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Frederick II ("the Great") of Prussia, "General Principles of War," 134-Page Manuscript in French (1748), issued as Confidential Instructions to his Generals in 1753 (1748/1753)

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As it is, all campaign plans must take their cues from the temporal circumstances and the nature and number of the enemies one is dealing with. One should never scorn the enemy in the abstract; rather, one should put oneself in his place and ask what one would do in his stead. The more obstacles one foresees in one’s plans, the fewer one will later find in their implementation. In brief, one must foresee everything, recognize all difficulties, and know how to eliminate them.

[ . . . ]

These are more or less the main points of large military operations. I have developed their principles in as detailed a manner as possible, and have endeavored above all to be clear and understandable. However, should you be in doubt about this or that point, I would be pleased if you presented them to me, so that I may explain my reasons in greater detail, or, if I have said something wrong, come over to your opinion. Already my paltry experience of war has shown me that this art cannot be completely learned, and that serious study always leads to the discovery of something new. I believe that I will not have wasted my time if this work stimulates my officers to ponder a craft that opens up to them the glorious career of fame, wrests their names from the darkness of time, and secures them immortality in return for their efforts. Dixi (I have spoken).

Source of original French text: Œuvres de Frédéric le Grand. Volume 28. Berlin: Imprimerie Royale (R. Decker), 1856, pp. 1-107.

Source of German translation from the French: Die Werke Friedrichs des Großen [The Works of Frederick the Great]. Volume 6, Militärische Schriften [Military Writings], edited by Gustav Berthold Volz. German by Friedrich v. Oppeln-Bronikowski. Berlin: Hobbing, 1913, pp. 3-86.

Reprinted in Helmut Neuhaus, ed., Zeitalter des Absolutismus 1648-1789. Deutsche Geschichte in Quellen und Darstellung, edited by Rainer A. Müller. Volume 5. Stuttgart: P. Reclam, 1997, pp. 464-75.

Translation from German to English: Thomas Dunlap

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