The Eurasian Way of War: Military Practice in Seventh-Century China and Byzantium, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Eurasian Way of War

Military Practice in Seventh-Century China and Byzantium, 1st Edition

By David A. Graff


208 pages

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This book is a comparative study of military practice in Sui-Tang China and the Byzantine Empire between approximately 600 and 700 CE. It covers all aspects of the military art from weapons and battlefield tactics to logistics, campaign organization, military institutions, and the grand strategy of empire. Whilst not neglecting the many differences between the Chinese and Byzantines, this book highlights the striking similarities in their organizational structures, tactical deployments and above all their extremely cautious approach to warfare. It shows that, contrary to the conventional wisdom positing a straightforward Western way of war and an "Oriental" approach characterized by evasion and trickery, the specifics of Byzantine military practice in the seventh century differed very little from what was known in Tang China. It argues that these similarities cannot be explained by diffusion or shared cultural influences, which were limited, but instead by the need to deal with common problems and confront common enemies, in particular the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppes. Overall, this book provides compelling evidence that pragmatic needs may have more influence than deep cultural imperatives in determining a society’s "way of war."


'Graff ’s intervention represents a compelling case study in how sedentary civilizations react to the amorphous threat of the “barbarian” other.'

Gwyn Davies, Florida International University, Miami, Florida

Table of Contents

1. War and Culture

2. Resources and Institutions

3. Weapons and Tactics

4. The Army on Campaign

5. The Legacy of the Past

6. Contacts and Influences

7. The Shadow of the Steppe

8. Conclusion

About the Author

David A. Graff is Associate Professor of History at Kansas State University, USA. He is the author of Medieval Chinese Warfare, 300-900 (Routledge, 2002) and co-editor of the Journal of Chinese Military History.

About the Series

Asian States and Empires

The importance of Asia will continue to grow in the twenty-first century, but remarkably little is available in English on the history of the polities that constitute this critical area.  Most current work on Asia is hindered by the extremely limited state of knowledge of the Asian past in general, and the history of Asian states and empires in particular.  Asian States and Empires is a book series that will provide detailed accounts of the history of states and empires across Asia from earliest times until the present.  It aims to explain and describe the formation, maintenance and collapse of Asian states and empires, and the means by which this was accomplished, making available the history of more than half the world’s population at a level of detail comparable to the history of Western polities.  In so doing, it will demonstrate that Asian peoples and civilizations had their own histories apart from the West, and provide the basis for understanding contemporary Asia in terms of its actual histories, rather than broad generalizations informed by Western categories of knowledge.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Asia / China
HISTORY / Military / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / Asian American Studies