The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050

By Stephenson, Scott | Military Review, March/April 2003 | Go to article overview

The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050


Stephenson, Scott, Military Review


THE DYNAMICS OF MILITARY REVOLUTION, 1300-2050, MacGregor Knox and Williamson Murray, eds., Cambridge University Press, NY, 2001, 224 pages, $27.95.

Much has been written recently about military revolutions, and much of it represents truly useful analysis. Some, however, is jargon-riddled rubbish. The Dynamics of Military Revolution belongs to the former category. The book's two editors, MacGregor Knox and Williamson Murray have written widely and well on the topic of military revolutions. In preparing this collection, they enlisted the services of some of the best military historians working today, among them Dennis Showalter, John Lynn, Clifford Rogers, and Holger Herwig.

Together, the contributors examine famous and not-so-famous examples of dramatic periods of change in warfare and the environment of war. Beginning with the 14th century military system of Edward III of England, the topics include the early modern revolution (exemplified in the French Army of Louis XIV); the transformation of war that followed in the wake of the French Revolution and Napoleon; the battlefleet revolution led by Britain's Jackie Fisher; the creation of the three-dimensional battlefield in World War I, and the blitzkrieg revolution unleashed by the Germans 20 years later.

Knox and Murray provide the thread linking these case studies in their opening essay "Thinking About Revolutions in Warfare." Military revolutions, write Knox and Murray, are cataclysms that reshape governments and societies as well as militaries. The military revolution of the 17th century helped found the modern nation-state and led to a Western military preeminence that has endured into the 21st century.

In the editors' view, revolutions in military affairs (RMAs) take place within the broader framework of military revolutions and involve a conceptual rethinking of the conduct of warfare, usually within a subcategory of war. …

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