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
01 September 2021
MA War Studies 1968, PhD War Studies 1976 | Chair in Naval History and Strategy at the US Naval War College
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.
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.