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James is a member of King’s Laughton Naval Unit and an associate member of King’s, Centre for Grand Strategy. As a research fellow of the U.S. Naval War College, he also collaborates with the US Naval War College’s John B. Hattendorf Center for Maritime Historical Research. Under these auspices and experience, his research into strategic theory primarily maritime strategy and in addition to it, both strategic space theory and defence unification have remained central to his research and scholarship.

James, amongst others, founded the King’s Wargaming Network in 2018 having led naval wargaming research in the War Studies Department since 2016. The same year, leading up to 2019, he created a global network for maritime and naval thinkers focused on space research in 2019 becoming King’s research fellow in Maritime Strategy and Space. In 2020 he also became a member of King’s Defence Studies Air and Space Institute and affiliated with the Space Security Research Group. Between 2019 and 2023 James is Co-Director of the ‘Corbett 100 project’ which marks the centenary of the death of strategist and naval historian Sir Julian Corbett [1852-2022]. The project also supports events such as ‘Falklands 40.’


Research interests

  • Maritime Strategic Theory and Maritime Strategy
  • American and British Defence Unification: higher organisation, organisational culture, jointness, command and control
  • Strategic Space Theory and Defense Space Policy
  • U.K. & U.S. civil-military relations
  • Contemporary British and American Defence Policy, Strategy and History
  • Contemporary Naval History and Naval Warfare
  • Contemporary Grand Strategy
  • Seapower State, Sea power and Naval Power
  • Naval Wargaming: history, theory and practice
  • Organisational and Institutional History and Theory: change, memory, risk coherence, mission and reform.
  • Professional Intellectual Development including Professional Military Education
  • Military Organisation, and Culture, Strategic Culture and Institutional Memory


Doctoral research

His PhD research focuses on British and American defence unification and its relationship with the development of strategic thought and theory.

The thesis examines the fundamental structural change that took place in British and American defence with the abolition of the free-standing service ministries. It challenges current perspectives on unified defence organisations and the function of free-standing service ministries by reopening debates on the so-called ‘British Way of Warfare’ and ‘American Way of Warfare’. The research sits at the crossroads of strategic studies, organisational, political and intellectual history focused on a study of the development and evolution of strategic theory. It includes research into how complex organisations evolve, including how they fail or achieve their objectives and missions.



James W.E Smith PURE Profile