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Historical black and white photograph of British personnel firing artillery in Malaya.

Captains of War: History in Professional Military Education

Louis Halewood and David Morgan-Owen
RUSI Journal, 2 February 2021
History, Military Personnel
History, if used correctly, can have an important role in professional military education.

This article examines the role of history in professional military education (PME) in light of the recent US Joint Chiefs of Staff’s guidance on achieving ‘intellectual overmatch’. Louis Halewood and David Morgan-Owen argue that a narrow approach to the past, underpinned by preconceived notions of ‘relevance’, undermines what ability history has to serve the aims of military education. History need not be ‘applied’ to make it valuable, as its study can provide a broader understanding of warfare. Only by treating history more seriously, and by meaningfully engaging with the legacies of Britain’s own military past, can the discipline contribute to modern PME.

BANNER IMAGE: British artillery firing on insurgents in the Malayan jungle, 1955. Malaya serves as a salutary example of how thinking about history as a source of ‘lessons’ can support highly problematic arguments about contemporary warfare. Courtesy of Imperial War Museums

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