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The Art of War

Welcome to the first of BritWar’s articles on strategy on tactics. In this series we will be looking at a whole host of historical and contemporary works and articles aiming to present them in an easy to understand, contemporary and relevant manner.

In the first of these articles we'll consider Sun-tzu's, The Art of War.

The Art of War is a collection of articles believed to have been written during the Chinese Han dynasty. Modern day scholars are today undecided as to the exact authorship of the work. It’s debated as to whether Sun-tzu actually existed as a distinct person or if he was mythical in nature and the complete work is in actuality a collection of works from unknown authors. There are three known major and at least eight minor classical versions of the works.

The works themselves consist of three main groupings the first is the incomplete “Thirteen Chapters” this is most most complete section of the works and are perhaps the most congent. Excepts and quotations used within this article are provided from or are heavily based on, "Sun-tzu THE ART OF WAR, a new translation” by RALPH D. SAWYER and published by Barnes & Noble, Inc 1994.

This edition is by no means unique, there are perhaps thousands or articles, books and other works based upon the writings of Sun-tzu but we've found that of the modern editions, SAWYER's work is by far the most accessible and easy to read for the newcomer to the subject. BritWar recommends that if we’ve piqued your interest Sun-tzu then you would do well to start with SAWYER's edition as a base for further study.

In any event those works of Sun-tzu that are currently known to exist provide a fascinating insight into the world of strategic thought and are as relevant today as they were when first written.

The presentation that follows here is limited to the “Thirteen Chapters”

Later updates will include the YIN-CHUEH-SHAN TEXTS, a grouping of five chapters associated with the Han Dynasty. The third release will include what have come to be known as “The Later Works”, a grouping of eight texts associated with Sun-Tze but not necessarily written by the initial author. A final article will attempt to put the work into context by describing the history of the China Sun-Tze’s work is set in.

Last but by no means least the commentary we provide here is at times really quite simplistic – and intentionally so. It is designed for the newcomer and intended to provoke debate.

In the following articles we quote from the text like this:

"Sample text quoted from the work of Sun-tzu"

Our commentary is presented like this:

The commentary is what we think Sun-tzu may have said if he was writing today, alternatively this is our comment on the passage above.

If we present examples to illustrate the points made we present it like this:

This is an example battle or military action that helps to illustrate the points made above.


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