Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

The Direction of War
Contemporary Strategy in Historical Perspective


  • Date Published: December 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107654235
Average user rating
(1 review)

£ 26.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • The wars since 9/11, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, have generated frustration and an increasing sense of failure in the West. Much of the blame has been attributed to poor strategy. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, public enquiries and defence think tanks have detected a lack of consistent direction, of effective communication, and of governmental coordination. In this important book, Sir Hew Strachan, one of the world's leading military historians, reveals how these failures resulted from a fundamental misreading and misapplication of strategy itself. He argues that the wars since 2001 have not in reality been as 'new' as has been widely assumed and that we need to adopt a more historical approach to contemporary strategy in order to identify what is really changing in how we wage war. If war is to fulfil the aims of policy, then we need first to understand war.

    • Major contribution to contemporary strategic thought by one of the world's leading military historians and a key advisor on defence policy
    • Provides a comprehensive account of the evolution of war since 9/11
    • Makes the case for the reintegration of history into contemporary strategy and public policy
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'A very thoughtful, enormously stimulating, and hugely thought-provoking examination of the strategies, concepts, and civil-military relationships that have influenced the character of war in the twenty-first century.' General David H. Petraeus, former Commander of United States Central Command and Commanding General of the Multi-National Force - Iraq and the NATO International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan

    'Another masterpiece from the foremost military academic of our generation. If you want to understand strategy, just read this book!' General Sir David Richards GCB CBE DSO, former Chief of Defence Staff

    'Unparalleled in historic depth of argument, a surprising yet seductive view on whether modern war should bend to the demands of politics, or politics to the needs of war.' Jan Willem Honig, King's College London

    'Strachan's historical analyses are a valuable addition to the literature on strategy. He invites the reader to think carefully about what we think we know and understand about strategy, and, perhaps more significantly, why we understand and think about strategy the way we do today.' Terry Terriff, University of Calgary

    'A valuable book tracing an esteemed scholar's contributions to contemporary strategic thinking.' Antulio Echevarria, Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College

    '[A] powerful and stimulating essay about the conduct of war and peace in our time. It is an essential read for MPs and hacks, the ideal primer for the debate about why we need armed force, and in what form, today.' London Evening Standard

    'Impressive and provocative.' Daily Telegraph

    '… a timely and devastating critique.' Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian online

    '… extremely well written …' Jerry Lenaburg, New York Journal of Books

    '[Strachan's] insistence on Clausewitzian exactitude produces a uniquely incisive assessment of key moments in America's twenty-first-century wars that may be particularly valuable to American leadership as it leaves them behind.' Foreign Policy's 'The Best Defense' blog

    '… offers much good sense.' Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    11th Jul 2014 by Naren

    There is a dichotomy in understanding the war, is the nature changing or the character of war changing? perhaps both are not changing because the difference is brought in war fighting by the means. Incidentally the out come of war remains constant. The book Direction of War, contemporary strategy in historical perspective unfold the reality that strategies of war fighting has not changed, Historical strategies are as relevant today as they were at the time of inception. What is significant is that these strategies of war fighting or war avoidance need to be adapted to present milieu. End state of every war being fought in either of the domain remains pursuance of state policy when other means fail.

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107654235
    • length: 335 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.54kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. War and strategy at the beginning of the twenty-first century
    2. The meaning of strategy: historical perspectives
    3. The case for Clausewitz: reading 'On War' today
    4. Making strategy work: civil-military relations in Britain and the United States
    5. Strategy and the limitation of war
    6. Europe armies and limited war
    7. The limitations of strategic culture: the case of the British way in warfare
    8. Maritime strategy and national policy
    9. Technology and strategy
    10. War is war: imperial legacies and current conflicts
    11. Strategy and the operational level of war
    12. Strategy and contingency
    13. Strategy: change and continuity.

  • Author

    Hew Strachan, University of Oxford
    Hew Strachan is Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of All Souls College. Between 2004 and 2012 he was the Director of the Oxford Programme on the Changing Character of War. He also serves on the Strategic Advisory Panel of the Chief of the Defence Staff, on the UK Defence Academy Advisory Board, and on the Council of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Foreign Policy listed him as one of the most influential global thinkers for 2012 and he was knighted in the New Year's Honours for 2013. His books include the first volume of his projected three-volume work The First World War (2001), which was awarded two American military history prizes and nominated for the Glenfiddich Scottish book of the year; The First World War: A New Illustrated History (2003), published to accompany a ten-part television series for Channel 4 and nominated for a British Book Award; and Carl von Clausewitz's On War (2007). His recent edited volumes include The Changing Character of War (2011) and How Fighting Ends (2012).

Featured Video

Hew Strachan on The Direction of War

Related Books

also by this author

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×
warning icon

Turn stock notifications on?

You must be signed in to your Cambridge account to turn product stock notifications on or off.

Sign in Create a Cambridge account arrow icon

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.