Michael Howard, Eminent British Military Historian, Dies at 97

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His most significant works included a study, published in 1961, of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 that sought to illuminate the societal roots of the opposing armies. He contributed to a major British study of World War II. In 1977, he was the co-translator, with the American scholar Peter Paret, of the 19th-century classic “On War” by the German military philosopher and theorist Carl von Clausewitz.

One of his major works, “Strategic Deception in the Second World War,” covering the activities of British intelligence services, was suppressed on national security grounds by Mrs. Thatcher in 1979. It was published a decade later.

Alongside his writings, Mr. Howard played a central role in embedding the study of war in mainstream British intellectual life. He was a founder of the prestigious International Institute of Strategic Studies and promoted war studies at King’s College London.

“The history of war, I came to realize, was more than the operational history of armed forces. It was the study of entire societies,” Mr. Howard wrote in his memoir in 2006, titled “Captain Professor: A Life in War and Peace.” “Only by studying their cultures could one come to understand what it was they fought about and why they fought in the way they did.”

“I had to learn not only to think about war in a different way, but also to think about history itself in a different way,” he added.

Michael Eliot Howard was born in London on Nov. 29, 1922, the youngest of three brothers. His father, Geoffrey Eliot Howard, ran a family company manufacturing pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals. His mother was Edith Julia Emma Edinger, a socialite and, later, art collector, whose father, Otto Edinger, emigrated to England in 1875 from Germany. She had received “the best possible English upper-class upbringing” and had met his father through a shared interest in mountaineering, Mr. Howard wrote.

He became aware of the consequences of his mother’s Jewish ancestry only when her relatives — “a sad procession of refugees” — began arriving in England in the 1930s, fleeing Nazi persecution, he wrote.


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