Liddell Hart and the Weight of Historyby John J. Mearsheimer
Pub. Date: 04/28/2010
Publisher: Cornell University Press
For almost half a century, Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart (1895–1970) was the most highly regarded writer on strategy and military matters in the English-speaking world and even today, his ideas are still discussed and debated. Although he helped to formulate Great Britain's military doctrine after the First World War, it was his critique of British strategic
For almost half a century, Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart (1895–1970) was the most highly regarded writer on strategy and military matters in the English-speaking world and even today, his ideas are still discussed and debated. Although he helped to formulate Great Britain's military doctrine after the First World War, it was his critique of British strategic policy before and during the early years of the Second World War that earned him a seemingly unassailable reputation as a brilliant strategist.
In this unflinching but balanced book, John J. Mearsheimer reexamines Liddell Hart's career and uncovers evidence that he manipulated the facts to create a false picture of his role in military policy debates in the 1930s. According to Liddell Hart's widely accepted account, his progressive ideas about armored warfare were rejected by the British army and adopted instead by the more far-sighted German generals. The Wehrmacht's application of his theory of blitzkrieg, he claimed, resulted in the defeat of France in 1940, a disaster he foresaw. Setting the historical record straight, Mearsheimer shatters once and for all the myth of Liddell Hart's prescience in the interwar period.
Liddell Hart had, in fact, "been quite wrong on the basic military questions of the 1930s," Mearsheimer finds, "and his writings helped lead the British government into serious error. Wide recognition of Liddell Hart's misjudgments badly damaged his reputation during the war, and Mearsheimer shows how he mounted a successful campaign to restore his image. Although some of Liddell Hart's military theories are still relevant, Mearsheimer warns that they should be applied with caution. This troubling book offers a striking illustration of how history can be used and abusedhow a gifted individual can create their own self-serving version of the past.
Based on scrupulously documented evidence, Liddell Hart and the Weight of History is certain to be of great interest to those concerned with military policy and history.
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Contra the one-star review above, Guderian only acknowledged Liddell Hart's influence in writing in the English edition of his memoirs because Liddell Hart specifically asked him to do so. Nowhere else does Guderian ever make such a statement. This book is significant if somewhat densely written, and provides a necessary corrective to Liddell Hart's imaginative reconstruction of his own past failures and oversights.
I believe the fact Guderian acknowledged in writing Liddell-Hart's influence on the General's pre-war thought debunks this book's theme. The author is merely speculating.