On studying Military History

We must be careful when studying conflict. There are so many things that influence the totality of war. I found this excerpt from a book that is on my ‘to read list’

Three general rules of study must therefore be borne in mind by the
officer who studies military history as a guide to his profession and who
wishes to avoid pitfalls. First, he must study in width. He must observe the
way in which warfare has developed over a long historical period. Only
by seeing what does change can one deduce what does not; and as much
as can be learnt from the great discontinuities of military history as from
the apparent similarities of the techniques employed by the great captains
v
through the ages….Next he must study in depth. He should take a single
campaign and explore it thoroughly, not simply from official histories,
but from memoirs, letters, diaries. . . until the tidy outlines dissolve and
he catches a glimpse of the confusion and horror of real experience…
and, lastly, he must study in context. Campaigns and battles are not like
games of chess or football matches, conducted in total detachment from
their environment according to strictly defined rules. Wars are not tactical
exercises writ large. They are…conflicts of societies, and they can be
fully understood only if one understands the nature of the society fighting
them. The roots of victory and defeat often have to be sought far from the
battlefield, in political, social, and economic factors which explain why
armies are constituted as they are, and why their leaders conduct them in
the way they do…. It must not be forgotten that the true use of history,
military or civil… is not to make men clever for the next time; it is to make
them wise forever.

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