'Putting Knowledge in Power': learning and innovation in the British Army of the First World War

Fox-Godden, Aimée Elizabeth (2015). 'Putting Knowledge in Power': learning and innovation in the British Army of the First World War. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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Learning is critical to battlefield success. \(Ceteris\) \(paribus\), victory becomes more likely when militaries adapt faster and more effectively than their opponents. This thesis examines the effectiveness of the British army’s process for learning and adaptation across six different operational theatres during the First World War. Using a series of case studies, it considers how the army shared knowledge, responded to change, and integrated newcomers. It finds that the army’s attitudes towards learning were more thoroughgoing than hitherto thought. With its pre-war ethos and increased fluidity in wartime, the army displayed organisational and cultural flexibility across all theatres, encouraging a culture of innovation through the promotion of informal learning and tactical diversity.

In a broader sense, the thesis does three things. First, it moves beyond the standard Western Front narrative of learning in the First World War, offering a more rounded examination of the army’s experience. Secondly, it highlights the complexity of military learning, considering that which occurs institutionally, between formations, and between theatres. Finally, it reflects on the importance of an organisation’s ethos when faced with uncertainty. This thesis, therefore, offers a point of departure for future studies of traditionally bureaucratic institutions and their ability to learn and innovate.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/6113


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