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James is currently a visiting Research Fellow in the Department of War Studies where he also completed his PhD. 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 part of two School of Security Studies research themes: Strategic Studies and Military and Political History. He is a member of King’s Laughton Naval and Maritime Strategy Unit and King’s Centre for Grand Strategy. He, amongst others, founded the King’s Wargaming Network in 2018, having led naval wargaming research in the War Studies Department since 2016. In 2020, he became 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, projects, associations and research groups in the UK, USA, Australia, and Japan. Beyond working on multiple future publications, James is engaged in various journals and publications.

Research interests

  • The development of strategy, strategic thought and theory and maritime strategy.
  • National Strategy, National Defence Strategy, National Security Strategy.
  • American Defense Unification (DoD) and British Defence Unification (MoD): higher organisation, organisational and strategic culture, jointness, command and control, civil-military relations.
  • Strategic Space Theory, Space Warfare, ‘Astropolitics’ and ‘Astrostrategy’ (Incl. Geostrategy), Defence Space Policy, Space History, Human activity in space near-Earth and beyond (outer and deep).
  • 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.


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. The research was completed as a research associate of the U.S. Naval War College.

The thesis examined the fundamental structural change that occurred 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 between thinking and acting strategically and the development of strategic theory. The research sits at the crossroads of strategic studies, organisational, political, and intellectual history. The research analysed how complex organisations evolve, including how they fail or achieve their objectives and missions. It explored the use and reaction to short-term experience to that of longer-term experience. The PhD also advanced understanding of the relationship between–organisation, organisational reform and culture, political power, professional military education and development, institutional history, institutional change, institutional memory and learning, risk, mission, policy reform–and that of strategy.

Post-Doctoral research

At the heart of his postdoctoral research and scholarship efforts remains developing strategy and national strategy. The methods, influences, and means to understand, problem solve, educate, and implement strategy use his experience across his range of research, for example, from defence unification to wargaming.

King’s appointed James as a research fellow in 2022 to advance existing projects and new research. One of these projects is the ‘Corbett 100 project’ that James pioneered in 2019. The project runs mainly between 2019 and 2023. It marks the centenary of the death of historian, strategist, and philosopher of seapower and maritime strategy Sir Julian Corbett (1852-1922).

Building upon the aforementioned experience and skill, his new future research includes projects such as developing ‘strategic space theory, policy and concepts’ utilising a ‘maritime strategic foundation’. This research took cues from his PhD that due to the nature of the research process resulted in a side project at the time which advanced understanding of the first ‘Space Race’ between the United States and Soviet Union (1945-1972).


Further details

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