Born and bred in Belgium to British parents, Mario came over to the UK to pursue his undergraduate degree in War Studies at the University of Kent, with his dissertation focusing on Irish regiments in the British Army during the First World War. Following this, he attended St Catherine's College, Oxford, for his Master of Studies (MSt) in Modern British and European History, taking the first steps towards a focus across the Channel with a dissertation entitled ‘Anglo-Belgian Military Co-operation 1906-1914’.
Mario returned to Kent to pursue his PhD on ‘The Belgian Army, Society and Military Cultures, 1830-1918’, and now holds a post as a Lecturer in the School of History teaching undergraduate and postgraduate military history modules.
Mario has broad research interests that include British, Irish and European military history in the 19th and 20th centuries. More specifically, his interests lie in the links between armies and societies at all levels, but particularly with relation to national and regional identities.
Mario teaches a wide range of topics within military history, particularly on the experiences of the British Army in the 20th century.
Draper, M. (2019). The Force Publique’s Campaigns in the Congo-Arab War, 1892-1894. Small Wars and Insurgencies [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/09592318.2019.1638553.
Between 1892 and 1894 the Force Publique of King Leopold II’s Congo Free State engaged in a series of little-known counter-insurgency operations against ivory and slave traders from Zanzibar, commonly referred to as Arabs. Without a particularly strong tradition of imperial service, this article argues that the predominantly Belgian officer corps borrowed and adapted methods used by more experienced colonial forces in the 19th Century. Whether taken from existing literature or learned through experience, it reveals that the Force Publique’s counter-insurgency methods reflected many of the more recognisable aspects of traditional French and British approaches. It suggests that, despite the unique nature of each colonial campaign, basic principles could be adapted by whomsoever to overcome the military and political challenges of colonial conquest. The Force Publique’s campaigns in the Congo-Arab War, therefore, provide further evidence as to how some base theories could be universally applied.
Draper, M. (2019). Mutiny under the Sun: The Connaught Rangers, India, 1920. War in History [Online]. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0968344518791208.
This article re-examines the causes of the Connaught Rangers mutiny and argues that institutional failings in the British Army were far more influential in the breakdown of discipline than the oft-supposed politicization of its participants. New and under-used source material demonstrates how the popular myth surrounding the actions of James Daly and his co-conspirators was nothing more than a self-serving exaggeration of events designed to fit an idealized Nationalist narrative of Irish resistance to British rule. More compelling is the argument that demobilization left the regiment with an imbalance in officer–man relations that tipped a combustible situation over the edge.
Draper, M. (2019). ‘Are We Ready?’: Belgium and the Entente’s Military Planning for a War Against Germany, 1906–1914. The International History Review [Online] 41:1216-1234. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/07075332.2018.1489876.
While historians have consistently focused on the development of German, French, and British planning in the years preceding the Great War, few have truly acknowledged neutral Belgium’s role in defining the strategic paradigm of 1914. Belgium held the strategic key to the opening salvos of a future Franco-German war, and each of its Guarantors were determined to obtain the initiative. While German planners were prepared to seize it by force, the Entente (particularly Britain), remained wary of its obligations. Instead, Britain sought to determine Belgian intentions and capabilities through secret and unbinding staff conversations in 1906 and 1912. The former proved useful in establishing a framework for co-operation but ultimately came to nothing. By the time they were resumed in 1912, Anglo-Belgian diplomatic relations had soured, while Belgium’s military reforms and its emergence as a colonial power gave it a renewed sense of confidence. Belgian officials were determined to retain the kingdom’s agency in the formulation of its defence policy and resented Entente suggestions of pre-emptive action. Neutrality was subordinated to independence, which itself could not be guaranteed were Belgium to conclude even the loosest of military accords. Consequently, Entente plans were forced surrender the strategic initiative to the Germans.
Draper, M. (2018). The Belgian Army and Society from Independence to the Great War. [Online]. Palgrave Macmillan. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-70386-2.
This book explores Belgian state-building through the prism of its army from independence to the First World War. It argues that party-politics, which often ran along geographical, linguistic, and religious lines, prevented both Flemings and Walloons from reconciling their regional identities into a unified concept of Belgian nationalism. Equally, it obstructed the army from satisfactorily preparing to uphold Belgium’s imposed neutrality before 1914. Situated uneasily between the two powerhouses of nineteenth-century Europe, Belgium offers a unique insight into the concepts of citizenship and militarisation in a divided society in the era of fervent nationalism. By examining the composition, experience, and image of the army’s officer corps and rank and file, as well as those of the auxiliary forces, this book shows that although military and civilian society often stood aloof from one another, the army, as a national institution, offered a fleeting glimpse into the dichotomy that was pre-war Belgium.
Draper, M. (2016). The Belgian Army, Society and Military Cultures, 1830-1918.
This thesis examines the conflicted relationship between the Belgian army and society from its independence in 1830 through to the end of the First World War in 1918. It assesses the role that the army played as a tool of nation building in what was a culturally, geographically, linguistically, and politically fractured country. Ultimately, the work argues that the army largely failed in this role as political interference in the institution restricted its ability to impact positively on the youth entrusted to its care. The machinations of the two dominant parties, the Catholics and the Liberals, helped reinforce local ties as opposed to fostering a wider sense of nationhood. The military implications were manifold. Not only was the army slow, within a continental context, to adopt conscription, only doing so in 1913, but the strong sense of anti-militarism within society equally held successive governments to account over necessary financial contributions towards other aspects of the military, such as the Civic Guard and the fortresses. When coupled with the issue of language among a majority Flemish rank and file commanded by a predominantly French-speaking officer corps, there was a real fear among domestic and foreign commentators that Belgium’s ability to uphold its unique imposed neutrality in the event of a future war was limited. Notwithstanding, its performance during the First World War was surprising and marked a brief interlude in the contested domestic affairs of the long nineteenth century, as opposition against the ‘other’ rallied the nation behind a single cause. It demonstrated that, despite an entrenched parochialism, multiple associations with the concept of Belgian nationality were extant, but required the crisis of the Great War in order to be clearly expressed.
Draper, M. (2019). ’L’union fait la force’: The Belgian Monarchy, Army, and Society and the Jubilee Celebrations of National Independence, 1855-1905. Revue Museum Dynasticum / Museum Dynasticum Review [Online]. Available at: https://www.musdyn.be/activites/revue-museum-dynasticum.html.