Military History in the United Kingdom

Mark Grimsley over on Blog them out of the Stone Age has bemoaned the death of Military History in American universities with some interesting posts on the ongoing debate on the place of the subject in academia. In particular Mark has posted links to some very interesting articles on the subject and he has them filled on his blog under The Future of Academic Military History. However, in this post I intend to give you my impression of the growth of the subject here in the United Kingdom. As I think that in the past six years the subject has grown greatly within UK universities.Firstly, I think I must qualify my comments by admitting that I do not believe that Military History can be studied in isolation as a historical subject and must be framed within a subject of its own. Here in the UK that subject is War Studies and it is this aspect that I will be discussing. War Studies by its very nature combines many disciplines that all relate to the effective study of war. This includes Military History, Strategic Studies, International Relations, Politics, Philosophy and the list could go on.

When I began my undergraduate studies back in 2001 there were few institution that offered courses that covered Military History to any degree. In actual fact there were only two universities offering War Studies, King’s College and the University of Wolverhampton, the latter being where I studied. The University of Salford also offered degree in Military History. The only of its kind at undergraduate level at this time.

However, in the intervening years there has been a growth in courses offered in War Studies at UK institutions. There are arguably many reasons for this ranging from the effect of 9/11 and subsequent actions to the growing acceptance and success of the various War Studies courses already in existence. The department at King’s has always been a centre of excellence since its foundation in the early 1960’s under Sir Michael Howard. Thus now the following institutions will be offering courses in War Studies/Military History from the 2008 academic year:

1. University of Birmingham

2. University of Kent

3. King’s College

4. Liverpool Hope University College

5. University of Reading

6. University of Salford

7. University of Wales, Swansea

8. University of Westminster

9. University of Wolverhampton

10. University of Wales, Aberystwyth We can add to this several institutions, which are known to offer content on military history at undergraduate level:

1. University College London

2. University of Leeds

3. University of Newcastle

4. University of Glasgow

5. University of Exeter

6. University of Edinburgh

To this we can add related subjects such as Defence Studies, Peace Studies and Conflict Studies, which are offered by the following institutions:

1. University of Bradford

2. London Metropolitan University

3. Leeds Metropolitan University

4. Lancaster University

Thus, at undergraduate level the study of war in all its facets seems quite healthy here in the UK. The same is true at postgraduate level with the following institutions offering taught postgraduate qualification and research supervision:

1. King’s College

2. University of Wolverhampton

3. University of Birmingham

4. University of Exeter

5. University of Leeds

6. University of Wales, Aberystwyth

7. University of Wales, Swansea

8. University of Chester

9. Brunel University

10. University of Glasgow

11. University of Essex

12. University of Edinburgh

13. University of Salford

14. University of Northampton

Again it can be seen that here in the UK the study of war can be seen alive and well. Also the last few years have seen an increase in research centres in universities relating to the study of war, such as Centre for Second World War Studies and the Centre for First World War Studies at the University of Birmingham. The University of Exeter also recently launched as research centre for the study of war, Centre for the Study of War, State and Society. Scotland also has two research centre dedicated to war, one at the University of Glasgow, The Scottish Centre for War Studies, and the other at the University of Edinburgh, The Centre for the Study of the Two World Wars. As such the study of war here in the UK is going through something of a renaissance and I think this has been because lecturers here have been willing to diversify there subject matter and cooperate with other subject areas in order offer something, which is both unique and also looks at the subject as a whole rather than in isolation. Therefore, in my opinion, American Military Historians should try and broaden their horizons and look to expand rather than working in isolation in a History department. Think of the wider implication of war and seek to build on this. It appears to have worked here in the UK and may work in the US.

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6 responses to “Military History in the United Kingdom

  1. Pingback: Book Review – War Studies Reader « Thoughts on Military History·

  2. Pingback: Book Review – War Studies Reader « Birmingham "On War"·

  3. Hi, Ross, I am a senior students from National Taiwan University, my major is history. And I found this topics and your blog quiet interesting, therefore I want to discuss further with you about study war studies in Britain. I will send you an email, hoping it won’t bother you.

  4. I sent it the day before yesterday, if you didn’t receive it, pleas let me know. :)

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