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War Games

A History of War on Paper

Philipp von Hilgers, translated by Ross Benjamin

Publication Year: 2012

The convergence of military strategy and mathematics in war games, from medieval to modern times.

Published by: The MIT Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-xii

Current cultural histories of the game generally exclude two spheres: the battlefield and mathematics. Yet the groundbreaking role of games in these domains could not be more serious and intensive. After the First World War, if not earlier, mathematical and military discourses in Germany not only struggled for...

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pp. xiii

“Kriegspiel” is among the German words that have found their way into English (even though it lost an “s” en route from one language to the other). This book is an attempt to carry more of the term’s context across the gap between the languages. For their help with this transfer, I would like to thank the...

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1. The Battle of Numbers in the Middle Ages

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pp. 1-10

According to Adam Ries, it is necessary to distinguish between “calculation on the lines and with the quill”: numbers can be positioned as counters on the lines of an abacus, the antique calculating board, or they can flow in the form of Hindu-Arabic digits from the quill. But when Ries extolled the virtues of writable...

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2. Power Games in the Baroque Period

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pp. 11-30

Of all centuries, it was the seventeenth — which engendered reason and assembled mathematics into a discipline from the obscure semiotic practices of secret societies and the semiotic regimes of ideal states — that found in games an epistemic reservoir. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz led the way in discovering in games...

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3. The State of the War Game

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pp. 31-56

In light of the devastating consequences of the Thirty Years’ War, Christoph Weickmann — with his King’s Game for the determination of “distinguished officials’ temperaments” — evidently pursued the goal of recommending to the potentates of his time the consolidation of a professional class as much as a means to their rise...

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4. Historiography in Real Time

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pp. 57-88

After the Second World War, Carl Schmitt withdrew into the private sphere of his Sauerland home and remained confined for the last thirty-eight years of his long life to his birthplace of Plettenberg and his parental house. At that time, Schmitt was known as the “crown jurist of the Third Reich,” his title as a...

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5. Higher Mathematics and Nomos of the Earth

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pp. 89-102

Conditions of war are clearly suited to orienting forms and processes in all areas of life toward a determinate telos — at least more so than is possible in peacetime. The concentration of human life on the attainment of fewer — but for that reason all the more sharply delineated — goals converges with mathematical...

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6. From Formula Games to the Universal Machine

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pp. 103-144

On April 6, 1916, the only war diary entry reads: “Life is a . . .” Under the date of the subsequent day, it goes on: “torture, from which one is only temporarily relieved so that one remains receptive for further agonies.” What one cannot speak about, one must pass over in silence. “An exhausting march, a night...


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pp. 145-174


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pp. 175-198


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pp. 199-220

E-ISBN-13: 9780262301169
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262016971

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2012