Book Review: The Evolution of Operational Art, 1740-1813: From Frederick the Great to Napoleon


by Claus Telp

London & New York: Routledge, 2014. Pp. xii, 226. Maps, append., notes, biblio., index. $48.95 paper. ISBN: 0415649218

The Complex Roots of “Operational Art”

Originally published in 2005 and now available in softcover, The Evolution of Operational Art gives us a revealing look at how the practice of operational warfare grew from the age of Frederick through that of Napoleon.  Dr. Telp (Sandhurst) opens a discussion of the political, technical, and organizational restraints on of operations in Frederick’s time and the many new ideas in organization, tactics, and military policy that came to the fore by the outbreak the wars of the French Revolution.  He next looks at the evolution of “operational art” during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic regimes down to 1806.  Telp follows this with a chapter on the Jena Campaign, looking at how the new French ideas about warfare overwhelmed the dated Prussian military system.  There follows a chapter on the reform of the Prussian Army and then one on the Campaign of 1813, in which Napoleon was defeated. 

In his treatment Telp takes an analytical approach, and addresses events at a relatively high level, which is appropriate to the theme of “operational art” but may disappoint those looking for detailed tactical treatment.  Telp makes frequent comparisons between the practice and problems faced by the respective two armies, and offers surprising insights refuting many commonly held ideas about both armies which were largely the product of nationalist pride, noting, for example, extensive draft resistance in France. 

A volume in the Routledge series “Military History and Policy,” The Evolution of Operational Art is a very important read for anyone interested in the “French Wars” or in the evolution of modern operational art.

Note: The Evolution of Operational Art is also available in hardback, $178.00, ISBN 978-0-714-65722-6, and in several proprietary e-editions .


Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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