Military Literature

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,336
Florania
#1
As long as humans have existed, there have been physical confrontations; even without military literature, the oral societies still have experience-based military traditions and practices.
Military literature here is a broad topic; it includes treatises, historical texts, fictional works, soldiers' records, and much more.
The "myth" is that the East, especially China, has a much longer tradition of written military guides, and one of the most famous is the Arts of War.
The West has its own military guides as well, and one of the most famous is Carl Von Clausewitz's On War.
Currently, massive fictional military works are being written, and most of them are by amateurs.
As far as military history is concerned, very few of them were written by soldiers anyway.
Huang Renyu (黄仁宇) is known as a former soldier who became a relatively famous historian.
What should be considered the most valuable forms of military literature?
Do soldiers necessarily produce "better" military literature?
How do you rate "military treatises"?
 
Feb 2016
4,300
Japan
#2
It’s a broad subject and the importance will depend on what aspect of military history you value.

I’m most interested in the day to day kifecof somdiers, uniform details, and low level tactics.... so personally I enjoy reading diaries and letters of contemporary soldiers..
 
Likes: Talbot Vilna

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,813
Dispargum
#3
For most of military history, at least in Europe, soldiers were expected to be brave, loyal, and obedient, not intelligent. A man who could think was assumed to be disloyal, disobedient, and possibly a coward, too. Bravery, loyalty, and obedience were qualities associated with men who could not think for themselves. Sons of the nobility and other men destined for military careers were deliberately not educated. They read very little and wrote even less. Conseqently, many works of military literature were written by non-soldiers.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,336
Florania
#4
For most of military history, at least in Europe, soldiers were expected to be brave, loyal, and obedient, not intelligent. A man who could think was assumed to be disloyal, disobedient, and possibly a coward, too. Bravery, loyalty, and obedience were qualities associated with men who could not think for themselves. Sons of the nobility and other men destined for military careers were deliberately not educated. They read very little and wrote even less. Conseqently, many works of military literature were written by non-soldiers.
Mass education is a relatively recent thing.
In theory, the Chinese often talked about bravery without wisdom or intelligence as 匹夫之勇 (the bravery of a single), which is an insult for foolhardiness.
 
Likes: Ichon

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,369
Portugal
#5
As long as humans have existed, there have been physical confrontations; even without military literature, the oral societies still have experience-based military traditions and practices.

Military literature here is a broad topic; it includes treatises, historical texts, fictional works, soldiers' records, and much more.
The "myth" is that the East, especially China, has a much longer tradition of written military guides, and one of the most famous is the Arts of War.
The West has its own military guides as well, and one of the most famous is Carl Von Clausewitz's On War.
Currently, massive fictional military works are being written, and most of them are by amateurs.
As far as military history is concerned, very few of them were written by soldiers anyway.
Huang Renyu (黄仁宇) is known as a former soldier who became a relatively famous historian.
What should be considered the most valuable forms of military literature?
Do soldiers necessarily produce "better" military literature?
How do you rate "military treatises"?
Today, lurking around, I saw this thread.

Military literature is with the religion and the accounting documents among the oldest type of sources that we have in the Mediterranean world.

From the conquest of Canaan in he Book of Joshua, or the Egyptian annals of the New Empire with the military campaigns of Tutmosis III and Ramses II, to the Iliad, just to give some examples.

Much later the Greeks in the classic period gave us even more, with the “History of the Peloponnesian War”, by Thucydides, or the “Anabasis”, by Xenophon, just to mention two of the most known. Both were "soldiers".

With the Romans we have even more. From Julius Caesar to Vegetius. The first was a soldier and we don’t know much about the second, but he could also have been a soldier.

So for the Classis Period many soldiers have written military literature.

Some of the oldest sources for the early “Reconquista” are works that are mostly chronological lists of conquests and raids, that can be included has military literature. But for the High Middle Ages we already begin to have some chronicles that give us some juicy details, as the assault to Santarém during the night (1141), “De expugnatio Scalabis”.

In the Late Medieval Period we have outstanding pieces of Literature that describe us the “Battle of Aljubarrota”, from three perspectives, Portuguese on one side and Castilian and French on the other, and that allow us to draw a quite good picture of the battle.

For the Medieval period the first writers were religious men, and not necessarily soldiers, although contrary to a common image, many priests were soldier, but we also have sources that could have been written by soldiers, and others that we are quite sure (as “De expugnatione Lyxbonensi”). So I don’t agree with your statement that few military history books were written by soldiers.

I could go on, just mentioned a few to say that we are quite close this kind of literature almost since we have written sources.
 
Apr 2018
279
USA
#6
For most of military history, at least in Europe, soldiers were expected to be brave, loyal, and obedient, not intelligent. A man who could think was assumed to be disloyal, disobedient, and possibly a coward, too. Bravery, loyalty, and obedience were qualities associated with men who could not think for themselves. Sons of the nobility and other men destined for military careers were deliberately not educated. They read very little and wrote even less. Conseqently, many works of military literature were written by non-soldiers.
This really wasn't the case. "Discipline" in the Roman sense was supposed to refer to the completeness of a soldier's knowledge of the military arts. If you look at writers like vegetius for example, they ideally want every recruit to be taught a huge variety of different skills beyond what they would usually need, such as reading and writing, swimming, horse riding, shooting bows and slingshots, how to skirmish, how to set up ambushes, how to construct siege equipment, camps, bridges, etc.

Then when you get into the middle ages of course the warrior class had also become the ruling class so all these knights and nobles certainly didn't think they were supposed to be dumb. They were more likely to believe that studying Greek, Latin, theology and other subjects made them smarter and much better soldiers than those dumb peasants.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,813
Dispargum
#7
This really wasn't the case. "Discipline" in the Roman sense was supposed to refer to the completeness of a soldier's knowledge of the military arts. If you look at writers like vegetius for example, they ideally want every recruit to be taught a huge variety of different skills beyond what they would usually need, such as reading and writing, swimming, horse riding, shooting bows and slingshots, how to skirmish, how to set up ambushes, how to construct siege equipment, camps, bridges, etc.

Then when you get into the middle ages of course the warrior class had also become the ruling class so all these knights and nobles certainly didn't think they were supposed to be dumb. They were more likely to believe that studying Greek, Latin, theology and other subjects made them smarter and much better soldiers than those dumb peasants.
I was really thinking along the lines of Medieval and post Medieval rather than Roman. Do you really think Medieval knights studied Latin? The romances sung by the troubabors were usually in the vernacular because knights generally didn't know Latin.

Interesting that Vegetius included reading and writing along with a whole list of physical activities. I'm not disputing that junior officers and senior enlisted needed to be literate to to perform basic army administration. They did. But that's not the same thing as being a military scholar. Was Vegetius even a solider? I don't think so. I wouldn't take his work as evidence of military scholarship in the Roman Army.
 

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,336
Florania
#8
This really wasn't the case. "Discipline" in the Roman sense was supposed to refer to the completeness of a soldier's knowledge of the military arts. If you look at writers like vegetius for example, they ideally want every recruit to be taught a huge variety of different skills beyond what they would usually need, such as reading and writing, swimming, horse riding, shooting bows and slingshots, how to skirmish, how to set up ambushes, how to construct siege equipment, camps, bridges, etc.

Then when you get into the middle ages of course the warrior class had also become the ruling class so all these knights and nobles certainly didn't think they were supposed to be dumb. They were more likely to believe that studying Greek, Latin, theology and other subjects made them smarter and much better soldiers than those dumb peasants.
One thing: why did the medieval people and the ancients expect their kings or emperors to be warriors (if not the best, they usually expected their leaders to hold their owns)?
In Japan (even during World War II), they held academic credentials as the distinction between rank and file soldiers and officers (in English today, soldiers can range from rank and file privates to generals; in many democratic country, the commonder-in-chiefs are usually high ranking civilian officials.)