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Big Book of War

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You could say Space Marines do it 'by the book'. Ohohohoho! note 
"A good soldier obeys without question. A good officer commands without doubt."
The Tactica Imperialis, Warhammer 40,000

War is a Matter of Life and Death. How do you go about it? How do you train your troops? What moral codes do you follow? How do you keep your morale up? What tactics do you use in battle? What strategies do you follow? How do you keep your supply lines safe?

In Real Life, there's no easy answer. In fictionland, however, you can just ask the Big Book of War.

A specific type of Fictional Document (and occasionally Encyclopedia Exposita), the Big Book of War is an oft-quoted, but rarely seen in its entirety, book or code which some military (mildly or otherwise) or other group follows. In addition to providing strategies for battle (and occasionally diplomacy), it frequently alludes to some kind of moral, chivalric code which its adherents are supposed to follow. Characters will frequently recite passages or rules from it when faced with some dangerous situation or conundrum. A Rules Lawyer may insist on "sticking to the code" no matter what happens, while a Military Maverick is more likely to shout "screw the code!" and do things his/her own way. The book in question might be Sun Tzu's The Art of War but is at least as likely to be entirely fictional and specific to that organization.

Other organized groups, from ninjas to pirates to Girl/Boy Scouts to bands of space traders, frequently have their own codes that work the same way. Regardless of what it serves, it frequently has all the answers you need, right when you need them. It also makes an excellent citation source for your Badass Creed.

It can be Played for Laughs if a character tries to appear knowledgeable by quoting a rule, only to be corrected by someone else that he picked a completely wrong section of said document.

A subtrope of the Great Big Book of Everything. May be quoted from and result in a Sparse List of Rules.

Only remember that the rules and ideas described in the Real Life section of this trope are meant for the battlefield and do not always help a person in social situations and may make you seem like a Jerkass or Magnificent Bastard, when compromise and politeness will get you much farther. After all, some strategies originally designed to deep-six your opponents certainly may be out of place in dealing with friendships and neighbors.


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    Comic Books 
  • The "Abstract" of the Pride, from Runaways.
  • The Junior Woodchuck Guidebook used by Donald Duck's nephews. Later exported to animation via DuckTales (1987). Probably (in the planning stages, at least) a take on the Boy Scout Handbook.
    • A Don Rosa Uncle Scrooge story reveals the truth about the Guidebook: thousands of years ago, a scribe copied down all the knowledge in the library of Alexandria, shortly before the library was destroyed in a fire. That knowledge was compressed and summarized dozens of times over the millennia by various scholars, until it was discovered by the founder of the Junior Woodchucks and made into their guidebook. Of course, Scrooge only learns this after traveling all over the world in search of that same document...
  • Rogue Trooper carries around a copy of the Guide to the Nu-Earth War in Bagman.

  • A Thing of Vikings: One of the fictional texts used to provide epigraphs for various chapters is "The Wing and the Axe", a book on the military applications of dragons, written by Astrid. Another epigraph mentions that it was the book of dragon warfare for almost two centuries and still seen as one of the foundational texts on the subject later on.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Pirates of the Caribbean features a number of references to the Pirates' Code until the physical book is actually trotted out and referred to in At World's End. While Barbarossa claims that it's more a book of guidelines than rules, the pirate community seems to treat the book itself with quite a bit of reverance. Historically, Caribbean pirate ships, like all ships at the time, tended to have their own set of written rules to establish discipline and resolve disputes, even going as far as to state how many shares of the stolen booty each pirate would receive.
    • It's worth noting that while most Pirates do seem to treat the Code as "guidelines", part of their reverence to the actual Codex itself is shown to be more because you do not badmouth it whilst in front of Captain Teague, the Keeper of the Codex.
  • Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (or How I Flew from London to Paris in 25 hours 11 minutes): "But... how will I learn to fly, Herr Colonel?" "The way we do everything in the German army: from the book of instructions!" "Step one: Sit down."
    • Amazingly, this ends up working fairly well, at least until the book gets dropped while the plane is in flight.
  • Zombieland has Columbus' list.
  • The Christian movie Fireproof used a manual titled "The Love Dare" to save one of the significant marriages in the movie. After the film was released, the pastor-producers were deluged with requests for copies. Since the book was entirely fictional, the producers wrote it themselves... and it became a best-seller.
  • Starship Troopers 3: Marauder: General Hauser is attacked by a civilian and cites every regulation he is violating by attacking an officer. Yes, for each punch, uppercut, and kick to the balls, there is a regulation for that.

  • Discworld:
    • General Tacticus' memoirs Veni Vidi Vici: A Soldier's Life in Jingo and Carpe Jugulum, featuring practical advice such as "When one army is within an impregnable fortress, well-garrisoned and well-stocked with provisions and the other is not - endeavor to be the one on the inside."
      • But not for nothing is Tacticus considered history's greatest warlord, and the man who lent his name to the art of large-scale combat. On the same subject, he notes that if you are not the one inside the fortress, then make sure the enemy stays there.
      • Another anecdote concerns Genua (a city pretty much on the opposite side of the continent from Ankh-Morpork) inviting General Tacticus to become their new king. He accepts, and, upon taking the throne, reviews their strategic situation and decides to promptly declare war on their most dangerous enemy... Ankh-Morpork.
      • Despite most emphatically not being a soldier and having little use for what passes for military men in Ankh-Morpork these days, Sam Vimes is rather a fan of the works of Tacticus, who is one of a very few individuals who could match Vimes himself for diamond-hard pragmatic cynicism.
    • In Interesting Times, mention is made of the Art of War, although unlike Roundworld's version, nobody remembers who wrote it. Because all the ruling classes of the Agatean Empire fight according to the Five Rules and Nine Principles, warfare is much more organised and civilised and mostly consists of short periods of excitement followed by long periods of checking the index. (The Silver Horde, on the other hand, don't fight according to any rules at all.) It's also noted that the majority of generals follow the tactics by rote, with no understanding of the logic behind them or the underlying philosophy; the result is that the country is effectively in a permanently stalemated civil war.
  • In David Gemmell's The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend the Ventrians have a highly formalized way of making war, based on an ancient treatise. So slavishly do they adhere to this text that the defenders of a hotly contested city leave the walls after the fourth attack in one day because the book says that launching more than four attacks in a day should be avoided as it is bad for morale and as a result no Ventrian general would presume to launch a fifth attack.
  • Dune:
    • The Assassin's Handbook was a originally a list of poisons commonly used in the limited warfare between Houses. Latter versions added weapons and devices that were allowed in warfare.
    • The Kanly, a code (and therefore presumably written in a book somewhere) describing the rules that nobles must abide by during their feuds. One rule mentioned is the prohibition of nuclear weapons on humans, violation of which is punishable by planetary annihilation. Paul Atreides uses the specification of "on humans" to split hairs and blow a hole in a mountain range and let his Fremen into the Sardaukar camp. He acknowledges this, but believes that considering what he is planning to do, the powers-that-be will accept it (or, at least, take any excuse they can to not destroy Arrakis).
  • In Cold Comfort Farm, the heroine, Flora Poste, is guided by "The Higher Common Sense" as she extracts her relatives from their idiotic predicaments.
  • The New Bushido from the Hyperion Cantos.
  • In Laurie J. Marks' Elemental Logic series, Mabin's Warfare.
  • The Wheel of Time has Fog and Steel.The name of the book is probably a reference to "the fog of war," a term coined by Carl von Clausewitz's famous Big Book, On War.
    • One character notes that the King of Murdandy thinks that it will make him a great general.
    • Mat has several times played off his acquired memories as vaguely claiming to have read a book on war once. He once even mentioned such a book by name (possibly Fog and Steel) and then realized that nobody's read that particular book in several hundred years...
  • In Good Omens, Crowley and Aziraphale often make reference to The Agreement, which was formed when they first decided to become friends, shortly after meeting on the newly-created Earth. Recognising most of the responsibilities of Demons and Angels are practically the same, each offered to cover for each other in certain situations, since the job was going get done anyway. This lead to a set of rules that state that whilst covering for the other, Crowley doesn't get to do anything too good, Aziraphale gets to refuse to do anything too evil, while neither is allowed to directly interfere with the other's work. Crowley gets to corrupt Manchester and Glasgow, while Aziraphale is allowed to develop Edinburgh and the whole of Shropshire. Each believes the other is responsible for Milton Keynes, but both report it to their superiors as a "success".
  • In The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold, Miles Vorkosigan edits an old copy of obsolete Barrayaran military regulations to serve as the regs for the mercenary fleet he's conjuring into being, eliminating all the specifically Barrayaran stuff (ceremonies for the Emperor's Birthday Review), procedures for weapons that have been obsolete for several decades, and the more hair-raising disciplinary measuresnote . In the process of producing a "neat, fierce little handbook for getting everybody's weapons pointed in the same direction" Miles himself winds up getting a solid education in the military organization needed to get "huge masses of properly matched men and material to the right place at the right time in the right order with the swiftness required to even grasp survival—to wrestle an infinitely complex and confusing reality into the abstract shape of victory".

    Live Action TV 
  • Star Trek
    • The infamous Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, introduced in in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It's a list of maxims and advice on how to earn profit, which the mercantile Ferengi pursue with military ferocity. The document is no longer fictional, as some of the rules were gathered and published—as a bit of Star Trek merchandise, of course.
    • Starfleet's General Orders, which has rules for everything Star Fleet does. Various General Orders were mentioned in the series and films, and many have been compiled together in online list. General Order 1 is, of course, the Prime Directive. General Order 7, for example, is the command to avoid the planet that Captain Pike found in the original pilot, on the basis that the locals were the first godlike aliens that Starfleet had ever encountered.
      • Confusingly, in addition to standing commands like General Order 1 and General Order 7, Starfleet's General Orders also includes commands the captain can order in certain circumstances — examples being General Order 13 (evacuate ship) and General Order 24 (destroy all life on a planet).
  • Red Dwarf has the Space Corp Directives, which Kryten tends to quote at Rimmer (and Rimmer, in turn, tries to quote at Kryten - usually failing). The Space Corp Directives are brilliantly organized, too, where (from memory) Section 132 Paragraph 24 Subparagraph 14 is a guide to the treatment of prisoners of war, and Subparagraph 15 is a list of how parking spots are assigned to the Chinese representatives of the conference. One can't blame Rimmer for getting it mixed-up.
  • NCIS has, while it's clearly not in written form (which in itself is even referenced several times), Gibbs' rules. Several (but not all) have been named and numbered, most of which have been brought up multiple times.
    • It is revealed they are written down in the Season 7 Finale, but only Gibbs has access to them. They are revealed when he adds Rule 51: "Sometimes you're wrong" to the back of the card with Rule 13: "Never, ever involve lawyers."
  • How I Met Your Mother has Barney's Bro Code and Playbook, both of which are seen as physical books. Barney also claims that the original Bro Code was written down on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Both have been published.
  • Sharpe: Sharpe's Enemy has a guide to what a good soldier should be, written by an officer who's never been to the front. The men who can read - or know someone who can read it to them - find it hilarious.
  • The Big Bang Theory has The Roommate Agreement between Leanord and Sheldon. While often referenced (usually by Sheldon), it is never quoted in its entirety and is, apparently, hundreds of pages long. It covers such rudimentary things as whose stuff goes where in the refrigerator, as well as what happens if one of them should gain superpowers or invent time travel.
  • The Young Ones has a charter of various rules that cover the aspects of living together such as food and laundry. All of them have the universal exception "... except Mike."
  • The Argentine TV series Los únicos, about secret agents with superpowers, has a set of bylaws for the agents. The main rule is that agents shall not develop romantic relations among themselves (of course, they all defy the rule and get in trouble as a result), but other laws are mentioned from time to time.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer has The Slayer Handbook. Buffy still hasn't read it.
  • Game of Thrones. Before the Battle of Kings Landing, Hand of the King Tyrion Lannister, an expert political strategist but with little practical experience in warfare, is seen consulting these while Varys and Bronn make unhelpful quips from the sidelines. "You could always throw books at them."

    Tabletop Games 
This trope does not refer to the actual rulebooks for these games. Usually.
  • Quite a few Board Games and Card Games have extensive literature on strategy, of which by far the largest (at least in North America) are Chess, bridge, and poker.
  • Doyle Brunson's Super System and its sequel are Poker's traditional Big Book of War. Its advice is typically considered out-of-date these days, leaving the title up for grabs. Phil Gordon's Little Green Book and Daniel Negreanu's Power Hold'Em Strategy are two contenders. Caro's Book of Poker Tells is another classic, if more specialized.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has numerous examples, from the meditations of alien commanders to humanity's own military bibles. One highly quotable work is the Tactica Imperium, an ever-expanding, eclectic collection of military theory covering everything from field fortifications to oaths of allegiance. As such, some passages are best read metaphorically, while others directly contradict each other, so the Tactica's main value is provoking thought rather than serving as some end-all guide to warfare.
    • The Tactica Imperialis is more properly not a book (although compilations are issued to virtually every officer of significant rank), but a massive library, ever-expanding as more strategists add their thoughts and commentaries to it, that consists of millions of tomes (any resemblance to a long-standing religious canon is probably intentional, it's pretty much a war Talmud). Dedicated library staff work to compile usable editions specific to different situations.
    • Imperial Guardsmen are issued with a copy of The Imperial Infantryman's Uplifting Primer, which they must keep on them on pain of death. Though subverted in that while it does occasionally have some nuggets of useful information, such as how to strip and clean your gun, a startlingly (or hilariously) large amount of it is propaganda and outright lies:
      • "Orks are stupid,note  brittle-boned and feeblenote  and their weapons are extremely crude and prone to misfires."note 
      • "Eldar are cowardly and cynical, and their weapons are antiquated,note  and inferior to our own."note 
      • "Tyranids are mindlessnote  creatures who are half-blind and confused by sudden movements."note 
      • "Tau are frightened by fire, water and hairy people.note They are also derived from bovines and chew cud and have udders.note  They have terrible eyesight so that their hearing overcompensates,note  allowing you to scare them off with loud shouting.note  And those guns they're carrying require sustained streams to injure a healthy, armoured human."note 
      • It is very telling that we have yet to encounter a canon Guardsman who considers the Primer to be anything more than a glorified spare toilet roll. Ciaphas Cain mentions some people reading theirs for inspiration or amusement.
    • The Codex Astartes was compiled by the Ultramarines' primarch, Roboute Guilliman, who had an almost pathological need to organize and standardize. Beyond a tactical guide, the Codex served as the template for the organization of Space Marine chapters when the old legions were split apart following the Horus Heresy. Some chapters, like the Ultramarines, follow the Codex religiously, but may run into problems when they treat it as an unquestionable how-to manual; even Guilliman realized that new enemies will require new tactical doctrines, and that no two battles are exactly alike. Other Space Marine chapters tweak the Codex to various degrees, most famously the headstrong and barbaric Space Wolves, who more or less ignore it.
      • Even the Ultramarines, which hold it as holy writ, are aware that it doesn't cover every situation, or that some unconventional solutions may be required, and that a commander has to use his best judgement in many situations.
    • The Soul Drinkers' Catechisms Martial is one part tactical meditations to two parts prayer book, used as often in religious ceremonies as in forward planning. Since Space Marines don't really differentiate between warfare and religion, it matters little.
    • The legendary Tau Commander Farsight compiled two such volumes during his career. Befitting the Tau's reactionary style of warfare, they are deconstructions of the tactics of different species: the Book of the Beast, which analyzes ork warfare and how to respond to their seemingly-random instincts, and the Mirrorcodex, which (as the name implies) breaks down the Codex Astartes and, to a lesser extent, the Tactica Imperialis. The Tau are also known to rely on memory engram chips that contain an AI copy of their great master, Puretide, to offer advice on military issues.
    • Presumably, Orks will use a Big Book of Waaaaaagh! Probably as a weapon.
  • Warhammer Fantasy has a book on tactics written by the High Elf General Mentheus that is referenced occasionally.
    • And there is the Giovanni Marmalodi's book on siege warfare...
    • Not to mention the Dwarves’ Book of Grudges, which isn't so much a book about how to fight war as it is a book on reasons why a Dwarf might go to war, including avenging the casualties of a previous war.
  • Forgotten Realms has The Steel Princess' Field Guide to Tactics of the Purple Dragon by Her Royal Highness Princess Alusair Nacacia Obarskyr of Cormyr. Yeah, she published it with her nickname right in the title.
    • Appropriately enough, the holy scripture of Tempus' faith is one of these, the Red Book of War. Same goes for Master Tactician, a holy book of the Red Knight's faith.
  • Exalted has the Thousand Correct Actions of the Upright Soldier. It is primarily used by the Realm, the major empire of the game setting, and is regarded as an excellent manual of war. Except, now that the empire is in decay due to the disappearance of its leader, politically-appointed officers who believe they know better just chuck the thing aside. Or abridge it, which is even worse. The latter is especially true because, unlike many examples on this page, the book is actually magical, and prayers to war gods and the Pattern Spiders are actually encoded into the practices described in the book.
  • Iron Kingdoms has (Supreme) Kommandant Irusk's book, How to Fully Subjugate Your Enemies.
  • The GURPS International Super Teams universe has The Metahuman in Combat, a Big Book of superhero combat.
  • Eberron has Karrn the Conqueror's Analects of War. Think Sun Tzu as a Blood Knight and you'll pretty much have the idea.
  • Paranoia Troubleshooters tend to have their little red survival books, full of notes, treasonous material, and other useful tips on survival. Typically, a great deal of information in the book will be wrong. This is Alpha Complex after all.
  • Legend of the Five Rings is named after a Real Life example of this trope, but the setting also has Akodo's Leadership, a comprehensive treatise on strategy and tactics that was a major part of Toku's rise from peasant to general.

  • In Gilbert & Sullivan's Ruddigore, the heroine, Rose Maybud, was raised from birth by a "little book of etiquette," the contents of which are never known (apart from the times when Rose quotes from the book) except that Rose herself is an expert in all matters of propriety as a result.
    Yet here it says in plainest print,
    "It's most unladylike to hint!"

    Video Games 
  • The Mass Effect Series' Asari justicar code contains many instructions for virtually any situation a justicar might encounter. On the surface, it is very black and white, but, as Samara proves, it can be manipulated to reach a desired outcome.
  • The Carlson & Peeters military manual from Beyond Good & Evil. Double H's characteristic idiosyncrasy is that he quotes from it all the time, offering such advice as "If you can't go through a door, go around it!" and "W.W.T.A.O.! We Work Together As One!" You do eventually get to see a portion of the book in digital form, from a chapter that deals with "Defense and Detection".
  • The hints and tips on Battle for Wesnoth's main game screen are attributed to various Fictional Document sources, including tactical manuals and characters' journals.
  • In Metro 2033 When Hunter helps out Artyom with the first battle. Afterwards he repeats the Ranger motto which is short and to the point "If it's hostile, you kill it.".
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri does this very well - buildings, secret projects, and technologies are all accompanied by voiced-over quotes from books in the game universe, mostly written by the faction leaders.
    • Adhering closest to the trope would be the Spartan Battle Manual and Planet: A Survivalist's Guide, both written by Colonel Corazon Santiago.
  • Icewind Dale 2 includes an item, the book How to Be an Adventurer, with such helpful chapters as "101 Uses for a 10' Pole", "Getting the Most out of Your Party's Thief", and "Face It, You're Actually Neutral Evil". Reading it grants a character 10,000 Experience Points and consumes the book.
  • Shi-Long Lang of Ace Attorney fame quotes from a seemingly endless scroll written by his ancestor, Lang Zi, when he feels the need to spout an ambiguously relevant quote to the situation.
  • The Assassins of Assassin's Creed have their own... well...
  • Star Wars: Republic Commando — Rule number one: kill them before they kill you. Rule seventeen: always make sure they're dead. Rule thirty-nine: never say no to bacta. Several other rules are also quoted, but no actual strategies or tactics are mentioned.
  • In A Tale of Two Kingdoms, the Way of the Warrior by Moon Tzu. It explains how honorable it is to cast sand at the enemy's eyes during a swordfight.
  • The Elder Scrolls series has The Art of War Magic, a homage to Sun Tzu's Art of War that is even written in the same style. It consists of a series of proverbs by former Imperial Battlemage Zurin Arctus (who served Emperor Tiber Septim) dealing with applications of magic and military strategy, with commentaries on the proverbs supplied by other mages.
  • Halo features the Cole Protocol, which occasionally gets cited as a Sparse List of Rules. The Cole Protocol is a bit of a Subversion, as rather than being a comprehensive guide to warfare, it is specifically about what must be done to prevent the Covenant from discovering the whereabouts of Earth and other Inner Colonies.


    Western Animation 
  • The Trope Namer is Futurama's Seuss-like Zapp Brannigan's Big Book of War, which, considering who wrote it, would probably serve you best if you convinced an enemy to read it.

    Real Life 
  • Sun Tzu's The Art of War, the classic Chinese text and possible Trope Maker in the public consciousness, beloved by military strategists and pretended to be read by Nietzsche Wannabes everywhere. Despite its reputation, The Art of War is quite small, particularly in the original archaic Chinese. Publications usually include explanatory commentaries from both feudal-period Chinese students and modern translators that are several times longer than the original work. Not only is it mandatory to read and study in military academies the world over, it is also studied in many business degrees.
  • Kautilya's Arthashastra is an ancient treatise written around the 4th Century BCE, during the Mauryan Empire that ruled over the Indian subcontinent. Kautilya (also known as Chanakya or Vishnu Sharma) was the legendary teacher of Chandragupta Maurya, the founding emperor of the Mauryan Empire. Written in Sanskrit, the Arthashastra is a treatise on statecraft, political science, economic policy, and military strategy. This text disappeared around the 12th century until it was rediscovered in the 20th century and was subsequently translated into English.
  • Carl von Clausewitz's On War is the West's premier work on military theory. Clausewitz notably argues for the inherent superiority of defense over offense and stresses the moral and political aspects of war. Even though the work is unfinished, it was highly influential at the time of the First World War and remains relevant today. The book coined the concept of the "fog of war" and memorably defined war as "the continuation of politics by other means." note 
  • Niccolò Machiavelli was a noted military commander for the Florentine Republic, and had a bit of a fixation on military affairs. It should come as no surprise that his book The Prince, which covers military strategy as it pertains to ruling monarchs, and his Discourses on Livy, which devotes the second of its three sections chiefly to conducting war as a republic, both qualify (well, The Prince is really more like a Little Book of War, but see the bit about Sun Tzu above). Machiavelli is also responsible for The Art of War, which has the same name (in English, anyway) with Sun Tzu's treatise. While not as famous as the Chinese one, it is often cited as the book that paved the way for military reforms of early modern period in Europe. It also predates Clausewitz's stance on war as extension of politics by three centuries. Part of Machiavelli's intention is to convince his readers that the Italian city-states should not be reliant on mercenaries, and should instead build up citizen militias. His tactics were gradually amended over the years and became the basis for linear tactics—i.e. arraying your infantry in lines rather than blocks, which was standard until after Napoleon—and the modern professional army (i.e. raised from among the population of the state that fielded it, paid by the government, utilizing a rank structure, and rigorously trained and drilled). Machiavelli's The Prince, is often compared to India's Arthashastra.
  • Summary of the Art of War was released in the 19th century by Baron Antoine Henri de Jomini, who served under Napoleon and was a professional rival to fellow theorist Clausewitz. Jomini's writing style is noted for his extensive use of historical examples and diagrams to illustrate his points, complete with a Lemony Narrator commentary. These days, most publishers shorten the title to The Art of War, which can lead to confusion.
  • The Book Of Five Rings, a martial arts and military strategy book written by legendary Samurai warrior Miyamoto Musashi at around 1645. The Japanese-inspired Tabletop RPG Legend of the Five Rings is named in reference to it.
  • The Dicta Boelcke by Oswald Boelcke is a list of fundamental aerial maneuvers of aerial combat that still has bearing in aerial combat today.
  • Vegetius's De Re Militari (roughly, On Military Matters) was a major influence on Machiavelli and widely read for centuries.
  • The ancient Greeks produced several, including The Cavalry Commander by Xenophon, On the Defence of Fortified Positions by Aeneas Tacticus, Tactics by Asclepiodotus and The General by Onasander. The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides is 2000 years old and still a solid read for the conduct of war and international relations.
  • The Byzantines were very fond of writing military manuals, the most famous of which is the Strategikon of Maurice, allegedly written by the Emperor Maurice. The Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus also wrote a manual on campaigning and Emperor Nikephoros II wrote one titled Skirmishing and another titled Presentation and Composition on Warfare. But there are a number of others, such as an anonymous, early sixth century, untitled manual on strategy, an anonymous, late tenth century, untitled manual on tactics, and an early eleventh century work titled Taktika by Nikephoros Ouranos.
  • Mao himself wrote a book entitled The Art of War. His "Little Red Book" (Quotations from Chairman Mao) and On Guerrilla Warfare would also qualify as examples of this trope.
  • The Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla by Carlos Marighella, a Brazillian guerrilla fighter who writes about how to disrupt and overthrow an authoritarian regime, written for left-wing Communist revolutionaries.
  • The US Army (and presumably the militaries of most other countries) have numerous field manuals and other publications that break down protocol for a very great many circumstances.
    • One still useful today is the USMC's Small Wars manual, written in 1940 specifically for the sort of counterinsurgency work the Corps was doing in Latin America at the time. It covers everything necessary in such a situation, from tactics, supplies and public relations to the proper way to load a mule.
    • Especially notable is General David Petraeus' field manual on Counter-insurgency, for obvious reasons.
      • "One of the serious problems in planning against American doctrine that the Americans do not read their manuals nor do they feel any obligations to follow their doctrine."
    • CE Callwell's Small Wars is a massive tome published in 1906 for British colonial officers, containing a multitude of case histories from actual campaigns from all over the world.
  • In The Thirty-Six Stratagems, there are Nine Principles of War.
  • In the US Navy, ancient wisdom has it that there are three ways of doing anything: "The right way, the wrong way, and the Navy way." "The Navy way" is, in many ships and shore commands, written down and collected (usually in three-ring binders) in volumes called "turnover guides" which are handed over by one person (department head, division officer, etc.) to another when officers and senior enlisteds rotate to different jobs within the command.
    • Famously mentioned in Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny" where (right after "Navy way") the captain appends "and my way. On this ship, things will be done my way." It does not end well.
  • Alfred Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power upon History (1890) is one of the most influential books of the twentieth century; it basically set U.S. naval policy to where it is now. It's also a current favorite of China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
    • It also was one of the favourite textbooks for Wilhelm II and Tirpitz's expansion of the German navy and thus was a major influence on the British-German naval armament race that helped bring about World War I.
    • Julian Corbett wrote Some Principles of Maritime Strategy in 1911. It was essentially the British answer to Mahan and was also incredibly influential. While Mahan wrote mainly about old school fleet battles Corbett focused on things like disrupting lines of communication and power projection which means that his work also aged a bit better. Though both are still studied today.
  • Italian General Giulio Douhet and his Command of the Air (1921) exerted a similarly big influence on the air forces of the inter-war years, especially in Britain and Germany.
  • Erwin Rommel wrote Infantry Attacks, a memoir of his service in WWI, interspersing battle reports with his thoughts on the lessons learned. Published in 1936, it gained Hitler's attention and led to Rommel's assignment to the commands that brought him fame. It was promptly translated into English for the consumption of American officers. Rommel followed it up with a detailed diary during WWII that he intended to turn into a similar work on armoured warfare; halted by his death, it was later published as The Rommel Papers.
  • ''The Law of Land Warfare'' (aka The Geneva Convention) explicitly states The Laws and Customs of War. Unlike most other Big Books of War, it tells you only what not to do if you wish to conduct war like a civilized country and expect other countries to do the same. It's also binding, and is what gives tribunals like the Nuremburg Trials the justification for trying people for war crimes, among other things.
  • Hugo Grotius' Law of War and Peace is a massive philosophical tome on military and political ethics that inspired much of modern international law. It was perhaps backlash to current events of the time for the seventeenth was emphatically not famed for gentlemanly warfare.
  • The Defence of Duffer's Drift (written in 1905 about a fictional skirmish in the Boer war) and The Defense of Hill 781 both lay down principles of warfare (the former for infantry, the latter mechanized combined arms operations) through similar narrative devices. Both are near-required reading for U.S. Army officers.
    • The concept is still popular, and many imitations have been written for different situations, nationalities and types of warfare.
  • The Apache traditionally had a very complex set of rules for raiding and warfare (two distinct operations in their culture), passed down orally. One rule was not letting men whose wives were pregnant come on expeditions (they'd be distracted); another was an argot, "warpath words", consisting of using different words for nearly every action ("dragged something" rather than "walked", for instance), so that even enemies who knew Apache wouldn't understand plans.
  • Every team in American Football maintains a "playbook" full of dozens of Attack Patterns Alpha.
  • Just and Unjust Wars by Michael Walzer, which deals more with the moral/ethical dilemmas.
  • Guerrilla Warfare by Ernesto "Che" Guevara, based largely on the tactics he used in the Cuban revolution.
  • Jim Dunnigan and associates have written books over the years including How To Make War, A Quick and Dirty Guide To War, and Dirty Little Secrets: Military Information You're Not Supposed To Know, not to mention They amount to the equivalent of a fairly comprehensive Big Book of War for the modern layman.
  • Överraskning och Vilseledning: Sovjetiska och ryska vilseledningsprinciper i krig och fred (near literal translation to english: Surprise and Deception: Soviet and Russian principles of deception during war and peace times) is a book written by the Swedish military historian Lars Ulfving that tells of the history, the ways and tactics of Maskirovka, the term used for the Russian art of military deception.
  • In 1899 a certain Robert Baden Powell, the youngest colonel in the British Army, published a quite small and specialised book of war called Aids to Scouting, about the art of military scouting and how to train people in it. When he returned home a few years later he discovered it had become a bestseller, amongst teachers and teenagers. The man decided to run with it, wrote a new book called Scouting for Boys (which became the 4th best selling book of the 20th century) and started what might very well be the biggest youth movement of all time. Not all books pan out like they're supposed to.
  • Heinz Guderian wrote the book - literally - on combined arms warfare and the most effective use of tanks when he penned Achtung – Panzer! in 1936. Despite the book being heavily influenced by the writings of British strategists such as Hobart, Fuller and Liddell-Hart, the German Blitzkrieg of 1940 still caught the Allies by surprise.
    • One of Guderian's self-acclaimed foremost influences, Basil Liddell-Hart, had quite the archive on armoured theory, currently in the possession of King's College London. Widely regarded as one of the greatest exponents of mechanisation, he was a driving force in helping to push Britain towards preparing for World War Two.
  • Britain's National Archives also retains the military pamphlets of CIGS, the Imperial General Staff, which form their own Little Archive of War, insofar as they cover the stratagems and tactics of handling various military units in the field dating back over a century.
  • Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics for the Exercise and Manoeuvres of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen (1855) by William J. Hardee (a.k.a Hardee's Tactics), the most widely used infantry drill manual of The American Civil War ... by both sides.
    • Despite the title, it only covers drill and ceremony, and contains no tactical instruction. Officers of the period learned to actually direct battles from Jomini instead.
  • Guerrilla Days in Ireland by Tom Barry is part memoir of the Irish War for Independence and part instruction manual on how to run a guerrilla campaign.
  • Coup d'etat: A Practical Handbook by Edward Luttwak. Nearly the only book on the subject of military coups d'état, giving detailed instructions on how to plan and execute the revolutionary overthrow of a government quickly and with a minimum of resistance. It includes advice on how to form cliques within the upper echelons of the military, and what persons and forces should be seized or put out of commission to ensure a successful coup. Originally written in 1968, it was revised in 2016 to include information on more modern technology, such as harnessing the power of social media to support the cause.