You are here:

Since the professionalisation of the Royal Navy when King Henry VIII established the Council of the Marine in 1546, through to the Napoleonic Wars and onto the turmoil of the First World War, there has been high-level government awareness towards how the higher organisation of defence impacts and influences national security and foreign policy. Its interface with the highest levels of decision-making over national defence strategy and defence policy has been central to the development of the British Armed Forces. Prior to 1964, the freestanding ministries of state, such as the Admiralty and War Office, represented the institutional, strategic, operational, and cultural concerns of their respective services. However, in the 1960s, the service ministries were abolished through the process of ‘defence unification’ in favour of a monolithic Ministry of Defence represented by ‘supremos’ of defence – a Secretary of Defence and Chief of the Defence Staff. It was a process with complex roots but only possible in the post-1945 world, where defence unification became one of, if not the defining change in British government. This paper explores the process of defence unification, its roots–power, politics, and agenda–and the encompassing turmoil of ‘a solution in search of a problem’ which resulted in a long-term struggle for a national strategy. 

Dr James W.E. Smith is a Research Fellow in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. He completed his PhD “Deconstructing the Seapower State: Britain, America and Defence Unification 1945-1964” in the Department in 2021. He helped create the King’s Wargaming Network in 2017 and was also awarded special funding for various research projects related to strategic studies. James is also a visiting researcher at the U.S. Naval War College. He created the ‘Corbett 100’ project that marks the centenary of the death of historian, strategist & philosopher of seapower and maritime strategy, Sir Julian Stafford Corbett (1854-1922). Corbett helped found the Institute for Historical Research in 1921.

All welcome- but booking is required.

Please note that registration for this seminar will close 24 hours in advance. Details about how to join the seminar will be circulated via email to registered attendees 24 hours in advance.