The Jeune École

The Strategy of the Weak


Author: Arne Røksund
Anglo-American theoreticians have to a large extent dominated the formulation and study of modern naval strategy in Western countries. This Anglo-American dominance has resulted in a focus on how the superior power should exploit its superiority in order to realize its strategic objectives. The present study differs from other books on naval strategy by analysing a military strategy for the inferior power instead. Along with Tirpitz’s “risk theory”, The Jeune École is the most significant maritime strategy dealing with the dilemmas facing the weaker navy. This French body of naval thought is distinguished from other strategies of the weak by its elaborate prescriptions for the offensive use of naval forces. This book represents an unprecedented study of The Jeune École based on hitherto unexploited and unpublished primary sources from the Service Historique de la Marine.

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Arne Røksund, Ph. D. (2005) in History, University of Oslo, is Rear Admiral and Commander of the Norwegian Defence Education Command and Commandant of the Norwegian National Defence College.
“This book provides the English language reader with the only up-to-date study of this curious development since the appearance of Theodore Ropp’s dissertation-turned-book. Røksund has made some significant additions by using primary sources in the French Navy’s archives which were closed to Ropp when he did his research in the 1930s. The result is a tight story which begins with the French Navy’s surrender of her budget to finance the rebuilding of the Army after 1870 and ends with the emergence of the submarine as the first viable weapon to do what the Jeune École proposed-wage a guerre de course.”

Chalmers Hood in Journal of Military History 72/1, Jan 2008
Acknowledgements .. vii

Introduction .. ix

Chapter One The Theoretical Foundation of the Jeune École .. 1
The Predecessor of the Jeune École .. 1
Strategic Assessment .. 7
Commercial Warfare .. 13
Raiding the Enemy’s Sea Lines of Communication .. 13
Bombardment of the Enemy’s Coast .. 21
The Jeune École and International Law .. 24
The Critics of the Jeune École .. 24
International Law Incompatible with War .. 27
Limited War or Total War—Impacts on Military Thinking .. 35
From Cabinet War to the Wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars .. 38
The American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War .. 45
Summary .. 50

Chapter Two The Jeune École in Office .. 53
Strategic Assessment .. 53
Verifying the Excellence of the Torpedo Boats .. 63
Rapprochement between Aube and the Council of Admiralty .. 77
Summary .. 81

Chapter Three The Legacy of the Jeune École .. 85
The Strategic Outlook of the French Navy up to the Fashoda Crisis .. 86
The Disciples of Aube .. 97
Total War and International Law .. 98
The Potential Enemies .. 100
The Naval Programme of the Heirs .. 105
The Return of the Jeune École to Power .. 109
The Jeune École and the Staff College .. 111
From Lockroy’s First Period as Minister of Marine to the Fashoda Crisis .. 130
Summary .. 137

Chapter Four The Fashoda Crisis and the Development of a Modern Navy .. 143
Confrontation Between France and Great Britain .. 143
Italy, the Perfect Enemy .. 156
After Fashoda .. 161
Lanessan’s Analysis .. 161
The Reform .. 165
Summary .. 174

Chapter Five The Revitalisation of the Jeune École .. 177
Changing Alliances among the European Powers .. 177
The Submarine and the Jeune École .. 189
The Pelletan Regime .. 213
Summary .. 221

Conclusion .. 225

Appendix: Ministers of Marine 1870–1914 .. 231

Bibliography .. 233

Index .. 239

Scholars and students of modern naval history and readers interested more generally in the fields of strategic studies and contemporary warfare.