The new year often brings resolutions. Many resolve to exercise more, eat better and become better stewards of their finances. There are also a few, like Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, who aim to read more in 2015.
General Marshall would approve of that resolution. He was a student of history and recognized the vital importance of historical study for military officers and civilians alike. In 1947 Secretary of State Marshall told Princeton students “I doubt seriously whether a man can think with full wisdom and with deep convictions regarding certain of the basic issues today who has not at least reviewed in his mind the period of the Peloponnesian War and the fall of Athens.” In essence, a person cannot form sound opinions about current events without understanding their relationship to similar historic events.
Like Marshall, the current Army Chief of Staff General Odierno believes that “a course of personal study and contemplation is an essential component for the individual development of every Army professional.” In this spirit he releases a yearly professional reading list for personnel. The most recent list included the book Partners in Command by Mark Perry which explores the relationship between Marshall and Eisenhower during World War II.
However Marshall also read more than just history and war strategies. The library at his home in Leesburg, Virginia was filled with books on a wide variety of topics. The books included career-related reading material such as: Map Reading and Topographical Sketching (1918) by Edwin Roy Stuart, Peace Through Strength: Bernard Baruch and a Blueprint for Security by Rosenbloom, Military Management for National Defense by John Robert Beishline and The Integration of the Negro into the U.S. Navy (1951) by Dennis Denmark Nelson.
Other shelves were filled with books related to his interests outside of work: The Sound of Your Life; A Record of Radio’s First Generation by Columbia Broadcasting System, Peach Growing by H. P. Gould, Good Shot – A Book of Rod, Gun, and Camera by Robert Perkins Holland and Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay.
Marshall owned classics like Treasure Island, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Scarlet Letter. He was also a fan of biographies and his library contained the lives of Benjamin Franklin, Queen Victoria, Clara Barton, George Sand, and Will Rogers.