How a strategist's ideas were catastrophically ignored in 1914—but shaped Britain’s success in the Second World War and beyond
Leading historian Andrew Lambert shows how, as a lawyer, civilian, and Liberal, Julian Corbett (1854–1922) brought a new level of logic, advocacy, and intellectual precision to the development of strategy.
Corbett skillfully integrated classical strategic theory, British history, and emerging trends in technology, geopolitics, and conflict to prepare the British state for war. He emphasized that strategy is a unique national construct, rather than a set of universal principles, and recognized the importance of domestic social reform and the evolving British Commonwealth. Corbett's concept of a maritime strategy, dominated by the control of global communications and economic war, survived the debacle of 1914–18, when Britain used the German "way of war" at unprecedented cost in lives and resources. It proved critical in the Second World War, shaping Churchill’s conduct of the conflict from the Fall of France to D-Day. And as Lambert shows, Corbett’s ideas continue to influence British thinking.
Andrew Lambert is Laughton Professor of Naval History at King’s College, London, and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of Seapower States.
“One of the most substantive studies we have yet of a British public intellectual in the early decades of the twentieth century. . . . A powerful and opinionated book, and a larger achievement for being so.”—Paul Kennedy, Journal of Military History
“This book is a must. . . . As ever with Professor Lambert, the prose is flowing and engaging, the arguments convincing, and the stamp of rigorous scholarship and considerable thinking evident on every page.”—G. H. Bennett, Journal of Military History
“Lambert leaves no stone unturned. This incredibly well-researched book unpicks Corbett’s life, his times, his contribution to naval thought and education, and his lasting legacy on what might be termed the British Way of War. This book isn’t just recommended, it is an immediate necessity for the shelves of any and every serious navalist.”—Captain Kevin Rowlands RN, Naval Review
“The British Way of War . . . is a blockbuster but it is beautifully written in peerless prose. It is keenly argued and easily takes its place in the pantheon of great naval literature. It is also timely, coming as the UK attempts to shape itself as ‘Global Britain.’”—Peter Hore, Warships International Fleet Review
“This is quite simply a wonderful book, rich in understanding and knowledge. It is, in many ways, the culmination of Lambert’s work on the development of British naval and strategic thinking through the 19th century. It is warmly recommended.”—Robin Brodhurst, Western Front Association
“A wonderfully detailed and thoroughly researched biography. . . . [Lambert] not only conducts a biographical study of Corbett’s life, but examines the historical events and debates that both shaped and gave purpose to his analysis.”—Darin MacDonald, Global Maritime History
“Andrew Lambert trawls through all of the relevant archives to uncover Corbett’s life and times, and then to overturn the standard accounts of British seapower from 1895 to 1915. This outstanding work will become an essential text for anyone interested in naval history and strategy.”—John Ferris, author of Behind the Enigma
“Andrew Lambert, the leading naval historian of our generation, writing a biography of Sir Julian Corbett, the best maritime strategist ever: this is a perfect match. The result is a tremendously erudite, beautifully written study of Corbett’s thoughts and world in all its detail, against the background of Britain’s global politics of his times.”—Beatrice Heuser, author of The Evolution of Strategy
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