The British Army - from the English Civil War to the War on Terror 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 supporting corps have a royal prefix (i.e. Royal Artillery), highlighting the circumstances of its origins and the struggle between the monarch and parliament for its control. This, in turn, led to a deep-seated constitutional antipathy and political prejudice against the army during its years of maturity. For much of its existence, it has endured public hostility and is still, to this day, perceived as a potential threat to civil liberty. The institution itself 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. Interwoven with that glory, however, is a rich seam of controversy.

Programme details

Courses starts: 29th Sept 2021

Week 0:  An Introduction to Teams

Week 1: War and the creation of Standing Armies. 

Week 2: The New Model Army and the Age of Cromwell 1625-1688

Week 3: The Age of Marlborough 1690–1783

Week 4: Wellington’s Redcoats and Green Jackets 1784–1815

Week 5: Sahib and Khaki Part 1: The Colonial Wars and Imperialism 1816–1860

Week 6: Sahib and Khaki Part 2: The Colonial Wars and Imperialism 1861– 1901

Week 7: The Great War – Haig and Tommy 1902–1919

Week 8: The Second World War – Montgomery and Tommy 1919–1945

Week 9: Post 1945 – Colonial Campaigns, the Northern Ireland ‘troubles’, NATO and the Cold War 1945–1990

Week 10: Modern conflicts and the War on Terror 1990–2016


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £229.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Mr Nick Lipscombe

Colonel Nick Lipscombe MSc, FRHistS is a historian, tour guide and lecturer. He has written several books including the award-winning Peninsular War Atlas, Waterloo, Wellington’s Guns, Wellington’s Eastern Front and an Atlas and Concise History of the English Civil Wars.

Course aims

To look in outline at the 400-year military, political and social history of Britain’s army from its inception in the wake of the English Civil War to the recent operations in what has been termed the ‘War on Terror’. 

Course Objectives:

  1. To consider the (evolving) understanding of warfare and the role of a land army within a democratically elected, modern nation state.
  2. To examine, in a series of vignettes, the evolution and history of the British army from the mid-seventeenth century to the present day.
  3. To investigate, in a series of vignettes, the military, technological, political and societal changes over the period that have impacted on the army and the way it operates.

Teaching methods

The weekly one-hour online lecture (supported by PowerPoint presentation) will cover the key aspects of the week’s topic with clear guidance as to the three main areas of subsequent discussion. A one-hour Teams group meeting will follow the lecture and will be broken down into three 20-minute periods in order to discus and debate the three selected areas/topics.

Prior to the course students will receive a handout to assist them in assimilating the information that will be delivered during the weekly lecture.  At the end of each week students will be given some background reading for the following week, as well as direction for further reading.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • Have an outline understanding of the changing nature of warfare and the role of an army in a developing and modern State.
  • Have a good understanding of the history, achievements and challenges of the British army and the many wars, campaigns, battles and commitments it has been involved in over 400 years.
  • Demonstrate an ability to identify, analyse and evaluate a variety of (primary and secondary) sources and, from that process, be able to express their views in a group environment and in written form.


Assessment methods

Assessment of learning will take place through online classroom discussion (using Teams) and the evaluation and marking of a written assignment (1500 words) submitted sometime after half the seminars have been completed and the end of the course. The title for the essay/book review/written exercises will be chosen from a list supplied by the tutor, or by individual agreement between the student and tutor.


Each course will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

The student requires no prior knowledge of warfare or the history of the British army. However, some reading around the subject, prior to the course, will enhance the student’s learning outcome and the ability to participate in course discussion.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every hour of tuition you are given, you will engage in 4-5 hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)