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James is a member of the Laughton Naval History Unit, an associate member of Kings College London’s, Centre for Grand Strategy and Kings Contemporary History Unit. He collaborates with the U.S. Naval War College’s John B. Hattendorf Center for Maritime Historical Research as a research fellow as the U.S Naval War College. In 2016 he setup and leads the Naval Wargaming Research Group and the Maritime and Space Research Group and Network while encouraging research into contemporary naval history.

He helped found the Kings Wargaming Network in 2018. James completed his Masters of Research thesis ‘The End of Admiralty its impact on British Defence Policy 1954-1964’ in 2015 as a prelude to his PhD research that he is currently embarked upon at KCL. Between 2019 and 2023 James is Co-Director of the ‘Corbett 100 project’ which marks the centenary of the death of maritime strategist Sir Julian Corbett [1852-2022].

Doctoral research

Britain and America: Defence Unification and the Future of Maritime Strategic Thought and Naval Theory 1945-1964.

This is research that sits at the cross roads of strategic studies theory, organisational and intellectual history and practice with a study of the development and evolution of ideas such as strategic theory. This includes how complex organisations evolve, fail or achieve their goals and missions.

In 1945 the British Admiralty and U.S. Department of the Navy were freestanding ministries of state representing the institutional, strategic and cultural concerns of their respective naval services. They did so through many mediums, helping to create and disseminate naval identity while supporting national interests of their service in political life. Although much has been written about their role in the running of their respective navies, it is often overlooked that until shortly after the Second World War they enabled an intellectual forum for debate in the government and democratic process against alternatives and involved with the development of strategic theory such as demonstrated by Sir Julian Corbett [1852-2022], a contemporary to Carl Von Clausewitz [1780-1831] and others such as Alfred Mahan [1840-1914].

In the period of their existence as separate service ministries, they enabled classical theorists to contribute key texts of military thought to national debate and professional development. With this in mind, the Admiralty and U.S. Department of the Navy, although different in structure, were critical to the development of the Royal Navy’s and U.S. Navy’s intellectual development on maritime strategic concepts and naval theory as they became the most successful fighting forces in history. Despite the scrutiny of the role of the Admiralty and U.S. Department of the Navy have had in their corresponding nation’s affairs, they have been poorly understood, viewed through the prism of purely technological innovation, operational challenges or circumstance of the era. This narrow, often negative view has become embedded into modern single focused defence debates and historical scholarship due to the lack of scrutiny over the process and relationship between defence unification, combined operations, doctrine, and ‘jointness’ with military thought, national strategy, strategic studies and theoretical concepts.

The thesis examines the fundamental structural change that took place in British and American defence with the abolition of the British Admiralty and Department of the Navy and assesses its impact. It challenges current perspectives on the function of free-standing service ministries by reopening debates on the so-called ‘British Way of Warfare’ and ‘American Way of Warfare’. It looks to the future by reanalysing the development of maritime strategic concepts set against military and naval perspectives that were offered as part of unified defence in America and Britain particularly over maritime perspectives compared to continentalism. A contemporary professional methodology for the research and James’s approach to it is similar to that of historians such as Professor John Laughton [1830-1915], Sir Julian Corbett and others such as American Alfred Mahan [1840-1914] who demonstrated by only the objective use of studying the past could enable an understanding of fundamentals, but also to develop theoretical models for contemporary times.

Research interests

  • Maritime strategy and maritime strategic theory
  • UK Defence unification, higher organisation,  jointness, command and control
  • U.S Defense unification, higher organisation,  jointness, command and control
  • UK & U.S civil-military relations
  • British Defence Policy 1945-
  • Contemporary Naval History 1945-
  • Sea power and naval power
  • Seapower state
  • Grand strategy
  • Naval strategy and military strategic theory inc. naval doctrine
  • Naval wargaming: history, theory and practice.
  • Maritime strategy, navies and space
  • Naval history and naval warfare
  • Organisational and intellectual history including theory
  • Organisational success and failure
  • Organisational culture, change, coherence, mission and reform
  • Professional and intellectual development
  • Military organisation, military culture , strategic culture and institutional memory
  • Development of professional military education
  • Space theory, strategic space theory and space security
  • Space policy and space warfare