Review of Strategy -A History by Lawrence Freedman

Narrated by: Michael Butler Murray
Length: 32 hrs and 4 mins

Wow, Jesus, what a book. Good & bad, interesting content yet in an un-captivating format., especially at the start at least  (picks up at the end with more relatable content)

At the start, and in the middle it feels more like you’re trying to get through the book for the sense of accomplishment rather than enjoying the book.

What the book is really about

Whilst the books stated aim is about ‘strategy’, I would say it’s more about the way thinking has changed throughout the ages, the context surrounding these changes of thoughts (ie. Examples of events going on at the time)  and how this way of thinking & context influenced how people went about trying to achieve the goals that they set forth.

Yes, you could technically call all of this ‘strategy’, but taking the above aim as the actual range of the book gives a lot more range than simply ‘strategy’.  It makes for a much more comprehensive look on what can be considered strategy and the progression that humans or rather some humans have taken throughout the ages and why.

Note.  And rather obviously, this book is not for the faint hearted.

It IS interesting, however unless you truly want the information contained… you’re going to struggle, a lot.


While the narrator isn’t bad per se, it’s just the content is “a history of strategy” and it’s read like a typical boring history teacher.

I think this is the reason why history wasn’t a favourite subject for most people, because the teacher just read out the facts and the context surrounding the facts in an effort to sound objective , OR were just plain boring, period.

There’s no excitement here, therefore you have to Actually WANT to digest the content.

It’s not one of those books where you get valuable info and historical insight out of it and it was unexpected and enjoyable because it was easy to read / listen.

Again, maybe the passion for the content comes from having and stating ones own opinions on the matter, which is maybe not the Authors aims, but for me, passion about the subject is pretty important.

If you can hear THEIR passion, it’s easier for you to get into it yourself, and therefore attain value from the content.

The content by itself IS interesting, but you have to want it from the start. It’s definitely not a book where you stumble upon, and think “why not?”

In the end, I truly think the narrators voice was kept mundane so as to sounds objective.  And to keep the credibility up as much as possible that everything the author states is well research fact, rather than opinions about certain events, which could of course lose credibility.

I think, in that Lawrence Freedman does very well in his style of writing.

Comparable to other books

Masters of War, Histories Great Military Blunders, by the Great Courses are much more palatable for those that want more relevant insight to modern strategy in warfare.

The Secret history of Genghis Khan also sheds light into the Mongolian Strategy. (Conquering tactics in Asia)

Books like The Pentagon’s Brain, Inside Delta Force are written with much more flow, and are therefore much, much easier to listen to, to which you gain amazing insight into one particular part of history or organisation.

What this book is about compared to what you wanted it to be about

I thought… apparently incorrectly, that this book might provide guided insight into how you can achieve what you wish, through analysing and understanding strategies that came before us.

Any gains that you make, is because you have to notice the parallels yourself, rather than are guided to anything in particular.

The book does aim to shape your opinion, just to tell what the thinking has been previously, and why it has been like that given the context of the time.

Somehow I thought the book would reinforce what I think is strategy, and keep coming back to that to drive a lesson home of some sort.  Yet, again, the aim was to inform rather than to guide.

My original thoughts on why I like the concept of strategy:

What is your goal?, what are your priorities of goal?, and what is the plan of attack to achieve that goal in the timetable given? applying all skills and tactics at your disposal and applying logical and rational thinking on the situation and the variables involved (including people) for their reactions and interplay on the situation to be able to guide the outcome of that situation arriving at your set goal. All of this manoeuvring, and situational analysis & application, brings about your Strategy.

Strategy, yes was originally about war, but you can apply the same “war thinking”, to non-war activities including business, personal gain, nation state economic domination, diplomacy etc.

Don’t forget, this book is not about the APPLICATION of strategy, but more about ‘what STRATEGY meant’ as wars progressed through the ages, and the changing  levels of thought and planning as well as the changing ideas about what elements should be included or how different variables might respond (people elements etc) and then how to take this into account  in the formation of a plan. + Contingency planning.

Although this is interesting by itself, I don’t think this is what most people hoped for when they bought this book.


As stated above I would more recommend the Great Courses books on application of strategy to see what works, what doesn’t, and how all of this came together for real world events in the application of it, not just the changing ideas influencing “what is strategy? & What should be included to be all encompassing strategy to win?” ..rather than the actual application of it.

In my own view, absolutely amazing book, and I’m really glad to have listened to it and hopefully digested some of the information in it.

I’ll be putting up the notes I made whilst listening to this book.  So for those of you that may be intrigued by this book… but perhaps can’t take the whole 32 hours of listening for it, then you can go through these notes to see if anything stands out.

The book also acts as a history lesson, not just in how people thought, but actual events as it gives the context around the thinking at the time.

For that I really appreciated it as well.

I would say, this would be one of those Must Listens for anyone wanting to study History, International Relations, World Affairs, or even has more than a passing interest in American/ Western history.

Thoroughly recommended for all these types of people.