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Chief of Army's Reading List 2007

edited by Professor Jeff Grey
21 December 2016

This reading list is designed to help soldiers of all ranks think about the profession of arms of which they are members. Throughout history, successful soldiers have schooled their minds as well as their bodies, and have examined the challenges faced and experience gained by earlier generations through education and the widest possible reading. A soldier's most flexible and most effective weapon is her or his brain. Many of the books listed here deal with the history of war (for war knows no nationality), and of Australians at war and of the Australian Army. History provides us with an understanding of where we have come from as individuals and institutions, and offers intellectual tools to help us analyse and understand the issues and problems of our own time within their context. The study of history also helps soldiers understand the shape and nature of war: the great Prussian theorist, Carl von Clausewitz, observed that 'war changes far less frequently and significantly than most people appreciate … because the material culture of war, which tends to be the focus of attention, is less important than its social, cultural and political contexts and enablers'. The attainment of professional mastery lies in understanding and appreciating war in all its manifestations and dimensions.

Literature also plays an important part in the development of creative thinking. The fiction on this list shares a common focus on military themes and subject matter, but fulfils a wider purpose in posing important ethical and moral questions while serving to entertain as well as stimulate. Reading lists of this kind do not provide immediate answers to short-term problems-there are other mechanisms and sources available for that purpose. Rather, in the spirit of the great nineteenth-century German historian, Jacob Burkhardt, the books suggested here are not intended merely to make us smarter for next time, but wiser forever. Napoleon's great adversary, the Austrian Archduke Charles, thought that great soldiers were formed 'by long experience and intense study'. You will acquire the first by dint of your service; this reading list is a jumping-off point for the second.

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Last updated
21 December 2016
Army: Courage. Initiative. Respect. Teamwork.
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