Castles, Battles, and Bombs: How Economics Explains Military History

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Overview

Castles, Battles, and Bombs reconsiders key episodes of military history from the point of view of economics—with dramatically insightful results. For example, when looked at as a question of sheer cost, the building of castles in the High Middle Ages seems almost inevitable: though stunningly expensive, a strong castle was far cheaper to maintain than a standing army. The authors also reexamine the strategic bombing of Germany in World War II and provide new insights into France’s decision to develop nuclear weapons. Drawing on these examples and more, Brauer and Van Tuyll suggest lessons for today’s military, from counterterrorist strategy and military manpower planning to the use of private military companies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

"In bringing economics into assessments of military history, [the authors] also bring illumination. . . . [The authors] turn their interdisciplinary lens on the mercenary arrangements of Renaissance Italy; the wars of Marlborough, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon; Grant's campaigns in the Civil War; and the strategic bombings of World War II. The results are invariably stimulating."—Martin Walker, Wilson Quarterly

 

"This study is serious, creative, important. As an economist I am happy to see economics so professionally applied to illuminate major decisions in the history of warfare."—Thomas C. Schelling, Winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics

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Editorial Reviews

Wilson Quarterly
In bringing economics into assessments of military history, [the authors] also bring illumination. . . . [The authors] turn their interdisciplinary lens on the mercenary arrangements of Renaissance Italy; the wars of Marlborough, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon; Grant's campaigns in the Civil War; and the strategic bombings of World War II. The results are invariably stimulating.

— Martin Walker

Choice
"The authors have cogently synthesized an extensive literature to effectively demonstrate to nonspecialists how basic economic concepts can provide insights into the nature of war."
Journal of Economic History
[Brauer and van Tuyll’s] analysis and discussion of military history is fascinating and mirrors the substantial recent interest on the economic dimensions of conflicts and the fiscal important of strategic choices. . . . The strengths of this book include the clarity of the material and the writing style, the accessibility of both the economic theory and historical cases used, and the various illustrations and additional materials. . . . I can heartily recommend this for everyone interested in military history and on how economics theory can help us understand historical outcomes better.”

— Jari Eloranta

Thomas C. Schelling
"My skepticism was relieved by the preface, my expectations enhanced by the first chapter, my confidence assured by the second.  This study is serious, creative, important.  As an economist I am happy to see economics so professionally applied to illuminate major decisions in the history of warfare."
John J. McCusker
“Rarely does reading a book offer such rewards. Unarguably scholarly, cast in Jared Diamond’s mold, Brauer and van Tuyll’s work transported this economic historian across centuries and into realms that opened my eyes and engaged my imagination, both as an historian and an economist. My understanding of a past I thought I knew has been broadened and deepened and my teaching of that past forever altered. I enjoyed the journey. I am in the authors’ debt.”
Wilson Quarterly - Martin Walker
"In bringing economics into assessments of military history, [the authors] also bring illumination. . . . [The authors] turn their interdisciplinary lens on the mercenary arrangements of Renaissance Italy; the wars of Marlborough, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon; Grant's campaigns in the Civil War; and the strategic bombings of World War II. The results are invariably stimulating."
Journal of Economic History - Jari Eloranta
“[Brauer and van Tuyll’s] analysis and discussion of military history is fascinating and mirrors the substantial recent interest on the economic dimensions of conflicts and the fiscal important of strategic choices. . . . The strengths of this book include the clarity of the material and the writing style, the accessibility of both the economic theory and historical cases used, and the various illustrations and additional materials. . . . I can heartily recommend this for everyone interested in military history and on how economics theory can help us understand historical outcomes better.”
Choice
"The authors have cogently synthesized an extensive literature to effectively demonstrate to nonspecialists how basic economic concepts can provide insights into the nature of war."
Choice

"The authors have cogently synthesized an extensive literature to effectively demonstrate to nonspecialists how basic economic concepts can provide insights into the nature of war."—Choice

Wilson Quarterly

"In bringing economics into assessments of military history, [the authors] also bring illumination. . . . [The authors] turn their interdisciplinary lens on the mercenary arrangements of Renaissance Italy; the wars of Marlborough, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon; Grant's campaigns in the Civil War; and the strategic bombings of World War II. The results are invariably stimulating."—Martin Walker, Wilson Quarterly

— Martin Walker

Journal of Economic History

“[Brauer and van Tuyll’s] analysis and discussion of military history is fascinating and mirrors the substantial recent interest on the economic dimensions of conflicts and the fiscal important of strategic choices. . . . The strengths of this book include the clarity of the material and the writing style, the accessibility of both the economic theory and historical cases used, and the various illustrations and additional materials. . . . I can heartily recommend this for everyone interested in military history and on how economics theory can help us understand historical outcomes better.”—Jari Eloranta, Journal of Economic History

— Jari Eloranta

Library Journal

Brauer (economics) and van Tuyll (history), professors at Augusta State University, GA, here examine military history from the Middle Ages to the present through the lens of economics, intending to explain economic concepts in simple and accessible terms to a readership with a background in history. In-depth economic discussion is confined to a single chapter at the book's beginning. The remaining chapters examine case studies from history, e.g., the rise and fall of mercenaries in Italy during the Renaissance, and reinterpret them through a grid of six broad economic concepts, such as opportunity cost and diminishing marginal returns. Brauer and van Tuyll's approach to military history is unusual and can bring out surprising insights, as when they apply economic and historical concepts to America's current use of private military companies in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, their book will be tough going for those not interested in the intricacies of war strategy or those who do not have strong existing knowledge of historical terms and subjects. Suitable for academic libraries only.
—April Younglove

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226071633
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jurgen Brauer is professor of economics in the James M. Hull College of Business at Augusta State University and the author of Arms Trade and Economic Development. Hubert P. van Tuyll is professor of history and chair of the Department of History, Anthropology, and Philosophy at Augusta State University. He is the author of The Netherlands and World War I. 

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Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables
Preface
 
Chapter 1. Economics 
 
Economics
Principle I: Opportunity Cost
Principle II: Expected Marginal Costs and Benefits
Principle III: Substitution 
Principle IV: Diminishing Marginal Returns
Principle V: Asymmetric Information and Hidden Characteristics 
Principle VI: Hidden Actions and Incentive Alignments
Conclusion: Economics—and Military History
 
Chapter 2. The High Middle Ages, 1000–1300: The Case of the Medieval Castle and the Opportunity Cost of Warfare

Opportunity Cost and Warfare
The Ubiquity of Castles
The Cost of Castling
The Advantages of Castles
The Cost of Armies
Castle Building and the Other Principles of Economics
Conclusion

Chapter 3. The Renaissance, 1300–1600: The Case of the Condottieri and the Military 
 
Labor Market
The Principal-Agent Problem
Demand, Supply, and Recruitment
Contracts and Pay
Control and Contract Evolution
The Development of Permanent Armies
Condottieri and the Other Principles of Economics
Conclusion
 
Chapter 4. The Age of Battle, 1618–1815: The Case of Costs, Benefits, and the Decision to Offer Battle
 
Expected Marginal Costs and Benefits of Battle
The 1600s: Gustavus Adolphus and Raimondo de Montecuccoli
The 1700s: Marlborough, de Saxe, and Frederick the Great
Napoleonic Warfare
The Age of Battle and the Other Principles of Economics 
Conclusion
 
Chapter 5. The Age of Revolution, 1789–1914: The Case of the American Civil War and the Economics of Information Asymmetry
 
Information and Warfare
North, South, and the Search for Information
Major Eastern Campaigns through Gettysburg
Grant in Virginia
The American Civil War and the Other Principles of Economics
Conclusion
 
Chapter 6. The Age of the World Wars, 1914–1945: The Case of Diminishing Marginal Returns to the Strategic Bombing of Germany in World War II

A Strategic Bombing Production Function
Bombing German War Production
Bombing the Supply Chain and the Civilian Economy
Bombing German Morale
Assessing the Effect of Strategic Bombing
Strategic Bombing and the Other Principles of Economics
Conclusion

Chapter 7. The Age of the Cold War, 1945–1991: The Case of Capital-Labor Substitution and France’s Force de Frappe

History of the Force de Frappe
The Force Post­–De Gaulle
Justifying the Force
The Force’s Effect on France’s Conventional Arms
Substituting Nuclear for Conventional Forces
The Force de Frappe and the Other Principles of Economics
Conclusion

Chapter 8. Economics and Military History in the Twenty-first Century Economics of Terrorism

Economics of Military Manpower 
Economics of Private Military Companies 
Economics, Historiography, and Military History 
Conclusion

Notes
References
Index

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