This course will concentrate on the evolution of Britain’s army, in tandem with global dynamics, national political leadership and societal influences. It will also consider the army’s numerous, colourful and sometimes controversial military actions and the associated weapon and tactical/doctrinal developments over time. The focus will be more strategic than tactical and, as such, the course mirrors the development of Britain/the United Kingdom nationally and internationally.
The British Army is a very singular institution. Created in the long shadow of Cromwell’s New Model Army, it does not, unlike the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, enjoy regal designation. Yet most of its regiments and corps have a royal prefix, highlighting the circumstances of its origins and the struggle between monarch and parliament for its control. During the army’s maturity, a deep-seated constitutional antipathy and political prejudice perpetuated. For most of its existence it has endured public hostility and is still, to this day, perceived as a potential threat to civil liberty.
Yet the army is committed to public service. It remains a reflection of the society that it serves and, as such, it typifies the highest and lowest characteristics of that society. It also reflects the steadfastness, or otherwise, of its political executive.