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Geoff Till

MA War Studies 1968, PhD War Studies 1976 | Chair in Naval History and Strategy at the US Naval War College

Professor Geoff Till

You can’t get much more of a Kingsman than me. I did my first degree in History 1963-6, a Postgraduate Certificate in Education 1966-1967, the MA War Studies 1967-68, working appropriately enough in a fireworks factory to pay for it, followed by a PhD in War Studies, 1976.

I did not get off to a great start. During my first degree, wanting to be a journalist I ended up being the News Editor of Sennet the University of London newspaper. It was pretty demanding and I didn’t have much time for the Tudors and Stuarts, so I got flung out after failing my resits in 1965.

After a term and a bit in the wilderness of the General Studies Department, I was invited back into the History Department for reasons I have never quite fathomed, this time devoting myself to my books. In the third year one chose a special subject. For me it was either Anglo-Saxon Monasticism or Military History. In the end I went for the latter and did the Franco-Prussian war with the superlative Michael Howard. Odd how such casual decisions (it was close one) can determine one’s destiny.

It was wonderful, completely new, varied and entrancing stuff. I began to shift over to the dark side out of history and into nuclear deterrence theory and crisis management."– Geoff Till

I was totally hooked and after a year doing a PGCE (I enrolled just in case I flunked the exams again) I did the MA in Michael Howard’s last year in the War Studies Department. There were about a dozen of us assorted souls, meeting in a few tiny rooms over the Thomas Cook shop on the Strand, taught by Michael, Wolf Mendle and Brian Bond. It was wonderful, completely new, varied and entrancing stuff. I began to shift over to the dark side out of history and into nuclear deterrence theory and crisis management.

In those days, the University of London offered a PhD one could do from distance and since I had taken a job at the Britannia Royal Naval college in Dartmouth I opted for that. They worked us hard at Dartmouth, and of course I went completely dark blue; so it took me until 1976, to hammer out a PhD on naval aviation.

I’m still smitten by naval history and maritime strategy, and still in the no-man’s-land between proper history and strategic studies (thanks to War Studies). After decades as an academic working for the Royal Navy, I took a position out in Singapore and now, incredibly, have a chair in Naval History and Strategy at the US Naval War College. Some of my students have retired as Chiefs of Navy here and around the world! I count myself very privileged to have been at Kings but often wonder what would have become of me if, all those years ago, I had gone for the venerable Bede rather than Nelson.

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Geoff Till

Geoff Till

Professor