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The 'Cult of the Offensive' Revisited: Confronting Technological Change Before the Great War

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Conventional wisdom maintains that military thinkers before the Great War resorted to an irrational, and ultimately self-defeating, 'cult of the offensive' to overcome the rapidly increasing effectiveness of modern firepower. On the contrary, an underlying and, indeed, compelling military rationale did exist for placing renewed emphasis on the offensive spirit, particularly after the Russo-Japanese War. Moreover, the cult's central argument was not that moral forces alone could overcome material factors, but that the human element must be made strong enough to complement the newfound power of military technology. The idea was not to pit man against machine, but to make man worthy of machine.
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Keywords: Technological change; cult of the offensive; military technology; modern firepower; pre-First World War

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2002

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