By Christopher Phillips (Aberystwyth University)

NEW: published 30 April 2020


The war of 1914–1918 was the first great general conflict to be fought between highly industrial societies able to manufacture and transport immense quantities of goods over land and sea. Yet the armies of the First World War were too vast in scale, their movements too complex, and the infrastructure upon which they depended too specialised to be operated by professional soldiers alone. In Civilian Specialists at War, Christopher Phillips examines the relationship between industrial society and industrial warfare through the lens of Britain’s transport experts. He analyses the multiple connections between the army, the government, and the senior executives of some of pre-war Britain’s largest industrial enterprises to illustrate the British army’s evolving understanding both of industrial warfare’s particular character and of the role to be played by non-military experts in the prosecution of such a conflict.

This book reveals that Britain’s transport experts were a key component of Britain’s conduct of the First World War. It demonstrates that a pre-existing professional relationship between the army, government, and private enterprise existed before 1914, and that these bonds were strengthened by the outbreak of war. It charts the range of wartime roles into which Britain’s transport experts were thrust in the opening years of the conflict, as both military and political leaders grappled with the challenges before them. It details the application of recognisably civilian technologies and methods to the prosecution of war and documents how - in the conflict’s principal theatre, the western front - the freedom of action for Britain’s transport experts was constrained by the political and military requirements of coalition warfare.

  • "an important and timely book  ... an engaging, thoroughly researched study of logistics, civil–military relations, and the importance of logistics in war ... should be on the shelves of every First World War historian", Twentieth-Century British History (August 2020)

Read more about the book, and its lessons for experts within modern government, in the IHR's blog 'On History (June 2020).


Dr Christopher Phillips is a lecturer in international security in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth University

Published by University of London Press as part of the RHS / IHR New Historical Perspectives series

424 pp, Available from 30 April 2020, in print, eBook and as a free Open Access download.

To request a review copy, please contact Lauren De'ath, Publications and Marketing Officer at University of London Press.

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