Book Review: War Planning, 1914


by Richard F. Hamilton & Holger H. Herwig, editors

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. ix, 269. Maps, notes, biblio., index. $85.00. ISBN: ISBN: 978-0-521-11

The outbreak of the Great War continues to fascinate scholars.  In War Planning, 1914, eight noted students of the war take a fresh look at the policies, persons, and procedures that came together to form the war plans of the six European great powers that led to the disastrous events of 1914-1918.  What emerges is the somewhat surprising conclusion that, despite appearances, none of the countries had a comprehensive strategy integrating diplomatic, military, naval, economic, and industrial planning, that the authority of the six general staffs varied broadly, and that their focus on specific operational plans was an obstacle to flexibility and contingency. 

An introduction by Prof. Hamilton discusses overall problems of war planning, and then six specialists address the individual nations.  Each of them notes the importance of the men charged with making the plans.  Annika Mombauer then proceeds to rebut the claim that there “was no Schlieffen Plan” (see The Real German War Plan, 1904-14), Keith Neilson explores the complexities of Britain's ties to her Entente “allies”, Bruce Menning examines the skilled, but marginalized Russian general staff, Gunther Kronenbitter and John Gooch respectively look at the chaotic processes of Austro-Hungarian and Italian planning, and Robert Doughty strongly suggests that the French may have had the “best” plan, albeit the most poorly implemented.  Holger Herwig’s conclusion compares and contrasts the various approaches to planning, and briefly reviews the flaws in various plans when the shooting began. 

An important work for those interested in World War I, military institutions, and war planning, not to mention the course of the twentieth century.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close