Delbrück, Hans Gottlieb Leopold

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Delbrück, Hans Gottlieb Leopold


Born Nov. 11, 1848, in Bergen, on the island of Rügen; died July 14, 1929, in Berlin. German military historian and political figure.

Delbrück studied at Heidelberg and Bonn universities. Between 1885 and 1921 he was a professor at the University of Berlin. Between 1882 and 1885 he was a member of the Prussian Landtag, and from 1884 to 1890 he was a free conservative member of the Reichstag. Between 1883 and 1919 he edited the influential conservative periodical Prussian Yearbook (jointly with H. Treitschke until 1889). During World War I he saw that Germany’s defeat was inevitable and called for a peace treaty. After the war he criticized E. Ludendorff s strategy and policy sharply. At the same time he was a militant nationalist and supported the ideas of the “racial superiority” of the Germans and their “historical mission.” Delbruck’s major work was the History of Warfare in the Realm of Political History (vols. 1-7, 1900-36; Russian translation, 1936-39). The last three volumes of this work were published under the direction of his student D. Daniels. The work covers the period from antiquity until 1870 and contains an enormous amount of factual material.

An eclectic idealist, Delbrück denied the laws governing social development and the art of war, viewed war in isolation from politics, concealed the class essence of war, and reduced military history to a collection of empirical facts. He subordinated strategy to tactics and derived the latter from the organization of the army. He proposed a metaphysical scheme for dividing strategy into two types, “wearing down” and “crushing,” but he considered them in isolation without due regard for the conditions of historical development and viewed the “crushing” strategy as the highest and most perfect form. He considered Frederick II and Napoleon I to be the classical representatives of these types of strategy.

Delbrück had a significant influence on the shaping of reactionary German military doctrine. His work has retained its practical interest (in particular, Delbrück successfully applied the principle of the numerical ratio of forces), but a strictly critical approach is required in studying it.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.