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What does history teach us about the future of warfare?

May 11, 2022 @ 18:00 - 19:30 BST



  • Chair: Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies, KIng’s College London
  • Dr Huw Bennett, Reader in International Relations at the University of Cardiff
  • Professor Beatrice Heuser, Professor of International Relations at the University of Glasgow
  • Professor Richard Overy, Professor of History at the University of Exeter

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, is George Santayana’s oft-quoted aphorism. But what of those who attempt to recall the past in order to predict the future?

The history of war offers a vast reservoir of knowledge and experience that politicians, diplomats, soldiers, scholars, journalists, and many popular writers have long attempted to draw upon, in order to help anticipate the shape of future conflicts. The hope is that by predicting the nature of future war, we will be better equipped to prevail in these conflicts, or, better yet, avoid them altogether. Very rarely however, do these visions of future war seem to correspond to reality, whether for better or for worse.

As we grapple with the most significant war in Europe since World War II in our present, with Russia’s invasion and evolving war against Ukraine, this panel will reflect on how the wars of our past have been analysed and deployed as a means of anticipating future developments in conflict, and the reasons why these efforts so often seem to miss the mark. They will consider the ways that the instrumentalisation of history in the service of the future ,tends to be informed by the politics of the present.

Organised in collaboration with the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War, and chaired by Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies, our panel includes Dr Huw Bennett, Reader in International Relations at the University of Cardiff, Professor Beatrice Heuser, Professor of International Relations at the University of Glasgow, and Professor Richard Overy, Professor of History at the University of Exeter.

Attendees can join in person or online. A drinks reception will take place after the talks. Book your place via Eventbrite.

This event is part of the War Studies at 60 Seminar Series, a series of events exploring key issues in security and defence as part of the celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the Department of War Studies.

About the speakers

Beatrice Heuser is Professor of International Relations at the University of Glasgow. Prior to this, Professor Heuser taught at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, the University of Reading, and also held visiting professorships at the universities of Reims and Potsdam, Sciences Po’ Paris and Reims, the University of Rome III, the Bundeswehr University, and the Russian Foreign Ministry’s university MGIMO. Professor Heuser is a renowned figure in the field of Strategic Studies, and has written extensively on the causes, motivations, conduct, and strategies of war, with a particular focus on how the cultural traditions and narratives of the continue to shape policy and strategy in both the present and future. Professor Heuser is the author of numerous highly-regarded works, including Reading Clausewitz (2002), The Strategy Makers: Thoughts on War and Society from Machiavelli to Clausewitz (2010), The Evolution of Strategy: Thinking War from Antiquity to the Present (2010), and, most recently, War: a Genealogy of Western Ideas and Practices (2021).

Huw Bennett is Reader in International Relations at the University of Cardiff. Dr Bennett specializes in strategic studies, the history of war, and intelligence studies, with a focus on both historical and contemporary uses of military power, from the end of the Second World War, through the Cold War and decolonization, up until the Global War on Terror. Dr Bennett is author of Fighting the Mau Mau: the British Army and Counter-Insurgency in the Kenya Emergency (2013), and also served as an expert historical witness in the High Court case brought by survivors of the Mau Mau internment camps used by the British in Kenya during the 1950s and early 1960s. In addition to this, Dr Bennett has also written numerous articles on British military strategy in in the post-Second World War period, from the wars of decolonization, to more contemporary counterinsurgency and policing operations.

Richard Overy is Professor of History at the University of Exeter. Prior to this, Professor Overy taught at the University of Cambridge, and in 1994 joined King’s College London as Professor in Modern History. Professor Overy is both a fellow of the British Academy, and the Royal Historical Society, and in 2001 he was awarded the Samuel Elliot Morison Prize by the Society for Military History for his extensive contributions to the history war. Professor Overy’s work examines numerous aspects of the Second World War, with a particular focus on airpower and bombing, the economy of the Third Reich, and the Soviet Union. Professor Overy is author of nearly 30 books, including The Air War: 1939-1945 (1980); Why the Allies Won (1995), The Times History of the 20th Century (1999), The Dictator’s: Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia (2005), for which he won the Wolfson Prize for History; The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945 (2013); RAF: The Birth of the World’s First Air Force (2018); and, most recently, Blood and Ruins: the Great Imperial War: 1931-1945.

Sir Lawrence Freedman is Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King’s College London. Between 1982-2014 he served as Professor of War Studies, and was also Vice-Principal from 2003-2013. Before joining KCL, Professor Freedman held research positions at the University of Oxford, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Royal Institute of International Affairs. Professor Freedman is a Fellow of the British Academy and was awarded the Commander of the British Empire in 1996, and later the Knight Commander of St Michael and St George in 2003. In 1997, he was appointed the Official Historian of the Falklands Campaign, and in 2009 Professor Freedman served as a member of the official inquiry in Britain and the Iraq War. Professor Freedman’s research focuses on international history, strategic theory, with a focus on nuclear warfare, and he also commented extensively on contemporary security issues. He is the author of numerous important works, including War, Strategy, and International Politics: Essays in Honour of Sir Michael HowardStrategy: a History 2013), The Future of War: a History 2017), Nuclear Deterrence (2018), and Ukraine and the Art of Strategy (2019).





School of Security Studies


Edmond J Safra Lecture Theatre
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