Battle Studies

Charles Jean Jacques Joseph Ardant du Picq
Edited and Translated by Roger J. Spiller

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.”

“Spiller has given us a clear, fine translation of this minor military classic and he provides, in an excellent introductory chapter, an extensive analysis of du Picq’s life and military thought—one that helps us better understand this controversial and oft-caricatured soldier and theorist.

—Journal of Military History

“General readers will value this new edition du Picq’s work for its author's insights into human behavior in combat in a distant age. Among military professionals, the book will stimulate salutary reflection and discussion. Its editor/translator deserves our gratitude for his last gift to military history—a definitive English version of Battle Studies.

—Michigan War Studies Review
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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