I joined the department of War Studies in September 2001 as a lecturer in military history, becoming Professor of the History of Warfare in 2011. I was previously a member of the Department in 1991–2, when I was a research fellow working for a collaborative research project investigating British civil–military relations, 'Government and the Armed forces in Britain, 1856-1990'. Before returning to the department I held teaching appointments in European and international history at the University of North London, Bradford University, and London Guildhall University. I have been Secretary General of the British Commission for Military History, 2009–14 and served on the Council of the Army Records Society from 1998–2009, holding the office of Honorary Secretary, 2000–2005. I was a member and chair of the University of London’s Military Education Committee, 2006–12. I was a councilor of the National Army Museum from 2011–2017 and remain a co-opted member of its Collections Committee and Research and Collections Advisory Panel.
I have published extensively in the fields of First World War history and twentieth century Anglo-French relations including monographs, textbooks, journal articles and book chapters. Most recently I published Attrition: Fighting the First World War (Little, Brown, 2014), a military and international history of the conflict. The US edition, War of Attrition, Overlook 2014), was nominated as a Wall St Journal book of the year 2014. My transnational history of the battles of the Somme, Bloody Victory: The Sacrifice on the Somme and the Making of the Twentieth Century (Little, Brown, 2009: US edition, Three Armies on the Somme, 2010) won the 2009 Society for Army Historical Research Templer Medal and the US Western Front Association’s Norman B. Tomlinson Jr book prize. The writing of Bloody Victory was supported by an AHRC Research Leave Scheme grant in 2008. It was subsequently highlighted as a case study of AHRC funded research. Archival research for that book in France was supported by a British Academy Small Personal Research Grant in 2005, and in Australia by an Australian Government Bicentennial Research Fellowship in 2006. Currently I am editing the command diaries of Sir John French, 1914–15 for the Army Records Society, and a co-edited volume on French commanders of the First World War.
I convene the Institute of Historical Research’s military history research seminar (Military History | Institute of Historical Research). I am British representative on the advisory committee of the Service historique de la défense in France and sit on the editorial board of its military history journal, Revue Historique des Armées. I am on the editorial board of the British Commission for Military History’s British Journal of Military History. I am series editor of the Palgrave monograph series, Studies in Military and Strategic History.
I founded a First World War Operations Research Group in the department (known locally as the Coal Hole Club), in which academics, current and former research students share their interests in aspects of tactical and operational theory and practice on the western front in the First World War.
I am interested in the following areas:
- Nineteenth & twentieth century British, French and European defence policy and military and naval strategy and operations
More specifically, I can offer research supervision in these areas:
- The First World War – strategy, operations and tactics, with a particular focus on the French and British armies, and transnational comparative perspectives
- The legacy of the First World War, political, military and cultural
- Anglo-French relations in the 20th Century
- Military operations and change in the twentieth century
- International political and defence co-operation
I currently convene the following modules:
4SSW1003 The Experience of War
6SSW2044 Manpower, Technology, Ideology: The Emergence of Modern War, 1914–1921
7SSWM136 Mind Body & Spirit in the First World War
7SSWM005 The Entente at War, 1914–1918
I am happy to offer PhD supervision in the following subject areas:
- First World War era military, naval, political and international history
- Late nineteenth and early twentieth century British military history
- The strategic and operational history of the Western Front in the First World War, including command, tactics and logistics. British, French and comparative topics are welcomed.
- The military history of France in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
- Anglo-French military and international relations
- The political and social history of the First World War
- The history and historiography of battle
Current PhD students
- Joshua Bilton: Turning Civilians into Soldiers in the First World War
- Julie Marionneau: Anglo-French collaboration in drone warfare in the twenty-first century
Completed PhD students
- Laura Rowe (2008): At the Sign of the Foul Anchor: Discipline and Morale in the Royal Navy During the First World War
- Jonathan Boff (2010): British Third Army, the Application of Modern War, and the Defeat of the Germany Army, August–November 1918
- Tim Gale (2011): La Salamandre: The French Army’s Artillerie Speciale in the First World War
- Jonathan Krause (2011): The Second Battle of Artois, May 1915
- Simon House (2012): The Battle of the Ardennes, 22 August 1914: An Operational Study
- Paul Harris (2013): The British Army's General Staff in the First World War
- Martin Farrar (2015): The Illusory Threat: Enemy Aliens in Britain during the Great War
- Catherine Boylan (2015): The North Russia Relief Force: A Study of Military Morale and Motivation in the Post-First World War World
- Tony Vines (2015): The Heroic Manager: An Assessment of Sir Douglas Haig’s Role as a Military Manager on the Western Front
- Alice Pannier (2016): Franco-British Defence Cooperation under the Lancaster House Treaties (co-tutelle with Sciences Po, Paris)
- Brett Van Ess (2018): Wartime Tactical Adaptation and Operational Success: British and Japanese Armies in Burma and India, 1941–45
- Christopher Newton (2018): British Third Army and the Battles of the Scarpe, April–June 1917
- Bryon Smith (2018): The ‘Auspicious Entrance’ of June 1918: Managing the Early French–US Relationship in the First World War.
Expertise and Public Engagement
My current research interests lie in the field of First World War military history at the strategic, operational and tactical levels: in particular, I am working at present on the role of France and the French army in the First World War, as well as aspects of command, strategy and the historiography of battle. I have wider research interests in Anglo-French defence relations in the twentieth century and nineteenth- and twentieth-century military and international history, British, French and global. Having written on the First World War I am now turning my attention to the legacy wars that spread through Europe and the Middle East in the years immediately following the war.
Engagement and Knowledge Transfer
I was extensively engaged with public and media activities during the centenaries of the First World War, 2014–2018.