From Symposium to Book…

Back in April, several of this blog’s contributors organised a Postgraduate and Early Career Historians symposium on the subject of Transformation and Innovation in the British Military from 1642-1945 at the Centre for War Studies, University of Birmingham. On the back of its success, we decided to look into the possibility of publishing the proceedings. I am happy to say that this is now happening. We have just signed contract with Duncan Rogers of Helion. Duncan has been very easy to work with, which given that this is our first full-blown publishing endeavour is very helpful.

The major choice we had to make with the book is that it now only deals with the British military from 1792. This was because we only had several papers that dealt with the early modern period with the bulk of the proceedings focussing on the modern era. This was fine for a symposium but it would have made the book unbalanced.

We also had to come up with a new title for the book. We have tried to go for catchy title but also something that describes the books content. To that end it will be:

A Military Transformed? Transformation and Innovation in the British Military from 1792 to 1945

I plan to blog aspect of the project as we go along but for the moment, I am just going to post the book synopsis. I will post the proposed contents up at some point and maybe abstracts as we go along to give people an idea what will be in the book. Of course all thoughts an comments are welcomed.


Studies into military innovation have remained an important aspect of the War Studies literature with Barry Posen offering the first serious scholarly work on the nature of doctrinal innovation in 1984.[1] However, much of the literature has been developed by social scientists that have developed analytical models for the examination of innovation, transformation, and more recently adaptation.[2] These models have attempted to describe innovation in terms of civil-military relations, inter- and intra-service rivalry, cultural perspectives, and a top down vs. bottom up narrative. However, these models suffer from the problem of de-contextualisation and of over-simplifying the complexities inherent in the processes needed for a bureaucratic organisation, such as the military, to innovate, transform, or adapt, to change. What historical literature that exists on the process tends to fall in to several spheres; the inter-war experience (1919-1939), literature of the innovation in the German, and more recently the US military, and how militaries have reacted to technological innovation.[3] Perspectives on British military innovation have tended to focus on both the ‘Learning Curve’ and ‘Lessons Learnt’ debates of the First and Second World Wars, or on how the Royal Navy has dealt with the problem of innovation.[4] Indeed, it is important to note that to date no study exists on how the Royal Air Force has dealt with the issue of transformation. While these studies have added much to our understanding of British military performance, the impact of transformation and innovation must be placed into the wider context of British military history of the 19th and 20th centuries, which this edited collection aims to do.

This book will seek to redress the balance of military innovation studies by examining the process over a period of one-hundred and fifty years and illustrate that the British military was responsive to changes in its operating environment. In doing this it will challenge the perception of the British military being a reactionary and conservative organisation. It will instead show that the while it was not revolutionary it was certainly evolutionary and able to react to the changes of the 19th and early 20th centuries in both war and peace. This book will fill an important gap in the market by providing a series of in-depth studies of key facets of military innovation. The selection is deliberately inclusive, with chapters addressing land, air and maritime topics, and includes subjects such as technology; tactics, operations and strategy; logistics; organisation; command; and doctrine

This book is primarily based upon proceedings delivered at a symposium held at the University of Birmingham in 2011. It is however no simple mixture of conference essays. Rather, it is a coherent, well-structured series of analyses – variations on a theme – that illuminate a hugely significant subject in the sphere of the history of warfare. The essays, written by new and emerging scholars in the field of military history, will redress the balance in the historiography of military innovation studies by examining how the British military has dealt with changes in warfare, therefore, adding to the growing body of literature on this subject.

[1] Barry Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany between the World Wars (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984)

[2] Stephen Rosen, Winning the Next War: Military Innovation and the Modern Military (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994)

[3] See for example, Williamson Murray and Allan Millett (eds.) Military Innovation in the Interwar Period (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

[4] See for example, Paddy Griffith, Battle Tactics of the Western Front: The British Army’s Art of Attack, 1916-1918 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996); Richard Harding, The Royal Navy, 1930-2000: Innovation and Defence (Abingdon: Frank Cass, 2005)


7 responses to “From Symposium to Book…

  1. Pingback: A Military Transformed? Transformation and Innovation in the British Military, 1792 to 1945·

  2. Pingback: Writing and Publishing… « Thoughts on Military History·

  3. Pingback: A Military Transformed? Transformation and Innovation in the British Military, 1792 to 1945 - World War 2 Talk·

  4. Pingback: A Military Transformed? Table of Contents « Birmingham "On War"·

  5. Pingback: A New Book – A Military Transformed? « The Aerodrome·

  6. Pingback: Transformation and Innovation in the British Military | War and Security·

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