Learning, innovation and adaptation are not concepts that we necessarily associate with the British Army of the First World War. Yet the need to learn from mistakes, to exploit new opportunities and to adapt to complex and novel situations are always necessary.
Learning to Fight: Military Innovation and Change in the British Army, 1914-1918
(Cambridge University Press, 2017), by Dr. Aimée Fox
, Lecturer in Defence Studies at King's College London, grapples with this most intriguing of topic, particular for academics with their generally less than positive views of the mental capacities of the armed forces. Dr. Fox's book is the first institutional examination of the army's process for learning during the First World War. Drawing on organizational and management theories. Dr. Fox critiques existing approaches to military learning in wartime. Focused on a series of case studies, the book ranges across multiple theatres and positions the army within a broader context in terms of relationships with allies and civilians to reveal that learning was more complex than initially thought. The book also grapples with the army's failings and shortcomings, explores and acknowledges the inherent difficulties in a desperate and lethally competitive environment.
Charles Coutinho Ph. D. of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written recently for Chatham House’s International Affairs.