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Professor William Philpott

Professor William Philpott

  • Academics
  • Supervisors

Professor of the History of Warfare

Co-director, SSS research theme in military and political history.

Research subject areas

  • Conflict
  • History
  • International relations
  • Security

Contact details


William Philpott joined the department of War Studies as a lecturer in September 2001, becoming Professor of the History of Warfare in 2011. He was previously a member of the Department in 1991–2, as a postdoctoral research fellow working for a collaborative research project investigating British civil–military relations, ‘Government and the Armed forces in Britain, 1856–1990’.

Professor Philpott is President of the British Commission for Military History. He has been a councillor of the National Army Museum and is a member of its Collections and Research Committee and its advisory panel; Honorary Secretary of the Army Records Society; and chair of the University of London’s Military Education Committee.

He convenes the Institute of Historical Research’s military history research seminar. He is on the editorial board of the British Commission for Military History’s British Journal for Military History, and series editor of the Palgrave monograph series, Studies in Military and Strategic History.

He leads a First World War Operations Research Group (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.


Research Interests

Professor Philpott researches the military and international history of the early twentieth century. His current research interests lie in the field of First World War military history at the strategic, operational and tactical levels: in particular, the role of France and the French army in the First World War; the legacy wars that spread through Europe




  • 4SSW1003 The Experience of War
  • 6SSW3025 War and Peace: The Changing International Order in the Early Twentieth Century (c1900–1925)


  • 7SSWM005 The Entente at War, 1914–1918


PhD supervision

He can offer research supervision in these areas:

  • The strategic and operational history of the Western Front in the First World War, including command, tactics and logistics: British, French and transnational comparative perspectives
  • The First World War – strategy, operations and tactics, with particular focus on the French and British armies
  • The legacy of the First World War, political, military and cultural
  • First World War era military, naval, political and international history
  • The military history of France in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • Anglo-French military and international relations in the twentieth century
  • The history and historiography of battle
  • Military operations and change in the twentieth century
  • International political and defence co-operation

Current PhD students

  • Joshua Bilton: The military identities of British conscripts serving on the Western Front, 1916–19.
  • Julie Marionneau: Lawfare and its relationship with UK national security strategy in the 21st century.
  • Yusuf Ozkan: British military, naval, and diplomatic intelligence before and during the Gallipoli (Dardanelles) Campaign.
  • Alexander Pickering: The British Admiralty and Strategy in the First World War
  • Charles Fair: The professionalisation of the selection and training of junior ‘temporary officers’ and its impact on the operational effectiveness of the BEF during the Great War

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.




Research Articles

  • ‘The Making of the Military Entente, 1904–1914: France, the British Army, and the Prospect of War’, The English Historical Review CXXVII (2013), pp. 1155–85.
  • ‘France’s Forgotten Victory’, review article, Journal of Strategic Studies, 34/6 (2011), pp. 901–18.
  • ‘The French and the British Field Force: Moral Support or Material Contribution?’ (With Prof M.S.Alexander), The Journal of Military History, 71 (2007), pp. 743–72. Society for Military History Moncado prize winner.
  • ‘The Anglo-French Victory on the Somme’, Diplomacy and Statecraft special edition, ‘Anglo-French Relations from the late 18th to the late 20th Century’, 17, (2006), pp. 731–51.
  • ‘Squaring the Circle: The Co-ordination of the Entente in the Winter of 1915/16’, English Historical Review, September 1999, pp. 875–98.
  • ‘Kitchener and the 29th Division; A Study in Anglo-French Strategic Relations, 1914–1915’, The Journal of Strategic Studies, September 1993, pp. 375–407.

Recent Book Chapters

  • ‘Oh, What an Ambiguous War! The Contested Memory of the First World War in Britain’, in One Hundred Years After: The Memory of the first World War, ed. Elli Lemonidou (École français d’Athènes, 2018), pp. 59–75.
  • ‘Albert I, King of the Belgians: A ‘Neutral’ Sovereign and Commander’, in Monarchies and the Great War, ed. Matthew Glencross and Judith Rowbotham (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018)
  • ‘France Leads the Way to Victory’, in Britain and Victory in the Great War, ed. P. Liddle (Pen & Sword, 2018,), pp. 185–203.
  • ‘Never over by Christmas: Meeting the Challenges of Interminable War’, in Turning Point 1917: The British Empire at War, ed. D. Delaney & N. Gardner (University of British Columbia Press, 2017)
  • ‘The Trauma of Attrition: Verdun and the Somme’, in Britain and the Widening War, 1915–1916: From Gallipoli to the Somme: The Central Years of the Great War, ed. P. Liddle (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2016), pp. 48–63.
  • ‘The rise of the “continentalists”: the British Army Prepares for War in Coalition with France’, in 1914 – La guerre avant la guerre. Regards sur un conflit à venir, ed. François Cochet (Riveneuve, 2015)
  • ‘Attrition: How the War was Fought and Won’, in The Greater War: Other Combatants and Other Fronts, 1914–1918, ed. Jonathan Krause (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp. 235–54.
  • ‘Unequal Sacrifice? Two Armies, Two Wars?’ in Britain and France in Two World Wars: Truth, Myth and Memory, ed. R. Tombs & E. Chabal (Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 47–61.

Professor William Philpott PURE Profile