The Art of War
The Art of War is one of the most influential strategy books ever written. China’s early historians claimed that it was written before 512 BC by a mysterious military mastermind called Sun Tzu (Master Sun). Sun Tzu may or may not have existed, and if he did exist he may or may not have been the author of the text; the oldest copy ever discovered is from the second century BC. The “Thirteen Chapters” of the Art of War are brief and to-the-point – in fact, parts of the original text may have been lost. But in any case, these Thirteen Chapters have been studied for more than two thousand years as the cornerstone of military thinking in China (and Japan).
Sun Tzu’s Thirteen Chapters repeatedly emphasise that wars should be a last resort; that battle should be sought only when victory is certain; that a general must have mastery over the full circumstances of a campaign, and the implications of these circumstances for his advantage and disadvantage; and that deceiving the enemy and putting them on the back foot by any means possible are critically important. This philosophy underpins the whole text, which you can read here. Below, I’ve summarised The Art of War’s key points.