Notes:-New Research into the History, Theory and Practice of Naval Wargaming

By James W.E. Smith, published March 2021

Abstract

It is largely overlooked today that naval war- gaming was a major contributing factor not only to the development of British naval thought but also to strategic theory. In academia and in government, naval wargaming has often been disregarded and its importance to the development of the art and theory of war neglected. It has been viewed purely through the eyes of a land narrative. The disparity between land and sea wargaming rose to prominence in 2016 when the author regenerated naval wargaming in the War Studies Department at King’s College London, which was met with an array of suspicious questions, often from historians. Projects on the history of wargaming and its many branches have been undertaken previously by the wargaming community, but they failed to set their research in a wider context. They had become reliant on the same, often secondary, sources as a cornerstone of their understanding of the history of naval war- gaming. To their consternation, these were some of the factors behind why wargamers continued to face the same questions repeatedly on the role and function of wargames. They often failed to demonstrate that naval wargaming was both a practical tool and an enabling agent for the disciplines and topics that it has supported. Examples could have been easily shown from the wider narrative of wargaming, and their interpretation was not just dependent on the classified wargaming found in late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century defence practice. With this in mind, the Society for Nautical Research supported a project to fill a gap in knowledge and address these issues in a scholarly manner. Addressing these multide of imbalances, the research has identifed that naval wargaming became an essential tool to support not only historical discussion of naval topics and questions, but was also critical to the development of strategic theory. This report summarizes the initial findings.

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Filed under: Popular Topics
Subjects include: Battles & Tactics | Strategy & Diplomacy

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