King’s College London: Department of War Studies celebrates 60th anniversary

Celebrations for 60 years of War Studies began with a special launch event this week with staff, students, alumni and friends.

Celebrations for 60 years of War Studies at King’s began with a special launch event this week to reflect on the past, present and future of the Department.

Staff, students, alumni, friends and leading figures from the Department’s past, including former Heads of Department, gathered for the in-person event at Bush House.

Guests were welcomed by Professor Shitij Kapur, King’s President & Principal, and current Head of Department Professor Michael Goodman. The event also featured a conversation between Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies and former Head of the Department, and Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin, Vice President & Vice Principal (International) at King’s and War Studies alumna.

The Department of War Studies (DWS) is one of the world’s pre-eminent academic institutions focused on the study of war, conflict and security. The Department’s success owes much to the vision and ethos of its founder, the late Professor Sir Michael Howard, who established it as a hub for interdisciplinary research and education on the causes, conduct and consequences of war.

It’s important that not only we look to the past, to thank those who have contributed to make this Department the great department it is, not only look to the present to celebrate those of you who are continuing that tradition but also look to the future to anticipate the new things that will happen, the new students we will need to take the work forward.”
– Professor Shitij Kapur
Professor Shitij Kapur also introduced the new War Studies Futures Scholarship Programme, launching as part of the 60th anniversary, to raise funds to provide scholarships for 60 students from low-income, widening participation backgrounds to study a BA in War Studies over the next 10 years. Each student will get £12,000 to help with the cost of living in London and contribute to their annual tuition fees.

Professor Michael Goodman, Head of the Department of War Studies spoke of the Department’s ‘remarkable sense of community’ and friendliness.

“War Studies leaves an indelible mark in your life; it is no surprise that so many of our students continue their studies with us, or that staff remain in the Department for their entire careers.”

Said Professor Michael Goodman.

Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin, who spent over 10 years in the Department studying an MA and PhD in War Studies, spoke about what a home coming it felt to be in the room with “so many people who shaped my career, my own journey at King’s”.

Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, who became Head of Department in 1982, just as the Falklands War ignited (‘I became Professor of War Studies and the next day I had a war’), spoke about the work he undertook to expand the Department.

In the 80s, higher education in the UK was in big financial trouble. When I was appointed… my first meetings were all about cuts, so I said, “I’ve got nothing to cut, But I think I can raise some money, can I do that instead? So, it wasn’t a case of having imperialist ambitions, it was purely defensive to start with.”
– Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman
Under Professor Freedman’s leadership, War Studies became a mainstream academic subject, and the Department was transformed into one of the biggest departments at King’s.

“It’s amazing the reach of the Department. For example, it’s remarkable that War Studies is as much a major contributor to the Washington policy community as any other university…with alumni all speaking very warmly of their time. I don’t think anything gives me more pleasure than the success of my students and our students generally.”

Said Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman.

Since the Department’s establishment in 1962, it has grown from a handful of PhD students and one MA programme to a large and vibrant community of scholars with a diverse range of interests and expertise. Today, the Department over 100 full-time academic staff, over 40 professional service members of staff, around 1,500 undergraduate and postgraduate students and a thriving alumni community. It offers four courses at undergraduate level and fourteen MA programmes.