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War and the Cultural Turn

War and the Cultural Turn

Jeremy Black

ISBN: 978-0-745-64833-0 December 2011 Polity 200 Pages


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In this stimulating new text, renowned military historian Jeremy Black unpacks the concept of culture as a descriptive and analytical approach to the history of warfare. Black takes the reader through the limits and prospects of culture as a tool for analyzing war, while also demonstrating the necessity of maintaining the context of alternative analytical matrices, such as technology.

Black sets out his unique approach to culture and warfare without making his paradigm into a straightjacket. He goes on to demonstrate the flexibility of his argument through a series of case studies which include the contexts of rationale (Gloire), strategy (early modern Britaisn), organizations (the modern West), and ideologies (the Cold War). These case studies drive home the point at the core of the book: culture is not a bumper sticker; it is a survival mechanism. Culture is not immutable; it is adaptable.

Wide-ranging, international and always provocative, War and the Cultural Turn will be required reading for all students of military history and security studies.

Preface vii

1. Introduction 1

2. The Culture of Gloire: The Royal Military 44

3. Strategic Culture: The Case of Britain, 1688–1815 64

4. Organizational Cultures: Western Warfare, 1815–1950 91

5. Strategic Culture: The Cold War 110

6. From the Cold War into the Future 121

7. Culture and Military Analysis 141

8. Conclusions 153

Notes 175

Selected Further Reading 191

"Black's thoughts and arguments on what he terms the 'cultural turn' in military history are important and
will be widely read by military historians."

"A thoughtful and informed study that draws on a wide range of examples."
European History Quarterly

"This book is profoundly important for historians of warfare, but above all for its practitioners."
John France, Swansea University

"This work fills an intellectual niche: it is the only one establishing culture as a flexible, malleable concept. Key themes, above all the flexible nature of culture and the limits and prospects of its use as a tool for analyzing war,are clearly demonstrated. The book's thesis is also effectively contextualized with alternative analytical matrices, such as technology as a key determinant. Jeremy Black is one of the few scholars of war who commands the sources and goes beyond them."
Dennis Showalter, Colorado College