Share This Article

Marie von Clausewitz: The Woman Behind the Making of On War, by Vanya Eftimova Bellinger, Oxford University Press, New York, 2015, $29.95

On War, the famed literary work by Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz, has influenced military actions from the date of its initial publication in 1832 to modern times. Clausewitz’s premature death from cholera led his widow, Marie, to posthumously edit and publish his book to preserve his knowledge and present it to as wide an audience as possible.

Bellinger emphasizes that Marie von Clausewitz played a much larger role in the formation and publication of On War than historians traditionally attribute to her, an opinion bolstered by the recent discovery of correspondence between Carl and his wife. A pragmatic, skilled and well-connected courtier to the Prussian royal family, Marie was a keen observer of society and an intellectual partner to her ambitious husband. She acted as a sounding board for his intellectual theories and supported him throughout his military career and the social unrest of their time. After his death, Marie became, in effect, von Clausewitz’s managing editor, organizing his material and hiring friends to assist her in the proofreading and publication of On War.

Bellinger paints a vivid portrait of a capable, politically savvy woman who was no everyday helpmate, but a meticulous writer, thinker and editor determined to ensure her late husband attained the proper recognition denied to him during his life. Through Marie’s capable direction as an editor, her husband’s work remains an influential study of the nature of organized violence and still dominates modern foreign policy and conflict resolution.

— S.L. Hoffman