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Mike Martin
Mike Martin

Dr Mike Martin

Senior Visiting Research Fellow

Research interests

  • Conflict
  • International relations
  • Security


Dr Mike Martin is a former British Army officer trained to fluency in Pushtu who pioneered, designed and implemented the British Military’s Cultural Advisor programme (profiled here in The Sunday Times). This programme took Pushtu-speaking British officers and trained them to build relationships with local national notables and then leverage those relationships to understand and influence the society in which the UK military was operating. During this period, he also worked as an advisor to four commanders of the UK’s Task Force Helmand, advising them on local national population dynamics.

He subsequently read for his PhD at War Studies (his undergraduate degree was Biological Sciences at Oxford) and he wrote an oral history of the conflict in Helmand province, Afghanistan, from 1978-2012, which he later turned into a critically-acclaimed book, An Intimate War (published by Hurst/OUP). An Intimate War tells the story of thirty-five years of conflict in Helmand Province as seen through the eyes of the Helmandis, and describes how the UK and the US completely failed to understand the socio-political environment in Afghanistan.

Since leaving the army in 2012, Mike worked in Somaliland and Burma/Myanmar for a risk management company as Research Director. There, he set up a new division for the company that focussed on helping multinational clients understand and navigate the social, political and cultural environments in emerging markets and hence develop the requisite strategy. He later worked for two years in a senior global management position in an international NGO: Common Purpose. In-between times, he conducted the first crossing of the Congo River basin by LandRover since the 1960s. This journey forms the basis for his third book, Crossing the Congo.

Mike is a Senior Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of War Studies, where he is interested in the evolutionary psychology of warfare in humans, internal conflict in societies, and strategy formation. These ideas form the basis for more recent books, Why We Fight, and How to Fight a War (forthcoming in March 2023).

He accepts PhD supervisees, and has one current student who is researching:

  • The relationship between terrain, political culture and the evolution of conflict in North Africa (Christopher Elliott)

For more information about Mike or his work please go to or follow @ThreshedThought. His books can be found here.