Learning to Manage the Army: The Army Administration Course at the London School of Economics

Here is another abstract from our frothcoming book on Tranformation and Innovation in the British Military.

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The remarkable and innovative London School of Economics course, which ran from 1907 to 1914 and was revived in the 1920s, was the first systematic attempt to train army officers in the principles of management. Substantially the brainchild of Col Sir Edward Ward, then Permanent Secretary at the War Office, rather than of R.B. Haldane who is usually given credit for its genesis the course’s design and operation brought together a disparate group of people united by a desire to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the army. These included leading academics, Fabian thinkers, business leaders and some of the army’s top generals.For example, it included the following:

  • Leading academics, including Director of the LSE and founding father of geopolitics Halford Mackinder;
  • Fabian thinkers including Sidney Webb;
  • Business leaders Sir Frederick Harrison (General Manager of the London and North Western Railway), Sir Hugh Bell (a steel manufacturer from Middlesbrough) and Sir Felix Schuster (Governor of the Union of London and Smith’s Bank);
  • Some of the army’s top generals including Douglas Haig, Frederick Clayton, Launcelot Kiggell and William Robertson.

Secretary of State for War Richard Haldane was a frequent lecturer and several others were politically from the radical wing including Webb, who lectured on the organisation of trade unions, Hastings Lees-Smith, later a Labour Cabinet Minister, (on economics) and the Fabian Socialist Graham Wallas, one of the seminal figures in the development of social science, (on public administration).

The course mirrored many of the management principles contemporaneously being developed by the French father of modern management science, Henri Fayol and remains a model of its kind even today. Its graduates, mainly from the Artillery, Ordnance or Army Service Corps, went on to distinguished careers and the course played a not insignificant part in ensuring the success of supply and transport services during the First World War and beyond.

Dr Peter Grant, Cass Business School, City University

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