The British Army: From the English Civil War to the War on Terror, c. 1644-2014


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.  The institution has witnessed a profound aversion to compulsory service, yet it remains a reflection of the society it serves.  As such, it typifies the highest and lowest characteristics of that society and its political executive.

The history of an army is, above all, a history of its actions. For most of the four hundred years of its existence, the British army has been small and expeditionary in nature. Yet its deeds have been truly global, earning well over a thousand battle honours on five continents. In view of this, it is, inevitably perhaps, a history marred with controversy.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.

Please note that OUDCE reserves the right to alter course content and/or cancel field trips in accordance with government guidance.

We will start the course by looking at war, the roles of an army and the evolution of a standing army as one of the defining characteristics of the modern nation state. Then, in part 2, we will consider the birth of the British army from the nucleus of Cromwell’s New Model Army, its rejuvenation under Charles II and its ill-fated role during the Glorious Revolution - covering the period 1625-1685.

In part 1 we will look at the army’s maturity and subsequent decline during the Age of Marlborough in the 18th century 1685-1783. In part 2, we will examine the tumultuous period of the French Wars 1793-1815, during which Wellington’s Redcoats progressed to become one the finest and most respected fighting forces in the world. 

We will look in detail at Britain’s army in the19th Century.  The multifariousness of its tasks and its (sometimes controversial) role in building the British Empire – Sahib and Khaki, the colonial wars and Imperialism 1816-1902.

We will study the Great War, Haig and Tommy 1902-1919 and consider the validity of Alan Clarke’s assertion that “lions were led by donkeys”. Then in the part 2, we will look at the difficult inter-war years and the equally challenging readjustment back to a war footing under the arrogant, unlikeable, but ultimately successful Montgomery – 1919-1945.

In part 1 we will conduct an examination of the British army in modern wars from the challenges of the final colonial campaigns, to the controversial role in Northern Ireland and finally, the army’s crucial role in NATO and the Cold War from 1945-1990. In the final session we will look at the nation’s and army’s role in, and the asymmetric nature of, the War on Terror 1990-2016.


Description Costs
Fee option 1 (single en suite accom and meals) £1565.00
Fee option 2 (single standard accom and meals) £1380.00
Fee option 3 (twin en suite accom and meals) £1472.50
Fee option 4 (double en suite accom and meals) £1472.50
Fee option 5 (twin set standard accom and meals) £1380.00
Fee option 6 (no accom; incl lunch and dinner) £1070.00


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments (and refunds) are subject to exchange rates at the time of processing.

Payment terms

  • If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking
  • If submitting an application form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date

Cancellations and refunds

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to or by post to The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid

  • Cancellations received up to and including 31 May 2021 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received between 1-30 June 2021 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received on and after 1 July 2021 - no refunds will be made.

Important note: You need to take out travel insurance to cover the programme fee and travel costs.


Mr Nick Lipscombe

Colonel Nicolas Lipscombe MSc, FRHistS is a historian. He has written several books including, inter alia the award-winning Peninsular War Atlas, Waterloo a Decisive Victory, Wellington’s Guns, Wellington’s Eastern Front and most recently an Atlas and History of the English Civil Wars. He is a well-known tour guide and tutor at University of Oxford DCE.

Teaching methods

Participants will be taught in seminar groups of up to 12 people. Elements of this teaching will normally include mini lectures and presentations by tutors and tutor-led class discussions.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Registration closes on 1 May 2021.

Please note: most courses fill up fast so early registration is strongly recommended.

Single accommodation and non-residential places may be booked online by clicking on the “Book now” button in the “Course details” box at the top right-hand side of the course page.

If you experience any difficulties enrolling online please contact the Programme Administrator at

Those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an application form as these rooms cannot be booked online. Completed forms should be sent:

Covid-19 guidance for summer school participants

Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of participants is our highest priority. We've introduced a range of measures to protect you when you are in university and college buildings, in accordance with University and UK government guidelines. These measures may include: enhanced cleaning regimes and additional facilities for hand washing and hand sanitising; spaces adapted to support social distancing with clear signage and markings; a requirement for the wearing of face coverings during in-person teaching and in indoor shared spaces.

You'll be required to follow University and UK government guidelines whilst in Oxford, and to sign a ‘Student Responsibility Agreement’ in advance of the course, confirming that you will do so (this will be similar to the version for University students, which you can review online).  Further information is available at You should particularly review the University’s Face Coverings policy, which you will need to comply with at all times on University property.

If UK government regulations require you to quarantine on arrival in the UK, then you will need to arrange this yourself at your own expense. Unfortunately, we aren’t permitted to let you quarantine in University accommodation. Travel is not encouraged – and may not be permitted – if you are travelling from or through a country on the UK government’s ‘red list’.

If we have to cancel your course

Should it be necessary to cancel your course, we will make every reasonable effort to give you as much notice of cancellation as possible, and we will refund all course fees paid by you (including the cost of accommodation, if booked through us as part of your course). Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than in pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the date they are processed.

The Department cannot be held responsible for any costs you may incur in relation to travel or accommodation bookings as a result of a course cancellation, or if you are unable to attend the course for any other reason. You are advised to check cancellation policies carefully and to purchase travel insurance.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

Participants should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The following types of accommodation are available:

  • Single en suite

  • Single standard

  • Twin en suite

  • Double en suite

  • Standard ‘twin set’

En suite rooms include private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Standard rooms have their own washbasin and shaver point but bathroom facilities are shared. ‘Twin sets’ comprise two single rooms opening off a sitting room.

Please note that only single accommodation may be booked online; those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an application form. (See “Application”.)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form), together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.

We also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals (lunch and dinner) at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.