Theorist of Maritime Strategy: Sir Julian Corbett and his Contribution to Military and Naval Thought, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Theorist of Maritime Strategy

Sir Julian Corbett and his Contribution to Military and Naval Thought, 1st Edition

By J.J. Widen


190 pages

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Since its publication in 1911, Sir Julian's Corbett's Some Principles of Maritime Strategy has remained a key document within naval strategic thinking. Yet despite his undoubted influence, Corbett's theories have not been subjected to scientific review and systematic comparison with other naval thinkers. In this assessment, Dr Widen has provided a fresh interpretation of Corbett's legacy and his continued relevance as a classic theorist of naval war. Divided into three parts, the book begins with a brief biographical overview of Corbett's life, highlighting in particular his bibliographic history and the influences on his thinking. The latter two sections then describe and assess Corbett's views on military and naval theory, respectively. Together these two parts represent his overall theory of maritime strategy, including his conception of limited war, his intellectual debt to Clausewitz, command of the sea, his critic of decisive battle, as well as the different methods of naval operations. By means of a thorough assessment of Corbett's theory of maritime strategy, Dr Widén highlights the continued relevance of his theories. Both the strengths and shortcomings of Corbett's thinking are discussed and reflections offered on their intellectual, practical and doctrinal value. In so doing, Dr Widen has written a book that deserves to be read by anyone with an interest in the past, present or future of maritime strategy.


'This monograph is methodologically creative, theoretically sophisticated in its deft analysis of Corbett’s writings, and highly readable. An excellent - even elegant - piece of work.’-- Maria Stern, University of Gothenburg

'Theorist of Maritime Strategy is a thoughtful work of considerable interest, and its author certainly succeeds in demonstrating that Corbett is a figure worthy of attention even today.'--Comparative Strategy

'… Widen reminds the reader that the study of military and naval theory is far too important to be left to academics. His book deserves to be on the reading list for all naval officers, and any politicians or member of the public who desires to know what navies are for.'--Warships - International Fleet Review

'Widén’s work is an interesting monograph on Corbett, who in addition to the American Alfred T. Mahan and the Frenchman Raoul Castex is considered to be the greatest naval thinker of his time. However, it is not the person Corbett who is in Widén’s spotlight, but the Englishman’s thoughts on warfare… Corbett’s evolution from lawyer to historian and finally to naval strategic thinker is clearly described by Widén. Sometimes his story is really very amusing.'--Mariner’s Mirror

'Dr J.J. Widen […] has produced a most interesting new study of the works of Sir Julian Corbett, a doyen of Britsh maritime strategists… the analysis is engaging and important… Dr Widen must be congratulated for a new and most thoughtful analysis of a key strategic thinker.'--Defense & Security Analysis

'… this is a very sophisticated and illuminating exposition on Corbett’s theories… This is a monograph that assumes both a high degree of familiarity with Corbett’s work and a good knowledge of most other naval and military thinkers of the period.'--Diplomacy & Statecraft

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword, Geoffrey Till; Introduction; Part I The Man, His Times and Scholarly Achievements: Life and historical works; Theoretical works and influences. Part II Military Theory in a Maritime Context: The epistemology of war; General theory of war. Part III Naval Theory as the Ends and Means in Naval Warfare: Theory of naval war; Theory of naval operations; General conclusions; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

J.J. Widen is Associate Professor in War Studies at the Swedish National Defence College, Stockholm, Sweden.

About the Series

Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series

Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series
The Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series is the publishing platform of the Corbett Centre. Drawing on the expertise and wider networks of the Defence Studies Department of King's College London, and based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College in the UK Defence Academy, the Corbett Centre is already a leading centre for academic expertise and education in maritime and naval studies. It enjoys close links with several other institutions, both academic and governmental, that have an interest in maritime matters, including the Developments, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), the Naval Staff of the Ministry of Defence and the Naval Historical Branch. The centre and its publishing output aims to promote the understanding and analysis of maritime history and policy and to provide a forum for the interaction of academics, policy-makers and practitioners. Books published under the eagis of the Corbett Centre series reflect these aims and provide an opportunity to stimulate research and debate into a broad range of maritime related themes. The core subject matter for the series is maritime strategy and policy, conceived broadly to include theory, history and practice, military and civil, historical and contemporary, British and international aspects. As a result this series offers a unique opportunity to examine key issues such as maritime security, the future of naval power, and the commercial uses of the sea, from an exceptionally broad chronological, geographical and thematic range. Truly interdisciplinary in its approach, the series welcomes books from across the humanities, social sciences and professional worlds, providing an unrivalled opportunity for authors and readers to enhance the national and international visibility of maritime affairs, and provide a forum for policy debate and analysis.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Oceania