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Henk Warnar

Henk Warnar

PhD candidate


Henk Warnar is a PhD Candidate (part-time distant) in the Department of War Studies. His research interests include naval strategy and history, professional thought and small nation strategy. He holds an MA in Public Administration (2005) from Leiden University and Graduated at the Naval War College (2010) at Newport Rhode Island. He is also a Captain in the Dutch Navy and associate professor at the Faculty of War Studies at the Dutch Defence Academy in Breda, director of the Dutch Seapower Course and editor of the Dutch Military Spectator.

Henk joined the War Studies Department after 39 years of regular service in the Dutch Navy. His experience includes the full range of jobs on submarines and frigates, deployments on patrols, counter piracy and civil military relations in Afghanistan. He worked in the MOD in de areas of policy, plans and the evaluation of Dutch Military Operations abroad, all related to political accountability.   


PhD thesis

Thesis title: Dutch navalism, how naval thinking developed and why it made sense?

This study is telling the story of developing naval thought in the Dutch navy in period 1892 to 1940. It investigates how naval officers constructed their beliefs and views and how this was shaped by education, institutionalized debate and the political and strategic context and what role leadership and theory played in this. Driven by the primary objective to defend the Netherlands East Indies, thought migrated from coastal to naval defence. It was supposed to support an unsustainable colonial policy culminating in defeat during the battle in the Java Sea, February 1942. Nevertheless, professionalism matured in a period of adaptation to industrial warfare and specialization. The driving force in this process was debate that was regulated by naval principles. Debate, inspired by foreign naval literature and war experiences, helped to define the naval principles and meaning in the Dutch context. Conversely, the principles regulated debate among opposing specialist such as torpedo- and artillery advocates. WWI was pivotal in this process providing lessons on modern warfare and shaping combined arms and balanced fleet warfare.

Contrary to the common Dutch view that policy choices were driven by leaders pursuing their own convictions resulting into flawed dysfunctional strategy it argues that pursued naval policies made sense professionally and that leaders do not particularly generate ideas themselves but learn from debate and manage to forge consensus.

The methodology is based on studying articles and pamphlets written by naval officers in professional magazines and newspapers, minutes of the meetings of naval associations and a review of their interactions with politicians and society.            

 Research interests

  • Naval thought in period 1892-1940
  • Defence in the former East Indies
  • Maritime Security, Strategy and Naval History
  • Small Nation Strategy
  • Naval Diplomacy
  • Contemporary naval affairs


Professor Andrew Lambert

More information

See Henk's PURE profile

See Henk's publications on the Dutch Defence Academy website