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New Scholarship on World War I, 2000–2014: Strategy & Tactics

By Frederic Krome

Strategy & Tactics

It is a truism among military historians that amateurs talk tactics while professionals discuss logistics.  Even professional historians, however, need to understand the relationship between political goals, strategy, and tactics (or operations).  The defeat of the Central Powers was the political goal, and the historiography of the Anglo-French strategic relationship did not shift much until recently.  Elizabeth Greenhalgh, in Victory through Coalition: Britain and France during the First World War, provides a meticulous examination of the interrelationship between the politics of the Western Allies and the resulting strategic decisions.  Greenhalgh is particularly astute in demonstrating how the political and strategic ground shifted between the first two years of the war and the last two years.

Historical studies of operations can often seem overspecialized for undergraduate libraries.  Yet the impact of a broader range of methods (and historical questions), combined with the mining of sources not previously used, has produced books that can bridge specialized and general audiences, especially if a university sponsors an ROTC program.  Jonathan Krause’s Early Trench Tactics in the French Army: The Second Battle of Artois, May-June 1915 is a detailed study of how the French army adapted to the reality of trench warfare.  Unlike older interpretations that assumed hidebound generals in thrall to the cult of the offensive, Krause demonstrates how operational flexibility was actually more common than previously assumed.

Artillery played a decisive role in World War I, both in blasting entrenched positions and in disrupting enemy offensives.  Sanders Marble, British Artillery on the Western Front in the First World War, examines the learning curve of the Royal Artillery and how it created both doctrine and the logistical means of supporting the infantry.  As with many recent studies, Marble points to a flexibility and adaptability among British officers not previously recognized in the literature.

Works Cited