The best strategic studies books that bring a deeper understanding of war

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Author Of Strategic Nuclear Sharing
By Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield)

Who am I?

I am a professor of political science with a focus on strategic studies and the causes of war, and before that, I was an operations officer at an army engineering regiment during the Cold War, and before that I was an adolescent wargamer obsessively applying math to sociological problems, and before that an enthusiast of military history. I have had the generosity of providence to conduct research in and on Pakistan’s military for over ten years, as well in Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Egypt. These are the books I think every scholar of strategic studies should start with, as they provide an inspirational and the most direct path to strategic insight.   


I wrote...

Strategic Nuclear Sharing

By Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield),

Book cover of Strategic Nuclear Sharing

What is my book about?

Countries should not be sharing nuclear weapons technology, because giving away or losing control over the knowledge of such a substantial amount of military power, could adversely affect the country in the future. However, strategic nuclear sharing is not rare, particularly between democracies, and developing nuclear arsenals in other countries will often be enabled when countries face a common adversary. The biggest factor facilitating nuclear non-proliferation is the fear that major powers will be equipping the enemies of their principal adversary, thereby undermining the ability of major powers to intervene. This causes a collusive practice by the major powers to coordinate together a policy to limit the spread of nuclear weapons through the implementation of international agreements. 

The books I picked & why

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The Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present

By Richard Ernest Dupuy, Trevor N. Dupuy,

Book cover of The Encyclopedia of Military History from 3500 B.C. to the Present

Why this book?

Dupuy & Dupuy’s Encyclopedia of Military History is the historical bedrock of strategic studies. Despite its name, it is not so much an encyclopedia, as a readable chronological account of world history. It is integrated with insightful commentary on technology, tactics, leadership, and society, presented at the beginning of each chapter, and within sections dedicated to specific battles and wars. Although Wikipedia now exceeds it in the detail of the events and the background of the conflicts covered, Wikipedia lacks a roadmap or the careful examination of the cumulative historical changes that underpin warfare. I assign this fourteen hundred-page text as the primary text in my introduction to strategic studies course. 


Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492-2015

By Micheal Clodfelter,

Book cover of Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492-2015

Why this book?

Warfare and Armed Conflicts is indeed an Encyclopedia, arranged chronologically, that surveys five centuries of battles and wars. What makes it so indispensable is that it focuses not on the chronology of events or personalities, but primarily on the presentation of available numbers, including the size of armies in battles, personnel casualties, and equipment losses. A study of strategy, war causation, victory, and defeat, depends heavily on understanding the relative strengths and capabilities of adversaries, which makes this text so valuable for understanding the causes of the outcomes of battles and wars. The presentation of numbers often challenges the conventional wisdom of events, and helps explain the periodic disasters of military history.    


How to Make War: A Comprehensive Guide to Modern Warfare in the Twenty-First Century

By James F Dunnigan,

Book cover of How to Make War: A Comprehensive Guide to Modern Warfare in the Twenty-First Century

Why this book?

Jim Dunnigan, the author of How to Make War, is the founder of Simulations Publications International (SPI), a commercial wargame company from the early 1970s, that revolutionized our understanding of warfare by applying historical data to combat simulation. SPI’s alumni are some of the most productive wargame designers, credited with designing simulations that frequently predicted the outcome of wars. How to Make War provides an introductory survey with insightful analysis of the key elements of modern warfare, often controversial, but always well explained. The four editions between 1983 and 2003 are updated significantly to reflect the evolving interests in military matters in each period. This is the secondary text I assign as part of my introductory strategic studies course.  


Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age

By Peter Paret (editor), Gordon A. Craig (editor), Felix Gilbert (editor)

Book cover of Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age

Why this book?

Makers of Modern Strategy, comprising 29 essays, is the most compact compendium of the key strategic ideas from the last three centuries, which influence contemporary events. It is a substantial revision of a seminal 1943 text published by Princeton University to inform strategic studies analysts during the Second World War. It is primarily rich in linking national strategies to key thinkers, in historical context, and it covers the full spectrum of social, historical, institutional, economic, revolutionary, and military practices. It is often assigned as standard text in senior military staff colleges. Several of its essays are mandatory readings in my strategic studies classes, particularly on insurgency, and the strategic theories that informed the Third Reich war aims.  


World War II Almanac 1931-1945

By Robert Goralski,

Book cover of World War II Almanac 1931-1945

Why this book?

The Second World War was the largest inter-state conflict to date, and largely informs contemporary patterns of geopolitics, international institutions, and military technology, like nuclear weapons. Knowledge of the Second World War, which is nevertheless complex, is therefore vital. The World War II Almanac’s format as a day-by-day chronological account of the conflict provides unique political, strategic, diplomatic, economic, and military insights, which would otherwise be inaccessible without having read at least ten times as many sources. Because the book covers events from 1931 to 1945, it describes the early Japanese policies in China as well as the crucial evolution of fascism within Europe. It also comes with a detailed appendix of charts and tables on a variety of topics, which makes it pedagogically invaluable as an introduction to the Second World War.    


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