Episode 2: C E Callwell: Small Wars and Integrated Sea-Land Operations

Historian Dr Daniel Whittingham joins Beatrice and Paul for a conversation about Major-General Sir Charles Edward Callwell (1859–1928). An unabashed British imperialist, Callwell’s views are strongly reflected in his writings on Small Wars, by which he meant counterinsurgency operations.

Callwell started his career as an artillery officer, and then went on to serve as a staff officer and commander during the Boer War. He also served in one of the Anglo-Afghan Wars, and later, in the First World War. But it was RUSI that launched him on his literary career: he won the Trench Gascoigne Prize Essay Competition in 1886 for his essay ‘Lessons to be learned from the campaigns in which British Forces have been employed since the year 1865’, published in the RUSI Journal Vol. 139. This success gave him the confidence that he could write and be read, and he later expanded his prize-winning essay into the famous book Small Wars: Their Principles and Practices, published in 1896. The work went through several re-editions and was adopted by the British Army as a textbook on how to conduct counterinsurgency operations.

While his prescriptions in this domain were brutal, his equally important writings on naval strategy are sensible and restrained, foreshadowing Sir Julian Corbett’s views on the need for jointness and the pointlessness of naval operations that did not have the land dimension as their focus.

Dr Daniel Whittingham is an Oxford-trained historian by background, who completed his PhD at King’s College London before joining the University of Birmingham in September 2013.


Beatrice Heuser

Senior Associate Fellow

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Paul O’Neill

Senior Research Fellow

Military Sciences

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