Liddell Hart, Basil H.

views updated May 14 2018

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.]


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

Hart, John

views updated Jun 27 2018

Hart, John

HART, JOHN. (1714–1779). Signer. New Jersey. Born in Hopewell, New Jersey, in 1714, John Hart served several years (1761–1771) in the provincial legislature. The 1765 Stamp Act aroused his indignation at British oppression, and he became active in the events leading to the Revolution. He was a judge of the court of common pleas when, on 8 July 1774, he was sent to the first provincial congress. He served in that body until June 1776, when he was sent to the Continental Congress, where he signed the Declaration of Independence and served on the Committee of Correspondence. In August 1776 he was elected to the first state assembly and was unanimously chosen speaker. When the British invaded the state of New Jersey, they destroyed Hart's farm and livestock. His family fled, and he and his wife hid in the woods for several days to avoid capture. After the battles of Trenton and Princeton he was able to return to his farm. In March 1777 he became treasurer of the New Jersey Council of Safety, the governing body of the state, as well as returning to the State Assembly as speaker. He held both positions until November 1778, when he became seriously ill. He died in Hopewell, New Jersey, on 11 May 1779.

SEE ALSO Continental Congress.


Hammond, Cleon E. John Hart: The Biography of a Signer of the Declaration of Independence. Newfane, Vt.: Pioneer Press, 1977.

                        revised by Michael Bellesiles