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

Why am I passionate about this?

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. 

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The books I picked & why

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

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Why did I love 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. 

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

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Why did I love 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.    

By Micheal Clodfelter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Warfare and Armed Conflicts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In its revised and updated fourth edition, this exhaustive encyclopedia provides a record of casualties of war from the last five centuries through 2015, with new statistical and analytical information. Figures include casualties from global terrorism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the fight against the Islamic State. New entries cover an additional 20 armed conflicts between 1492 and 2007 not included in previous editions. Arranged roughly by century and subdivided by world region, chronological entries include the name and dates of the conflict, precursor events, strategies and details, the outcome and its aftermath.


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

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Why did I love 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.  

By James F Dunnigan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Make War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An up-to-date, comprehensive survey of modern warfare furnishes a detailed explanation of virtually every facet of modern war, examining the world's armed forces, cutting-edge weapons, tactics, logistics, intelligence, the increasing use of terrorist techniques, and more. Original.


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

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Why did I love 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.  

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

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The essays in this volume analyze war, its strategic characterisitics and its political and social functions, over the past five centuries. The diversity of its themes and the broad perspectives applied to them make the book a work of general history as much as a history of the theory and practice of war from the Renaissance to the present. Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age takes the first part of its title from an earlier collection of essays, published by Princeton University Press in 1943, which became a classic of historical scholarship. Three essays are repinted…


Book cover of World War II Almanac 1931-1945

Julian Spencer-Churchill (Schofield) Why did I love 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.    

By Robert Goralski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked World War II Almanac 1931-1945 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Beginning with the rise of Hitler and of Japanese militarism, this comprehensive chronology details the battles, diplomacy, people, and incidents of the period, supplemented with numerous maps, photographs, and illustrations


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Aggressor

By FX Holden,

Book cover of Aggressor

FX Holden Author Of Aggressor

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a former journalist and intelligence officer turned writer, so I seek out authenticity in my reading, especially when it comes to war stories. I look for fiction from people who have been there or know how to listen to those who have, and be their voice. When I write, I always put together a team of veterans and specialists in their fields to challenge my work and make sure I get it right, too!

FX's book list on war stories you probably haven’t read yet

What is my book about?

It is April 1st, 2038. Day 60 of China's blockade of the rebel island of Taiwan. The US government has agreed to provide Taiwan with a weapons system so advanced, it can disrupt the balance of power in the region. But what pilot would be crazy enough to run the Chinese blockade to deliver it?

Aggressor is the first novel in a gripping action series about a future war in the Pacific, seen through the eyes of soldiers, sailors, civilians, and aviators on all sides. Featuring technologies that are on the drawing board today and could be fielded in the near future, Aggressor is the page-turning military technothriller you have been waiting for!

Aggressor

By FX Holden,

What is this book about?

"Full-throttle action..." Publishers Weekly BookLife April 2023 Editor's Pick.

It is April 1 2038. Day 60 of China's blockade of the rebel island of Taiwan.

The US government has agreed to provide Taiwan with a weapons system so advanced, it can disrupt the balance of power in the region.

But what pilot would be crazy enough to run the Chinese blockade to deliver it?

AGGRESSOR is the first novel in a new series that looks at the conflict that could spark the next World War, through the eyes of soldiers, sailors, civilians and aviators on all sides. Featuring technologies that…


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