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The "Art of War" by Sun Tzu is to my knowledge one of the most important and oldest books (besides Clausewitz, Machiavelli) about the philosophy of war and military strategy.

Were historians able to find out if the French translation from 1772 influenced Napoleon and significantly changed the planning and course of battles compared to battles before this date?

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Interesting question; I suspect the answer is yes, to some degree. But he also would have admired other great leaders of the Early Modern period, and above all Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, being such a lover of classical antiquity as we all know. –  Noldorin Oct 16 '11 at 23:13

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

According to this source, Napoleon was particularly indebted to Sun Tzu for the combination of "Chang" and Ch'i.


That is, the combination of a direct attack, which could be repulsed with difficulty, followed by a "smaller," but more lethal surprise attack that would administer the coup de grace to the enemy.

On the other hand, Napoleon apparently paid less attention to Sun Tzu's precepts of climate and ground, which led to his downfall in Russia.

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thanks Tom, very nice finding –  Hauser Oct 16 '11 at 22:40
+1 for climate and ground. Sun Tzu is not the most important war book in China though. There are plenty more. –  Jim Thio Dec 17 '11 at 4:54
It should be noted that the link you provide admits it may be a myth, and all its provided evidence is circumstantial. A good argument nontheless. –  T.E.D. Apr 10 '12 at 19:58

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