Who Won at Waterloo? Rühle von Lilienstern, Jomini, Clausewitz, and the Decisive Battle


  • Beatrice Heuser University of Reading


Napoleon and his supposed recipe for victory became the great model for subsequent generations of strategists. This is odd in the light of his epic defeats of Leipzig and Waterloo, and of the total disappearance of his empire. This essay examines whether and to what extent this is due to the first three great analysts of his ‘way of war’, Rühle von Lilienstern and Clausewitz in the German-speaking world, and francophone Jomini. We find their analysis sufficiently complex to exculpate them in part from the excessive adulation of Napoleon by following strategists. Nevertheless, especially Clausewitz’s and Jomini’s writing focused so much on Napoleonic warfare that through this his way of war came to dominate strategic thinking.

Author Biography

Beatrice Heuser, University of Reading

Beatrice Heuser’s research focuses on strategy, European security, transatlantic relations as well as British, French, US and German strategy and defence policy-making. From 2003-2007 Professor Heuser was the Director of Research of the Military History Research Institute of the Bundeswehr in Potsdam. Now teaching at the University of Reading, Professor Heuser has previously taught at the University of Reims, at King's College London's Department of War Studies, at the University of Potsdam, the University of the Bundeswehr in Neubiberg and has had visiting professorships at the Universities of Paris VIII (St Denis) and Paris IV (Sorbonne). She is the member of several editorial boards for journals, including Cold War History; has served on a dozen advisory boards for museums et al. and is currently a member of the Scientific Council of the Project: ‘Guerre et Société’, of Professor Jean Baechler of the Académie des Sciences morales et politiques, Institut de France.