ERC Securing Europe, Fighting its enemies, 1815-1914


Beatrice de Graaf and George Dimitriu publish summer reading list on strategic narratives and war

Strategic-Narratives-and-War-Reading-listScholars are increasingly focusing on the non-physical aspects of war in order to explain ‘why big nations lose small wars’. In contemporary wars strategic narratives provide a grid for interpreting the why, what and how of the conflict in persuading story lines to win over various audiences. One of the central arguments in the debate is that it is increasingly important to explain what success will look like to the local population, opponents, the international audience and the public at home, and to convince them of the official storyline.

The point of departure for scholars utilizing the concept of strategic narrative is that people make sense of war by means of stories through which shared sense is achieved. A strategic narrative presents a construct in the form of a story to create a shared meaning of the past, present and future and to interpret a presented obstacle and a desired end-point. Political elites can utilize narratives strategically to tie together otherwise disjointed events and structure the responses of others to developing events by providing an interpretative structure through which the war can be understood. A key development in the debate was Lawrence Freedman’s introduction of narrative into strategic discourse in 2006. A vast body of literature on strategic narratives has been published since.

The full reading list is compiled by Beatrice de Graaf and George Dimitriu and is available online at the Oxford University Press Weblog.