Book Review: The Cognitive Challenge of War: Prussia 1806


by Peter Paret

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. Pp. x, 164. Illus., maps, notes, index. $22.95. ISBN: 0691135819

Noted Clausewitz scholar Paret (Clausewitz and the State, Understanding War, etc.) takes a look at the intellectual impact of the Prussian disaster of 1806, which saw the successors of Frederick the Great suffer a crushing defeat at Jena-Auerstedt (October 14, 1806), just two weeks into a war with Napoleon. 

Paret opens with a succinct analysis of the campaign.  There follows an examination of how popular writers, artists, and even musicians attempted to make sense out of the massive disaster. Paret then proceeds to discuss how a response to the disaster was developed, leading to significant reforms in the Prussian state and military institutions, some deep, and some quite shallow.  The final chapter addresses the deeper intellectual consequences of the disaster, with an incisive essay on the works of Jomini and Clausewitz. 

A valuable study for anyone interested in the Napoleonic era, military reform, or the Prusso-German military experience.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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