"I used to think that the causes of war were predominantly economic. I came to think that they were more psychological. I am now coming to think that they are decisively "personal," arising from the defects and ambitions of those who have the power to influence the currents of nations. "
- B. H. Liddell Hart
Captain Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart (1895 - 1970)
Basil Henry Liddell Hart was born to English parents Reverend H. Bramley Hart and Clara Liddell on October 31, 1895 in Paris, France. He attended grammar school at St. John's in Kensington and moved on to Corpus Christi College (Cambridge University) in Cambridge where he attended for one year before being awarded a commision in the Royal Army.
B.H. Liddell Hart was commissioned an officer in 1914 or 1915 (sources vary) into the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was shipped to Belgium where he served as a company commander in Ypres.
In the Battle of the Somme in 1916, he was heavily exposed to chlorine gas, an event that would have a quite the impact on his future. Whether it was British gas or German is unknown. The British accidentally gassed their own unsuspecting troops many times during the long and fruitless Somme encounter.
While recovering from the gas attack, he wrote New Methods in Infantry Training (a text on troop drills) which was his first attempt at revising how the commanders of the period viewed war. Then, in 1924 he was asked by General Sir Ivor Maxse to revise the Royal Army's Infantry Training Manual, in which he wrote extensively about "expanding torrent" tactics that later evolved into his "indirect approach" strategy for which he is still famous.
Also in 1924, he was selected for the Royal Tank Corps, but due to the long-term affects of his exposure to chlorine gas, he was invalidated and placed on half pay. He retired from the Army in 1927.
Writer and Strategist
In 1925, Liddell Hart was appointed the military correspondent for The Daily Telegraph. He worked for them for nine years before leaving for the London Times in 1934. In 1939 he resigned from the Times as well. While he was employed at these newspapers, he gained reknown as the foremost military critic in Britain.
During his time as a military correspondent Liddell Hart also published a number of papers on strategy. His tenure during and after The Great War left him obsessed with discovering and exposing what was wrong with the way that the war was waged. These essays culminated in his most remembered and hotly debated work, The Decisive Wars of History. In this work (presently in print as merely Strategy) he focuses primarily on the idea of using surprise as a critical strategic function and examines various battles and campaigns throughout history to illustrate his ideas. (the most recent edition also has many chapters on World War II and a small section on the Arab-Israeli War).
He also spent a good deal of time in most of his books rabidly denouncing the ideas of Karl von Clausewitz (author of On War, the then-preeminent text on war), which caused him to be rejected as a heretic by many military thinkers of the time.
His own people, the British, largely ignored his strategic ideas before WWII, which would later prove to their detriment as Erwin Rommel was an avowed fan of Liddell Hart's writing and the blitzkrieg used by the German tank divisions was a direct result of Liddell Hart's influence in military thought. To their credit, the British Army eventually adopted his ideas on mechanized warfare, which were instrumental in the eventual Allied successes.
Captain Basil Henry Liddell Hart was knighted in 1966 for his long and devoted service to the Crown, and died of natural causes on January 29, 1970. He was survived by his wife, the Lady Kathleen Liddell Hart and his only son, Adrian.
- New methods in infantry training (1918)
- The framework of a science of infantry tactics (1921)
reprinted as A science of infantry tactics simplified (1923)
- Paris, or the future of war (1925)
- The lawn tennis masters unveiled (1926)
- Scipio Africanus: Greater than Napoleon (1926)
- The remaking of modern armies (1927)
- Great captains unveiled (1927)
- Reputations (1928)
- Reputations - ten years after (1928)
- The decisive wars of history (1929)
reprinted as The strategy of indirect approach (1941)
The way to win wars (1943)
and Strategy - the indirect approach (1954)
- Sherman (1929)
- The real war 1914-1918 (1930)
reprinted as A history of the World War 1914-1918 (1934)
- Foch (1931)
- The British way in warfare (1932) reprinted as When Britain goes to war (1935)
- The future of infantry (1933)
- The ghost of Napoleon (1933)
- T E Lawrence - in Arabia and after (1934)
- The war in outline 1914-1918 (1936)
- co-author of Lawrence of Arabia (1936)
- Europe in arms (1937)
- Through the fog of war (1938)
- We learn from history that we do not learn from history (1938)
- editor of The next war (1938)
- editor of T E Lawrence to his biographer, Liddell Hart (1938)
- The defence of Britain (1939)
- Dynamic defence (1940)
- The current of war (1941)
- This expanding war (1942)
- Why don't we learn from history? (1944)
- Thoughts on war (1944)
- Free man or state slave (1946)
- Revolution in warfare (1946)
- The other side of the hill (1948)
- Defence of the west (1950)
- editor of The Letters of Private Wheeler (1951)
- editor of The Rommel papers (1953)
- T E Lawrence of Arabia and Clouds Hill (1955)
- editor of The Soviet Army (1956)
- The tanks - the history of the Royal Tank Regiment (1959)
- Deterrent or defence (1960)
- editor of From Atlanta to the sea (1961)
- Memoirs of Captain Liddell Hart (1965)
- co-author of Churchill (1969)
- History of the Second World War (1970)
- military editor of the 14th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica
Strategy - B.H. Liddell Hart
Scipio Africanus: Greater than Napoleon - B. H. Liddell Hart