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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: January 2015

5 - Grand Strategies of Empire in the Modern Era: Sixteenth to Twentieth Centuries


Chapter 5 builds on the conceptual discussion inChapter 4about the modern era of grand strategy by providing a series of case studies on the implementation of grand strategy by states and leaders throughout modern history. This chapter explores how states and statesmen have articulated and implemented grand strategy in ways that reflect, yet also sometimes diverge from, the theoretical foundations of strategy by scholars, as discussed in the earlier chapters. These cases focus on how grand strategy evolved during several historical periods starting with the reign of Philip II of Spain in the sixteenth century and ending with the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the twentieth century. Furthermore, this chapter identifies specific, common lessons across the case studies that are discussed later in the book as well as observations on the relationship between the scholars of strategy and the actual strategies pursued by states and statesmen.

Grand Strategies of the Modern Era: Philip II, Frederick II, and Napoleon

These cases on grand strategy were selected for several reasons. The first was to represent a broad swathe of the history of grand strategy – from the early modern era with Phillip II to the early twentieth century with the end of both the Ottoman and British Empires. Another criterion for selection was to focus on statesmen that made major contributions to or marked historical turning points in the evolution of grand strategy. Finally, this selection of case studies includes both examples of failures of grand strategy (e.g., Phillip II and Napoleon) and successes (e.g., Metternich and Bismarck). The success or failure experienced by each of these grand strategists derives from the analytical framework presented in Chapter 3. It also considers whether the leader in question understood the historical context and its consequences for grand strategy. To become a successful grand strategist in the modern era, one has to discern the political, military, and economic foundations of modern grand strategy, as outlined in Chapter 4. This discussion also includes more incisive observations on the relationship between scholars of strategy and the actual strategies that were pursued by states and statesmen. This includes the extent to which statesmen and states have heeded (or even concerned themselves at all) with the writings and theories of scholars who write on strategy.