The Nature of Command - HIST7870

Looking for a different module?

Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Autumn Term 6 30 (15) Peter Donaldson checkmark-circle


The course will provide students with a historical understanding of command at a variety of levels by looking at various types of battle scenarios, both strategic and tactical. The course will take an international perspective as well as a chronological one, but will rely primarily on Anglo-American case studies, the colonial struggles of the 19th century, the retreat from empire, the two world wars and the recent actions in the Gulf. As well as providing historical lessons, students will be challenged to solve universal command problems still applicable to modern warfare, and thus provides a transferable skill in both a specific sense - useful for anyone contemplating a career in the armed forces - and in a generic sense it will stimulate the skills needed to deconstruct and solve problems logically while taking account of a variety of factors and perspectives.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 30
Private study hours: 270
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Essay 1 3,000 words 30%
Essay 2 3,000 words 30%
Presentation 15 minutes 20%
In-class test 50-minutes 20%

Reassessment methods:
Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

John Keegan, The Mask of Command, (London: 1987)
Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson, Command on the Western Front, (London: 1992)
Gary Sheffield, Leadership and Command: the Anglo-American experience since 1861, (London: 2002)
Gary Sheffield, The Challenges of High Command, (Basingstoke: 2003)
E. Sixsmith, British Generalship in the Twentieth Century, (London: 1970)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Acquired a firm grasp of the historiography of the topic and of shifts in the attitudes towards, and demands of, senior military commanders.
2 Demonstrated a broad conceptual command of the study of military leadership, and a thorough and systematic understanding of the latest research on the subject.
3 Demonstrated their capacity to assess and critically engage with a wide range of primary sources, both visual and written.
4 Demonstrated independent learning skills by being able to make use of a wide range of high-level resources, including up-to-date research in peer-reviewed journals, information technology, relevant subject bibliographies and other primary and secondary sources.
5 Acquired the ability to analyse key texts and other materials critically at a high level.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Enhanced their ability to express complex ideas and arguments orally and in writing, skills which can be transferred to other areas of study and employment.
2 Enhanced communication, presentational skills and information technology skills.
3 Demonstrated the acquisition of an independent learning style when engaging with the course content, for example in the preparation and presentation of course work, in carrying out independent research, in compiling bibliographies and other lists of research materials, by showing the ability to reflect on their own learning and by mediating complex arguments in both oral and written form.
4 Analysed, discussed, deconstructed and demonstrated cogent understanding of central texts and, subsequently, assembled and presented arguments based on this analysis; by virtue of this process, students will also have gained an appreciation of the uncertainty and ambiguity which surrounds the core themes of this module.
5 Approached problem solving creatively, and formed critical and evaluative judgments about the appropriateness of these approaches.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
Back to top

University of Kent makes every effort to ensure that module information is accurate for the relevant academic session and to provide educational services as described. However, courses, services and other matters may be subject to change. Please read our full disclaimer.