) and a great dilution and synopsis of their critical points, drawing comparisons, contrasts, and thought exercises derived from each. Handel shows that many timeless and important aspects of strategy in war are shared among all these classic theoreticians, and combined they are additive and agree far more than disagree.

Best used to reinforce concepts after having already consumed the original classic sources; however with
Ali Shemeis
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Jomini, Machiavelli ..
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: strategy
Excellent comparison between Sun Tzu and Clausewitz.. the writing style could have been a little more user friendly. A must read
Franco Arda
Oct 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Imagine what it would be like if scientist or physicians were to rely on a text written over 150, let alone 2,000, years ago as the most valuable source of introduction in their profession.

Yes, Masters on War is an academic book, while military history & strategy enthusiast should still find many topics interesting. The hypothesis of the author is that the basic logic of strategy is universal. Which should appeal to the non academic reader too ... it's not light reading though!

For a lighter Mili
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: strategy, clausewitz
This is an outstanding comparative analysis of Clausewitz, Sun Tzu and Mao, and is a great companion volume while reading any of these theorists, but especially Clausewitz. Handel clearly illustrates his analysis by using quotes from the works of the major theorists. The most rewarding parts of the book to me were the sections on the importance of politics to the military commander, moral forces in war as found in Clausewitz, and chapter 9: "The Supreme Act of Judgement: Understanding the Nature ...more
Dean Marquis
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a worthwhile read. It combines Clausewitz, Sun Tzu and Jomini. Before I read this book I read Sun Tzu by shambala and I' read a few Clausewitz books. Ive never read any Jomini untill i picked up his book second hand. I thought Jomini was an excellent read on his own. He was a contempary of Clausewitz and they both fought on the same side. Jonini look at Lines of Operation was eye opening and worked on more then one level. If I had a problem, that was it. Jomini and Clausewitz are two sim ...more
Nov 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A study of the works of Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Mao Tse-tung, Jomini, and Machiavelli.

Most people will have heard of Sun Tzu and Mao Tse-tung. Fewer will have heard of Clausewitz. Rare are those who have heard of Jomini. And very few know that Machiavelli wrote a tretise on warfare. So it is refreshing to have a single column that I can point people to who wish to learn more about all of them.
Pretty darn good book. I think it would be a little hard to follow for the casual reader who wasn't well versed in the concepts and the names of the main people, that is the only thing that keeps it from getting 5 stars. However, if you have already read "The Art of War", "On War" and the other books that form the foundation of our Western Military thought then this would be a good next step. ...more
Offers a nuanced comparison of Clausewitz and Sun Tzu, revealing similarities in their thinking regarding strategy and the use of force. Good text for identifying differences between "Western" and "Eastern" strategic thinking. Sections on Mao are also particularly interesting. ...more
Lawrence Brown
Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war-strategy
Primarily compares and contrasts the most famous war classicists: Calusewitz and SunTZu. The later editions considers other war theorists as well.
Excellent study on strategy by the masters
Feb 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a lengthy comparative work evaluating Sun Tzu with Clausewitz as the standard for strategy and what distinguishes the two great thinkers, Eastern and Western, on strategy.
Aug 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting read, although short on conclusions and inferences from the multiple classical theorists. Mostly a listing of what each said. Some of the best information is in the appendices.
Mar 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
good comparison of Sun Tzu and Clausewitz
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