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Liddell Hart, Basil H.

Liddell Hart, Basil H. (1895–1970), English military writer and theorist.Liddell Hart, Cambridge‐educated, served as an infantry officer on the western front in World War I (twice wounded) and retired from the army as a captain (1924) for health reasons. He was a lifelong student and critic of war and generalship, though never a pacifist. He became military correspondent for the Daily Telegraph (1925–35) and The Times (1935–39), reaching the peak of his influence as an innovative thinker on army reform. His tactical ideas (the “expanding torrent” of attack, based on the German World War I offensive of spring 1918), spread to the strategic sphere, and ultimately to grand strategy and national policy (the “British Way in Warfare,” based on naval power and economic blockade, and “limited liability” with regard to a British army commitment on the Continent). In the United States he was probably best known for his biography, Sherman (1929). Above all, with Maj. Gen. J. F. C. Fuller, Liddell Hart became internationally famous as the proponent of mechanization and armored warfare by highly trained professional forces. He fostered a remarkable number of influential contacts in the British army, and also in Weimar and Nazi Germany, though he was probably not as influential there as he and others were to claim after 1945. Emphasizing the importance of air support to tanks, as well as the need for mechanized infantry, he argued that such forces would restore mobility and decisiveness to warfare.

Liddell Hart opposed sending the British army to Europe in 1939, and then argued against Winston S. Churchill's policy of Total War, including conscription, strategic bombing, and a goal of “Unconditional Sur render.” After the war, his reputation as a military the ‐orist revived, Liddell Hart published his interviews with German generals and edited Erwin Rommel's papers. Among the first to argue that nuclear weapons could deter all‐out conflict between nations but not prevent conventional warfare, his advocacy of restraint and avoidance of showdowns seemed more accept‐able by the nuclear age than in the dark days of Nazi ascendancy. His final book about contemporary strategic issues, Deterrent or Defence (1961), was well received; he was knighted in 1966. His reputation is now being reassessed, but Liddell Hart will figure prominently in any account of twentieth‐century military history and strategic thought.
[See also Deterrence; Strategy; Tactics.]

Bibliography

Basil H. Liddell Hart , Memoirs, 2 vols., 1965.
John J. Mearsheimer , Liddell Hart and the Weight of History, 1988.
Brian Bond , Liddell Hart: A Study of His Military Thought, 1991.

Brian Bond

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Hart, John

John Hart, 1711?–1779, political leader in the American Revolution, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Hopewell Township, N.J. A prosperous farm and mill owner, he was a member of the provincial assembly (1761–71), of several provincial congresses, and of the Continental Congress of 1776. See biography by C. E. Hammond (1977).

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