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Military History

Course Description

This Military History MA offers an in-depth study of warfare on land, sea and air across a range of periods and continents, from the Classical Age to the present.

The core modules on the course examine: the Royal Navy in the twentieth century, warfare in ancient and medieval times., the impact of the French and Industrial Revolutions on warfare in the age of 'total war'.

Optional modules give students the opportunity to study the Second World War, warfare in modern Africa and, additionally, the programme draws on Brunel’s expertise in intelligence studies. You also have the chance to take an optional module in this area with Brunel's Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies (BCISS).

Students will also complete a 15,000 dissertation on any military history topic, drawing on the wide expertise of staff in the department.

Module descriptions

War in History 1789-present includes:
Limited war and the period before 1789; the French revolution and the birth of the modern style of warfare; the impact of the industrial revolution on warfare; Jomini and Clausewitz; the idea of 'absolute war'; warfare in the 19th century: on the road to 'total war'; the First World War; changes in warfare in the inter-war period: Blitzkrieg and 'deep battle'; the Second World War; the nature of warfare after 1945; Korea, Vietnam and the Arab-Israeli conflicts; counter-insurgency; low-intensity conflicts; warfare in the 21st Century.

Intelligence History:
Failure & Success takes students through the history of the practice of intelligence from "Plato to NATO", or ancient times to the modern days, linking political, social and technological factors into a greater understanding of the profession. The second term is largely student-led, individual students presenting case studies, improving their own historical understanding while developing their skills at formal presentations in front of critical audiences.

The Second World War:
explores the military, political and socio-economic events and developments of the Second World War; focuses on the historiography and cultural significance of the war up to the present day; and adopts an "international history" approach by building its analysis around the interaction of states and peoples in this global conflict. Seminar discussions will focus around the interpretation of various controversial aspects of the Second World War through examination of primary sources of different kinds and of different secondary interpretations.

The Royal Navy in the Twentieth Century:
examines a turbulent period in British naval history. At the start of the twentieth century The Royal Navy was the largest and most powerful maritime power projection force in the world, with more ships and more bases than any other. However, it faced dangerous enemies. Initially focused on the ‘traditional’ threat posed by France and Russia, it soon had to adjust to the menace of a rising and hegemonic Germany. Subsequently, it would also find itself facing the resurgent might of Italy and Japan. As such, the Royal Navy faced the need to be everywhere and combat everyone, a daunting proposition in overstretch. The need to win out in several arms races, to fight two global wars and then prepare to face the prospect of a third posed challenges in the military, economic, social, technological, geographical and ideological realms. How the British state and its navy addressed and surmounted these challenges is a matter of considerable dispute among historians. This module will navigate these debates and in so doing chart the rise and decline of British sea power.

War and the Military in Modern African History: explores the role of warfare and the military in the course of modern Africa’s history, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. The module will combine broad themes as well as specific case studies, and it will explore the ways in which violence and conflict have influenced economy, society and polity in the modern era. The module aims to encourage students to consider the enduring imagery and stereotyping around African warfare in the West, and to think of warfare in constructive as well as destructive terms. Key topics for study will include the growth of identities based on violence and militarism, for example the development of the Zulu state; the relationship between military and political administration; the economics of African war; anti-colonial insurgency and guerrilla wars of the late twentieth century, and recent developments in ‘warlordism’, interstate and proxy conflict.

Warfare in the Age of Muscle: introduces students to the study of European warfare from the Classical era to the age of gunpowder in an historical and social context and it will provide them with a critical introduction to the impact of warfare on politics and society in Europe from ancient times to 1453. It will introduce the methods of historical research as applied to military studies and will also achieve the following: introduce students to applied problems in military planning and operations via ancient examples; teach students to develop a practical insight into why certain operations succeed and fail; illuminate significant areas of military operational, logistical, and intelligence activities in order to arrive at an objective and neutral evaluation of the possibilities, limitations and perils of warfare.

International Security:
This module will introduce you to the changing nature of war, conflict and insecurity. In the first semester you will critically analyse traditional and contemporary Theories in Security Studies. In the second semester, you will be asked to systematically apply these theories to major security issues and policies, such as the arms trade and proliferation, ethnic conflict and humanitarian interventions, pandemics and biopolitics.

Visit the Military History page on the Brunel University London website for more details!

Entry Requirements

A UK first or 2:1 Honours degree in a Social Sciences or Humanities related subject or equivalent internationally recognised qualification. Applicants with a 2.1 from a non-related discipline will be considered on an individual basis. Applicants who hold a UK (2:2) Honours degree or equivalent internationally recognised qualification with relevant work experience will also be considered on an individual basis.

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