John Clarke’s Military Institutions of Vegetius and Joseph Amiot’s Art Militaire des Chinois: Translating classical military theory in the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War

Research output: ThesisNon-UWA Thesis

Abstract

Following the Seven Years’ War, John Clarke, a British Marine, and Joseph Amiot, a French ex-Jesuit missionary in Peking, translated two classical texts on military theory, respectively Vegetius’ Epitoma Rei Militaris and the Sunzi bingfa: the two texts that formed the model for subsequent writing on the art of war within their respective traditions. While the translators were half a world apart, their literary projects were a common response to inter-related events: in both cases, an attempt to bolster the author’s personal position, promote his profession and demonstrate the utility of both. The connections between the men offer the opportunity for comparative historical and textual analysis that throws light on the military and political developments of the late Enlightenment. The translators selected the source texts for their relevance to their audience and to the strategic dilemmas faced by Britain and France. For Clarke, these included empire, the professionalization of the army and the strategic role of the monarch. For Amiot, social stability, the monarchy and France’s prestige. Clarke’s personal goals were achieved but his thinking on the professionalization and use of the army was not to be heeded until after the American Revolution. Amiot’s work was co-opted into the narrative of political reform that led to the French Revolution. In view of these political, military and literary developments, it is no coincidence that the Epitoma and the Sunzi were brought together in France in the 1770s with the first attempts to articulate and define the term ‘strategy’.

This research combines textual readings, comparative analysis and consideration of new primary materials and existing scholarship. The resulting study proposes new insights into the way political, military and literary ideas and events coalesced in the aftermath of the first global war; and the role of translation in the genre of military theory.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University College London
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Frankopan, Peter, Supervisor, External person
  • Jones, Colin, Supervisor, External person
Award date28 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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