Author & Context

Fuller (1878-1966) was a senior British tank officer in WWI. Also a recognized scholar with a futuristic tendency, Fuller combined academics and first-hand WWI experience to craft a “Science of War” focused theory. Fuller was also an elitist with perceived Fascist beliefs…helps explain his anti-democratic views. Most importantly, Fuller considered WWI a wasteful war; shaped his belief in the Law of Economy of Force.


The Law of Economy of Force (called it a law, blitzkrieg is the ultimate economy of force warfare type) -- For me, the most useful and a main proposition, but not necessarily his central one: “…whatever force might be at our disposal, we should expend it at highest profit…” All things come in groups of three - base hypothesis that served as his foundational assumption, but not his central proposition.


This book is an effort to synthesize the impact of the Industrial Revolution on war with a Clausewitzian approach to its moral and intellectual elements. Fuller’s system is an attempt to establish the theory and practice of war on a scientific footing by applying the method of science to the study war, because war must be reduced to a science before it can be practiced correctly as an art. Tries to reduce chance and make it less complicated. Distrust of tradition was reinforced by the Great War. Emphasis on Social Darwinism and racial superiority. Fuller uses examples from past wars (WWI especially) to illustrate points, but does not go as far as using them as evidence to prove/disprove his propositions.

Central Proposition:

  • War must be reduced to a science before it can be practiced correctly as an art.
    • Science defined: organized common sense – coordinated knowledge.
    • seldom on the battlefield and are too influenced by history to point of mimicking last war – obsessed with traditions
    • no scientific method exits to assess the value of technological change – tank
    • application of past experiences to new circumstances
    • even teaching art requires a methodology
    • still not an exact science due to human nature

Other Propositions:

  • Three-fold order: Knowledge must be subjected to a system and this should be based on man – mind, soul, and body
    • Influenced by magic and mysticism way of thinking?
  • Law of economy of force: ‘more we realize that war is the province of law and not of chance the more we shall grow to understand its changes, and, as we understand them, learn how best to economize and expend our force’
  • Principles of War: Objective, mass, offensive, security, surprise and movement (maneuver).

Applications to Strategy

  • Related the nature of war to the nature of man: Mental, Moral and Physical Spheres
  • Developed an extremely thorough and useful schema for studying war history
  • Offered a means of applying war as both a science and an art: “…war can be reduced to a science, and must be so reduced before, as an art, it forces can be correctly expended.”
  • Recognized the need of adapting military force (and its Principles) to the conditions at the time (i.e. enemy, environment, etc.)
  • Politicians should not tell the soldier what and how to do it, the same way as they would not tell a astronomer what to do.

Sugar's Tips on Fuller

Self taught intellectual – saw himself as a reformer and a philosopher, believed things fell naturally into three parts, included politics, economics, sociology, and culture into works, but often went in “mystic flights” that made him seem “incomprehensible if not unbalanced” in Van Creveld’s viee

Came up with principles of war before WWI: objective, mass, offensive, security, surprise, and movement

From end of 1916: chief of staff to the Royal Tank Corps, helped plan and direct battle at Cambrai Nov-Dec 1917

Appalled by loss of life during WWI in trenches. Why not bring back the shield? Even better, give it an engine and put it on wheels or tracks.

Influenced original concept of the tank – a siege engine – to a modern version of the old heavy cavalry.

Merely punching through enemy lines was not enough, need to attack vitals such as command posts, comms and depots, bring collapse from the rear to the front. Tanks, mobile artillery, and aircraft all play a part

Fuller believed War was decisively affected by the progress of science. He saw mechanization would give ground forces as much mobility as ships at sea, saw tank as centerpiece, replace mass armies with a small force of elite tank riding warriors. He overestimated the psychological effect on infantry that he assumed would most likely be ill trained conscripts, and he also underestimated advancements in anti tank guns and missiles

May 1918 – came up with Plan 1919, a “psycho-tactical” plan that involved medium tanks launching a surprise attack on a 90 mile front, penetrate a certain points only, and head for the area between German division and army HQs in order to provide strategic paralysis of the frontline troops by disrupting their command organization. Remaining enemy positions would be cleared by medium and heavy tanks, more medium tanks would continue pursuit as RAF provided recon and bombing

Not much of a diplomat. Given command of the Experimental Mechanized Force on the Salisbury Plain in 1927, but resigned from the army in 1928 over terms of command. After he left, Sir George Milne decided to mechanize the entire army, canning the elite highly mobile armor force in favor of a firepower intensive approach to mobile warfare that stressed heavy tanks supporting infantry. Fuller then joined the British Union of Fascists, went to Germany as guest of Hitler to watch maneuvers

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