War, Technology, and Industrial Change, 1850–1914

TitleWar, Technology, and Industrial Change, 1850–1914
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsWawro, Geoffrey
EditorChickering, Roger, Dennis Showalter, and Hans van de Ven
Book TitleThe Cambridge History of War
Volume4: War and the Modern World
PublisherCambridge University Press

Napoleon Bonaparte had launched warfare into the modern age, and Helmuth von Moltke drove it into the industrial age. Napoleon and his revolutionary colleagues had discovered the merits of general staff work, march tables, army divisions, ordre mixte (alternating shock and fire tactics), and mobile field artillery. Every major army had adopted those Napoleonic “lessons” by the mid nineteenth century, and most assumed that, in so doing, they had done enough. Moltke was not so complacent. Named chief of the Prussian general staff in 1857, he gaped at Prussia’s vulnerabilities. Prussia was a flat, sandy kingdom with growing industries, and surprising quantities of coal, but no natural frontiers. The Rhineland territories that Prussia had acquired in 1815 bordered France but were divided from Brandenburg-Prussia by hostile or unhelpful states like Hanover and Hesse. The Austrian Empire overshadowed (and coveted) Prussian Silesia. Russia flanked Prussia’s eastern heartland from its outposts in Poland and the Baltic. Whereas some of Moltke’s colleagues recommended a pacific foreign policy and continued subordination to Austria and Russia, Moltke, supported by Prussian Minister-President Otto von Bismarck, carried out a military-technological revolution designed not only to solidify Prussia’s defenses, but also to give Prussia the weapons to beat any great power in Europe. [Publisher]

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