Battle Studies

Charles Jean Jacques Joseph Ardant du Picq; Roger J. Spiller, ed. & trans.

A classic of military thought that merits a place alongside the works of Clausewitz and Sun Tzu, Battle Studies was first published in Paris ten years after the death of its author, French army officer Charles Ardant du Picq (1821–1870). Updated to provide a more complete and accurate biographical and historical framework for understanding its meaning and import, this edition—deftly translated, introduced, and annotated by noted military historian Roger Spiller—offers a new generation of readers the benefit of Ardant du Picq’s unique insight into the nature of warfare.

Nothing, Ardant du Picq asserts, can be prescribed wisely in an army “without an exact understanding of its ultimate instrument, man, and his morale at the defining instant of combat.” Accordingly, Battle Studies, the first systematic exploration of human behavior in the extremities of combat, focuses squarely on the tactical realm its author knew so well. Eschewing grand military theories and strategies, Ardant du Picq draws on his real-world experience, especially during the Crimean War and the Siege of Sebastopol where he was captured, to examine what motivates a soldier to fight, what creates cohesion or disorder, what gives a commander tactical control, and what makes reason give way to instinct: in short, “the essence of the science of combat.”

“Few military thinkers have been able to grasp the reality of battle like Colonel Charles Ardant du Picq. What mattered to him were the combatants—their moral strength, their sufferings, their fears, and their courage. His Battle Studies, which were widely referenced during the First World War and one hundred years later inspired John Keegan’s pioneering Face of Battle, have long remained inaccessible to Anglophone readers. Surprisingly modern, this path-breaking book will captivate all readers interested in the human experience of combat.”

—Bruno Cabanes, author of Victory in Mourning: French Soldiers and the Transition to Civilian Life, 1918–1920

“Ardant du Picq’s Battle Studies stands as the first study of human behavior at the sharp end of a modern industrial battlefield. His focus was no less unique: the fear that ultimately shapes performance in combat. Spiller’s introduction, brilliantly contextualizing du Picq’s pioneering insight, combines with his polished translation and annotations to make this the definitive English version of a seminal analysis of men in war.”

—Dennis Showalter, author of The Wars of German Unification and founding editor of War in History

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About the Author

Roger J. Spiller is the George C. Marshall Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Military History and former director of the Combat Studies Institute at the US Army Command and General Staff College. He is the author of An Instinct for War: Scenes from the Battlefields of History. He has also served as an advisor to Ken Burns on documentary television series on World War II and the Vietnam War.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series