Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Pyrrhic Victory

Pyrrhic Victory

French Strategy and Operations in the Great War

Robert A. Doughty

ISBN 9780674027268

Publication date: 03/31/2008

As the driving force behind the Allied effort in World War I, France willingly shouldered the heaviest burden. In this masterful book, Robert Doughty explains how and why France assumed this role and offers new insights into French strategy and operational methods.

French leaders, favoring a multi-front strategy, believed the Allies could maintain pressure on several fronts around the periphery of the German, Austrian, and Ottoman empires and eventually break the enemy's defenses. But France did not have sufficient resources to push the Germans back from the Western Front and attack elsewhere. The offensives they launched proved costly, and their tactical and operational methods ranged from remarkably effective to disastrously ineffective.

Using extensive archival research, Doughty explains why France pursued a multi-front strategy and why it launched numerous operations as part of that strategy. He also casts new light on France's efforts to develop successful weapons and methods and the attempts to use them in operations.

An unparalleled work in French or English literature on the war, Pyrrhic Victory is destined to become the standard account of the French army in the Great War.


  • Pyrrhic Victory is the first work to address comprehensively the strategic planning and the operational execution that shaped World War I. Doughty makes an eloquent case for the strength and flexibility of the French Third Republic as it confronted a mortal challenge. He brings an intellectual force and clarity of expression, as well as a gifted professional soldier's understanding of French aims and intentions. This long-awaited work will stand as the definitive account of French strategy in the Great War.

    —Dennis Showalter author of Patton and Rommel


  • 2006, Winner of the Norman B. Tomlinson, Jr. Book Prize


  • Brigadier General (Ret.) Robert A. Doughty served as Professor and Head of the Department of History at the United States Military Academy from 1985 to 2005.

Book Details

  • 592 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press