Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman behind the Making of On War

Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman behind the Making of On War

Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman behind the Making of On War

Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman behind the Making of On War

Synopsis

For generations, among those who revere the work of Carl von Clausewitz, the role of his beloved wife, nee Marie von Bruhl, in shaping his seminal work on military theory has been a subject of intense speculation. It seems certain that without her On War would never have been published. But ashistorian and Clausewitz scholar Vanya Eftimova Bellinger establishes in this ground-breaking biography of the "other" Clausewitz, Marie was far more than merely a supportive wife who facilitated her husband's legacy. Marie's 1810 marriage to von Clausewitz did not make sense by most accounts (least of all to her mother). She was a wealthy, cultured, and politically engaged young woman; he was a minor Prussian officer. But the bond between Marie and Claus was forged by love, a deep sense of trust, and a meetingof the minds over common interests. A newly discovered archive of correspondence reveals the extent of Marie's influence on her husband, beginning with the very early days of the courtship and lasting until his premature death. The two came to a "collaborative opinion" on many topics, from the moral implications of war to the emotional constitution of true leadership. Marie's involvement, too, adds insight about the role of class and gender relations in a time when women were excluded from politics-the perspective of a spouse and caretaker on the home-front, observing the physical and emotional effects of combat. The issues that Marie von Clausewitz raised about the hardships of war - such as the social isolation and treatment of veterans, and the use of violence to achieve political and economic rights - still resonate today. This biography sheds light on an extraordinary life and mind, offering the first comprehensive and compelling look at the woman behind the composition of On War.

Excerpt

It is one of history’s great ironies that the West’s seminal treatise on war—an activity traditionally inseparable from constructions of masculinity—was edited and published by a woman. For the last two hundred years up to the present, the military realm, still blatantly dominated by men, has passionately debated Carl von Clausewitz’s book On War. It remains perhaps the most influential study of the nature of organized violence ever written. Clausewitz’s observations and precepts lie at the heart of modern military doctrine—indeed they form its foundation. Taken as the bible of warfare, On War has been translated into every major language (in Chinese alone there are over thirty different editions). It has been applied to virtually all conflicts since its publication nearly two centuries ago, including irregular conflicts and, most recently, to the asymmetrical violence known as global terrorism. Its most famous premise, that war is a continuation of politics with other means, has come to dominate the arenas of foreign policy and conflict resolution.

Among these various interpretations, the first and arguably most far-reaching was of Marie von Clausewitz, but her impact has been missing from the debate about On War, despite the fact that she was and remains a constant fixture in Carl’s life and achievements. Scholars frequently cite the twenty-six letters Marie wrote to the famous military theorist and credit her with preserving his seminal work after his death and seeing it through to publication. Even the first biography—by Karl Schwartz and dating from 1878—bears the joint name The Life of General Carl von Clausewitz and Madam Marie von Clausewitz, born Countess von Brühl. Yet at the same time Marie has remained virtually unknown, and her influence has been underappreciated and understudied. A long list of questions surrounds her personal life and her involvement with the writing of On War, and every new work about Clausewitz seems to add to these unanswered questions.

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