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Professor William Philpott

Professor of the History of Warfare

philpotnewDepartment of War Studies

Room K7.29

King's College London

Strand, London WC2R 2LS


Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 2112

Office hours: Thursdays 15.00-16.00 during term time or by appointment



 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. Currently I sit on the council of the National Army Museum and chair the museum’s academic advisory board. I chair King’s First World War Centenary steering group

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 editions 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, and 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 volumes on French senior command and military transformation in the First World War.

Research Interests

I am interested in the following areas:

  • Nineteenth & Twentieth Century British, French and European Defence Policy and Strategy

  • The First World War - Strategy, Operations and Tactics
  • Anglo-French Relations
  • International Political and Defence Co-operation
  • Modern Naval History
Please visit the Research Portal for a list of publications or download the document here.

I currently convene the following modules:


 6SSW2044 Manpower Technology


7SSWM136 Mind Body & Spirit
7SSWM149 History of Warfare (co-convenor)
PhD Supervision

 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

  • Martin Farrar:  The Illusory Threat: Enemy Aliens in Britain during the Great War 
  • Catherine Boylan: The North Russia Relief Force: A Study of Military Morale and Motivation in the Post-First World War World
  • Christopher Newton: The Battles of the Scarpe and the British Third Army's Early Responses to Semi-open Warfare, December 1916-August 1917
  • Bryon Smith: An Auspicious Entrance: Franco-American military cooperation, 1917-1918
  • Tony Vines: Haig’s War: The Heroic Manager:  An  assessment of Sir Douglas Haig’s role as a military manger on the western front 

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
Expertise and Public Engagement

Research expertise

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. 

I founded the department’s First World War Operations Research Group, 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. Its on-going projects include a comparative study of military transformation in the three principal armies on the western front, and a study of French senior commanders. 

I convene the Institute of Historical Research’s military history research seminar. I am British representative on the advisory committee of the Service Histories de la Défence 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.

Engagement and Knowledge Transfer

I worked with the Imperial War Museum as a convenor of their research seminar set up to prepare the museum for the approaching centenaries of the First World War. I am also a member of the Council of the National Army Museum and chair their academic advisory panel as the museum goes through a major redevelopment. I chair King’s College’s First World War centenary events steering committee.

WW1 centenary related media activities

June 2nd – Australian Broadcasting Corporation – pre-recorded interview for special programme on WW1 outbreak centenary broadcast 28 & 29 June.

12th June – Newspaper El Espectador - Colombia (South America)‏‎ - telephone interview re the significance of WW1 100 year later.

28th June – Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Saturday Extra ‘Lions and Donkeys’ 28 June 2014

July 4th CORREIO BRAZILIENSE ( – Brazil’s largest circulation daily newspaper ) – questions re history and significance of WW1 for special feature

July 8th Canadian Press News Service, Vancouver – telephone interview re causes of WW1

12th July – Wall Street Journal – ‘Five Best’ feature – books on WW1

5th August – The Interview’, France 24 (5 August 2014); 

19th August – Halli Casser-Jayne show (USA) – pre-recorded radio interview for WW1 centenary feature





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