Journal of a graduate student in military history and the American Civil War

Jomini on the Nature of War – Part III – The Founder of Modern Strategy

with 3 comments

Napoleon at Arcola

This post continues from Jomini on the Nature of War: Part I Introduction here and Part II The Burgeoning Military Theorist here. Please note links in blue lead to additional information on those topics.

Baron Antoine-Henri de Jomini, who was a product of the Napoleonic era, attempted to make warfare “scientific.”[i] According to Shy, this led him to reduce the study of war “…to a preoccupation with ‘strategy’ – a set of prescriptive techniques for military analysis and planning that has continued to dominate thinking on the subject.”[ii]

“…His general approach to the problem of war, abstracting it from its political and social context, emphasizing decision-making rules and operations results, turning warfare into a huge game of chess, has been surprisingly durable. Jomini more than Clausewitz, deserves the dubious title of founder of modern strategy.”[iii]

The core of Jomini’s theory of warfare, which he set down as a young man in 1803, was that:Jomini

  • “strategy is the key to warfare
  •  all strategy is controlled by invariable scientific principles
  •  these principles prescribe offensive action to mass forces against weaker enemy forces at some decisive point in strategy is to lead to victory.”[iv]

What is a decisive point?

One whose attack or capture would imperil or seriously weaken the enemy.[v] 

More in next post….

[i, ii, iii, iv, v] John Shy, “Jomini,” in Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, ed. Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 144 – 146.

3 Responses

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  1. I’m pursuing my Master’s in Military History from Norwich University. Your website is very well done. You’ve obviously put alot of thought and work into it. This seminar we’re focusing on military theory, so of course I’m up to my ears with Jomini & Clausewitz. You’ve given me a great deal of food for thought. Thanks.


    March 11, 2008 at 3:09 am

  2. Hey Carole,

    Thanks for dropping by Wig Wags! I so remember my semester with Clausewitz and Jomini and all those great thinkers. Would love to hear more about your program. Stay in touch!


    Rene Tyree

    March 11, 2008 at 5:06 pm

  3. Also at Norwich, and have some of the same questions about Jomini and the CW


    November 6, 2008 at 1:31 pm

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