Courses

The University of Birmingham offers some of the best military history course in the UK. They are taught by a leading group of academics with wide ranging research interests. Key members of staff are:

Air Commodore (ret’d) Dr Peter Gray

Professor Gary Sheffield

Dr Michael Snape

Dr Jonathan Boff

Dr Pierre Purseigle

Dr Jonathan Gumz

Dr Douglas Ford

Dr Armin Grunbacher

Dr Sadiah Qureshi

BA in War Studies

War is one of the most persistent features of human society. It has been calculated that only 230 out of the last 3,400 years of recorded history have been years of peace. ‘Fighting’ must be added to ‘getting’, ‘spending’, ‘praying’, ‘reproducing’ and ‘dying’ as one of the focal points of historical concern. In our view this concern should be a broad one and should belong not to some arid specialism but to the mainstream of social history. ‘War,’ wrote Clausewitz, ‘belongs to the province of social life – it is part of the intercourse of the human race.’ Emerson described the study of history as ‘intellectual pleasure and moral pain’. Nowhere is this truer than in the study of war. And nowhere is it more important that the moral ambiguities should be confronted and revealed.

The programme will deal with the big questions:

  • What is war?
  • Why study it?
  • Why are wars so common?
  • What are they for?
  • What, if anything, do they achieve?
  • How important are technology, leadership and tactics to the outcome of wars?
  • How have combatants (and non-combatants) experienced war and how has this changed over time?
  • How does war affect society and how does society affect war?
  • It will cover mostly (but not entirely) European history from the Roman Empire to the present day.

The BA War Studies is three years full time. Like all Birmingham University degree programmes it is modularised and consists of 120 credits per year.

MA in the History of Warfare

This new and distinctive full time MA programme provides you with an opportunity to study the history and historiography of warfare from a multi-disciplinary and multi-period perspective. A thorough grounding is provided in research methods and in the historiography and economics of warfare while a wide choice of options complements the broad range of possible dissertation subjects that can be supported by our staff.

In total you will study for 180 credits. You will study these core modules:

  • Historical Methods (20 credits)
  • Research Skills: Dissertation Preparation (20 credits)
  • Economics of War (20 credits)

Plus:

Writing the History of Warfare. Please note that this module is compulsory for students who have not taken the BA War Studies degree at the University of Birmingham (20 credits)

OR

Advanced Option – History. Please note that this module is compulsory for students who have previously taken the BA War Studies degree at the University of Birmingham. This module can be taken in the Spring or the Autumn term. A range of Advanced Options on the History of Warfare is available for 2012-13, including ‘The United States and World War II’ and ‘Military Revolutions and the Conduct of War, c.1300-1650′ (20 credits)

You also take an additional 40 credits of optional modules. These include:

  • Marlborough’s Wars: Sources (20 credits)
  • Marlborough’s Wars: Essays (20 credits)
  • The Sharpe End: The British Army and the Defeat of Napoleon: Sources (20 credits)
  • The Sharpe End: The British Army and the Defeat of Napoleon: Essays (20 credits)
  • Brass Hats and Frock Coats: British Strategy in the First World War (20 credits)
  • The Experience of Air Warfare (20 credits)

You will also complete a 15,000 word dissertation on a subject of your choice relating to the History of Warfare (60 credits).

MA in British First World War Studies

As you know better than I do each war has its own peculiarities, but one would think that no war was ever so peculiar as the present one.

General Sir William Robertson (CIGS) to General Sir Henry Rawlinson (GOC Fourth Army), 26 July 1916

The First World War, or Great War, has been described as ‘the seminal event of the twentieth century’. In Britain the war is often regarded as the worst event in our history.

The dominant perception is still captured by A.J.P.Taylor’s famous phrase ‘brave, helpless soldiers; blundering, obstinate generals; nothing achieved’. The purpose, conduct and outcome of the First World War are inevitably compared to its disadvantage with those of the Second World War, what Studs Terkel called ‘the good war’, the inevitable and heroic struggle against evil and tyranny, a morality tale with a happy ending. At the root of these perceptions are, of course, the scale of the First World War’s casualties, which were unprecedented and – happily – remain unique in British history. It is the casualties that make the war so fascinating and appalling. Even before the guns ceased firing there were attempts to explain how such a human catastrophe came about and why the scale of loss was so great. Popular explanations have often seemed content with blaming the quality of military leadership – especially British military leadership. This MA programme rests on the belief that a tragedy as great as the First World War deserves less superficial analysis.

There are many MA programmes in ‘war studies’. We believe that this programme is unique in its focus on the Great War. It provides an opportunity to study in depth this most compelling and controversial conflict. It focuses on the challenges posed by the war to the British state, the British army and British society and of the evolving ways in which these challenges were met – or not met.

MA in British Second World War Studies

After almost sixty years, it is unlikely that great secrets remain to be revealed about the conduct of the Second World War. The challenge is to improve our perspective upon it, and to reinterpret available evidence.

Sir Max Hastings

There are many MA programmes in ‘war studies’. We believe that this programme is unique in its focus on the Second World War. It provides an opportunity to study in depth this compelling and controversial conflict. It focuses on the challenges posed by the war to the British state, the British army and British society and of the evolving ways in which these challenges were met – or not met. We are also committed to a comparative approach taking into account former allies and enemies alike.

MA in Air Power: History, Theory and Doctrine

The application of air power is now a profession of considerable complexity, demanding technological mastery, a sense of command, structure, speed, time, distance and impact in proportions quite different from those applicable on land or sea.

Air Vice Marshal Professor R A Mason CB CBE MA DSc FRAeS DL

Over the last century, air power has proved to be one of the most complex and fascinating forms of military capability. It is full of contradictions and controversies. Its reach and versatility make it the most desirable of components; its lack of permanency equally offers real flexibility, but also potential drawbacks. Some issues, such as the strategic bombing of Germany continue to promote ‘savage’ debate. And much has been made of the rhetoric, and of the consequences, of warfare in the third dimension. This exciting new MA programme provides a really unique opportunity to study the theory, history and practice of air power within the context of War Studies at the University of Birmingham.

It is open to students from all backgrounds including the armed forces, industry, students from other disciplines and those who seek to expand their knowledge of this exciting subject within a structured academic environment.

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