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James is currently a visiting Research Fellow in the Department of War Studies. He completed his PhD in the Department. His research focuses on strategic studies, the development of strategic thought and theory, and maritime strategy utilising classic and proven methods of applied history.

James is situated in two School of Security Studies research themes: Strategic Studies and Military and Political History. He is a member of King’s Laughton Naval Unit and King’s Centre for Grand Strategy.

James, amongst others, founded the King’s Wargaming Network in 2018, having led naval wargaming research in the War Studies Department since 2016.

Between 2016 and early 2022, he was awarded support for two significant research projects into ‘naval wargaming’ and ‘development of strategic space theory utilising a maritime strategic foundation’. In 2020 he was become a member of King’s Defence Studies Air and Space Institute and affiliated with the Space Security Research Group. James is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and an associate fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is also engaged in various professional organisations, associations and research groups in the UK, USA, Australia, and Japan. Beyond working on multiple future publications, James is actively engaged in various journals and publications.

Research interests

  • The development of strategy, strategic thought and theory and maritime strategy.
  • American and British Defence Unification: higher organisation, organisational culture, jointness, command and control, civil-military relations.
  • Strategic Space Theory, Space Warfare & Conflict , Defence Space Policy, Space History and Human Activity in Space influence on Earth and activity beyond near-Earth.
  • Advancing research into the development, theory and practice of wargaming.
  • Contemporary British and American Defence Policy, Strategy and History.
  • Contemporary Naval and Maritime History and Naval Warfare: Sea Power, Maritime Power and Naval Power
  • Naval Wargaming: history, theory and practice.

Post-Doctoral research

James’s postdoctoral research continues along his established research interests. His first post-doctoral step was to be appointed as a research fellow at King’s, which includes various responsibilities and duties in the Department while advancing existing and new research.

James’s PhD “Deconstructing the Seapower State: Britain, America and Defence Unification 1945-1964” (2021) focused on British and American defence unification and its relationship with the development of strategic thought and theory while presenting a new history of defence organisation. This research was completed as a research fellow of the U.S. Naval War College. Under these auspices and experience, his research into strategic theory primarily maritime strategy and in addition to it, strategic space theory, wargaming and defence unification have remained central to his research and scholarship.

The thesis examined the fundamental structural change that took place in British and American defence with the abolition of the free-standing service ministries. It challenged 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. It focused on the relationship with thinking and acting strategically and the development of strategic theory. 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. The PhD also advanced understanding of the relationship between the organisation, organisational culture, political power, professional military education and development, institutional history, institutional change, institutional memory and learning, risk, mission, defence reform and policy to that of strategy.

Between 2019 and 2023 James is one of the directors and designers of the ‘Corbett 100 project’ which marks the centenary of the death of historian, strategist, and philosopher of seapower and maritime strategy Sir Julian Corbett (1852-2022). As a post-doctoral researcher in May 2022 he led King’s online conference for ‘Falklands 40’ while being involved with various projects and events that fit within his research interests from a maritime lens.


Further details

See Dr James W.E. Smith's research Profile