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The Cognitive Challenge of War

The Cognitive Challenge of War: Prussia 1806

Peter Paret
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    The Cognitive Challenge of War
    Book Description:

    Responding to the enemy's innovation in war presents problems to soldiers and societies of all times. This book traces Napoleon's victory over Prussia in 1806 and Prussia's effort to recover from defeat to show how in one particular historical episode operational analyses together with institutional and political decisions eventually turned defeat to victory.

    The author moves from a comparative study of French and Prussian forces to campaign narrative and strategic analysis. He examines processes of change in institutions and doctrine, as well as their dependence on social and political developments, and interprets works of art and literature as indicators of popular and elite attitudes toward war, which influence the conduct of war and the kind and extent of military innovation. In the concluding chapter he addresses the impact of 1806 on two men who fought on opposing sides in the campaign and sought a new theoretical understanding of war--Henri Jomini and Carl von Clausewitz.

    Fields of history that are often kept separate are brought together in this book, which seeks to replicate the links between different areas of thought and action as they exist in reality and shape events.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3134-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  2. 1 Two Battles
    (pp. 1-32)

    These pages discuss the response to innovation in war. “It is right to learn even from one’s enemies,” wrote Ovid. Right, but not necessarily easy. In exploring the issue, I shall address specifics much of the time, but to begin it might be useful to remind ourselves of some basic facts.

    The components of war—mobilization of human resources, discipline, weapons, tactics, strategy, and much else, the issues they raise, and the problems they pose—are timeless. But the forms they take and the social context that does much to shape them are always changing. How people react to change...

  3. 2 Violence in Words and Images
    (pp. 33-71)

    More powerfully than earlier French victories, the destruction of the Prussian army in 1806, which seemed to negate a century of German history, sent a message of irreversible change to German governments and their subjects. Reactions to this message soon appeared in broadsheets and popular prints, in paintings, essays, and longer literary works, which interpreted the fighting and its political outcome or, taking a long view, treated the war as representative of war as such—its drama, its effect on individual and community, its morality. As writers and artists address war, they give voice to more general social and cultural...

  4. 3 Responses and Reform
    (pp. 72-103)

    After the lost war, the men in tenuous charge of whatever remained of the Prussian monarchy faced a choice: accept that the state was now a French dependency, or work to regain its autonomy, which almost certainly meant a new war with France. Choosing the latter course would require a thorough investigation of the causes for the army’s defeat, and the development of effective countermeasures. Would relatively minor improvements in the organization and methods of the armed forces be adequate for a new confrontation, or was more encompassing change needed? A state in the center of the continent might answer...

  5. 4 The Conquest of Reality by Theory
    (pp. 104-144)

    The first part of this study traced the war of 1806, which challenged the defeated to understand the reasons for their defeat and adopt more effective methods for a future conflict. The next two chapters addressed cultural and social forces that influenced the response and help explain it, and the response itself, which took the form of institutional and individual action in conflicts that ranged innovation against current policy and tradition. each of these events was unique, yet developments similar to them occur throughout history: battles are won and lost; artists and writers re-create war in their works, though not...