About this course

The Changing of the Guard draws thousands of spectators to Buckingham Palace every year. The Guardsmen in their scarlet tunics and imposing bearskin caps, or the Horse Guards in their breastplates and plumed helmets, are among the best-known British icons, the epitome of ‘Chocolate-box’ militarism. Yet each of these men and women is a highly trained soldier, and the ceremonies they perform, their uniforms, posture and behaviour can be traced through 350 years of history.

This course charts the cultural history of the British army from its inception in the bloody years of England’s civil wars to the present day, considering how its experiences and opponents have shaped its development. Drawing on a broad range of sources – including campaign histories, memoirs and correspondence, news reports, official documents, fiction, film and illustrations – we will look, for example, at the rise of light infantry during the American War of Independence, the impact of Colonial warfare and of two World Wars, and the establishment of the commandoes and Special Air Service (SAS). We will also consider the army’s relationship with Britain’s civilian population, and the ongoing impact of the army on British culture.


Check with your home institution for specific information on fulfillment of major / course requirements.