Spenser Wilkinson

Spenser Wilkinson books and biography

Spenser Wilkinson

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(Henry) Spenser Wilkinson (1853-1937) was an English writer known primarily for his work on military subjects, though he had wide interests and was the drama critic for London's Morning Post. He was born in Manchester; was educated at Owens College, Manchester, and at Merton College, Oxford, and was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn in 1880. From 1882 to 1892 he was on the staff of the Manchester Guardian, and from 1895 to 1914 on the staff of the London Morning Post. Convinced as early as 1874 that Great Britain was inadequately armed, he began to devote his attention to the subject of the national defense. Wilkinson became a serious student of the German military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz During the early months of the Boer War (1899-1900) and made remarkably accurate forecasts of military movements. He was very well connected to key figures in politics and in the armed forces and was made Chichele professor of military history at Oxford in 1909. During World War I he became--like Clausewitz's foremost German proponent at the time, Hans Delbrck--an energetic critic of his nation's counterproductive strategy and policy. He remained an influential voice in Britain until his death in 1937. He wrote:

  • Essays toward the Improvement of the Volunteer Forces (1886)
  • The Brain of an Army (1890), An account of the German general staff
  • Imperial Defense (1892), with Sir Charles Dilke
  • The Command of the Sea (1894)
  • The Nation's Awakening (1896)
  • British Policy in South Africa (1899)
  • War and Policy (1900)
  • Britain at Bay (1909)
  • Hannibal's March through the Alps (1911)
  • First Lessons in War (1914)
  • The French Army before Napoleon (1915)
  • The Nation's Servants (1916)

For on-line examples of Wilkinson's writings, see:

  • Strategy in the Navy, The Morning Post, 3 August 1909. This essay is essentially an attack on the influential British naval theorist Julian Stafford Corbett's interpretation of Clausewitz and on Corbett's influence on the Royal Navy.
  • Killing No Murder: An Examination of Some New Theories of War, Army Quarterly 14 (October 1927). This is a bitingly critical response to B.H. Liddell Hart's book, The Remaking of Modern Armies (London: J. Murray, 1927).

For an extended discussion of Wilkinson, see


  • William Archer, Real Conversations (London, 1904)

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Britain At Bay

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