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Strategy and Defence PlanningMeeting the Challenge of Uncertainty$
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Colin S. Gray

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198701842

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198701842.001.0001

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Historical Context

Historical Context

(1) The Great Stream of Time

(p.79) 3 Historical Context
Strategy and Defence Planning

Colin S Gray

Oxford University Press

It is important to grasp in order to appreciate the continuities in history, as much as it is to appreciate the reality of change. This chapter approaches the past as being most accurately regarded as a ‘great stream of time’. The key challenge is being open to recognition both of continuity and change. Strategic history can be understood best as being essentially continuous, a stream of happenings in time without cease. This approach, with its enabling assumption of continuity, allows one to draw illustration and inspiration from the past, as an aid to our education for future defence planning. Historical analogy is feasible, but never at the level of detail, only with respect to well evidenced categories of strategic behaviour: the dangers of historical anachronism are hard to evade. We can and should learn from history, but only with great care—and we should expect surprising contingencies to occur under-announced.

Keywords:   legacy, consequences, stream of time, anclogy, anachronism, surprise, shock

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