Technology versus the Moral Element: Emerging Views in the Russian Officer Corps, 1870–1904

  • Robert F. Baumann


Among the quotations of Napoleon I most often repeated by nineteenth-century military analysts was his maxim that in war the moral element is three times as important as the material. What in essence he meant by this was that the psychological attributes of discipline, willingness to sacrifice, determination, and loyalty are crucial to the dynamics of battle, the object of which is to impose one’s will upon that of one’s adversary. Belief in the importance of the moral element in battle was a cornerstone of military thought in all European armies. The French theorist Charles Ardant du Picq was the first to study the subject deeply in the years preceding the Franco-Prussian War. He believed that battle was a conflict of ‘two moral forces’ of which, assuming rough parity of means, the greater would ordinarily prevail. The human challenge of war since ancient times had been to overcome fear and maintain organisational cohesion long enough to defeat the enemy. Ardant du Picq was especially insightful in his understanding of the ways in which recent improvements in weaponry had increased the psychological demands on soldiers in battle, driving many to the breaking point. Consequently, in the future it would be crucial for armies that methods of training, tactics and leadership evolve which could best preserve moral strength in combat.1


Military Service Officer Corps General Staff Moral Force Moral Element 
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© International Committee for Soviet and East European Studies, and Robert B. McKean 1992

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  • Robert F. Baumann

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