Laughton’s Legacy: Naval History at Kings College London.

Presented by the Laughton Professor of Naval History, Andrew Lambert on the 14th November 2002 in the Great Hall, Kings College London. 

Edited by James W.E. Smith for the Laughton Review,  2017. 


Principal, Ladies, Gentlemen, but above all friends:

Twenty years ago I was a student at this College facing my doctoral examination. I had selected St Andrew’s Day, for you can never have too many friends on such occasions. Although I passed the exam there appeared to be no demand for naval historians. For the next decade I taught international history, strategy, military history and even marxist economics to undergraduate, initial officer entry and staff college students.

Had naval history been a wise choice?

After all there was not one named position in the subject in a British university, a situation that appeared unlikely to change. For much of the 20th century the study of war and the sea were marginal issues, largely ignored by the academic mainstream. Much effort was applied to writing the history of Britain without these elements, despite their central place in the history of a global maritime power. In this climate of neglect there seemed little purpose continuing my studies.Suitably inspired I began to work on the career of Sir John Knox Laughton, the founder of the discipline. The result was to have been a valedictory chronicle of wasted time. That we are here tonight is a reflection of changing times, an academic success story and charitable support.

The inaugural lecture has a long tradition, having been variously used to survey or define specific branches of knowledge, set out adventurous agendas, present new work, or make a grand statement about the importance of a particular area of study. Instead I will address a few simple questions: who was Laughton, what did he create and what is the future for naval history? Fortunately, many of the answers lie within the confines of this college.

Born on St George’s Day 1830 Professor Sir John Knox Laughton graduated from Cambridge in 1852 having mastered the Maths Tripos and acquired a service ethic. The intellectual legacy of his time at university was the ability to master principles, assemble evidence and develop theoretical structures. He would not know case again until after the outbreak of the First World War, when failing eyesight and advanced age finally deprived him of the power to work. Entering the Royal Navy as an Instructor in 1853 Laughton displayed outstanding pedagogic skills and courage under fire. After 1866 he taught at the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth, working with the future leaders of the service. As a professional scientist and educator he sought the underlying principles of the subjects he taught, developing a sophisticated observational science based methodology for his books on Oceanography and Hydrographic Surveying. He then turned his attention to the development of modern naval doctrine. A continuous technological revolution, sparked by the introduction of steam propulsion, shell guns and armour, had persuaded most commentators that past experience had become irrelevant. Laughton argued that the past, accurately understood, was the basis for the development of contemporary naval thought and the elucidation of underlying principles, as he demonstrated in his 1873 Essay on Naval Tactics.

The Naval College moved to Greenwich, and in 1874 Laughton delivered The Scientific Study of Naval History at the United Services Institution. This epochal paper established history as the basis for doctrine development, and secured it a place in the College curriculum. Finding existing naval histories unreliable Laughton set about creating an accurate naval history as the foundation for naval thought. This history would inform the judgement of future commanders.

Laughton’s ideas were widely circulated. A powerful critic of alarmist polemics, partisan politics and inadequate history his essays were a major contribution to the intellectual life of the age. They developed his strategic thought and methodological ideas while exercising a majestic oversight of all work that touched on his interests. His audience included the entire officer corps of the Royal Navy, army officers, statesmen, defence analysts and two major American thinkers. Admiral Stephen B Luce exploited Laughton’s work both to provide a rationale for the United States Naval War College, founded in 1886, and to define the educational task he set Captain Alfred T Mahan. For the next two decades Laughton and Mahan worked together on naval education, strategic thought and history. They did so from a position of mutual respect: Mahan always acknowledged Laughton to be ‘the’ historian, while Laughton deferred to his American friend as the pre-eminent strategic analyst of the age. The legacy of their relationship – the development of academically credible naval history as a vital element in naval education and strategic thought – remains central to the aims and methods of the subject to this day.

Retired from the Naval College in 1885, Laughton was appointed Professor of Modern History at King’s, succeeding his friend Samuel Rawson Gardiner. Here he made a significant contribution to the professionalisation of English history, being a founder of The English Historical Review, contributing to The Cambridge Modem History and the author of 926 lives for the Dictionary of National Biography, works which placed naval history before the widest audience. However, the rewards were hardly commensurate with his exertions, or his status. In calculating his pension the Navy described his earnings as ‘a doubtful £160 from literary work, including a Professorship at King’s College London’. Clearly interest was limited.

The tide turned in the late 1880s, and Laughton exploited popular navalism to found the Navy Records Society in 1893. With a core membership of naval and military officers, statesmen, journalists, professional and amateur historians the Society operated as an unofficial historical section for the Naval Intelligence Department, then the effective Admiralty Staff. It provided edited materials from which the service could develop doctrine and strategy. Before 1914 Directors of the Intelligence Division regularly took a seat on the Council of the Society, to ensure the publishing programme reflected their needs. At the same time Laughton insisted that editorial work be conducted according to academic best practice, securing the support of fellow professionals. In the first two volumes he considered defence against invasion, through the medium of the Armada campaign.

Although the membership was small the Navy Records exerted a major influence on contemporary defence debates. It also enabled Laughton to recruit new scholars, notably Julian Corbett who would develop a historically based national strategy, and Captain Herbert Richmond who combined exemplary, present minded historical scholarship with a successful career in the higher reaches of naval policy. In 1895 Laughton asked Captain Lord Charles Beresford for a small favour. Charlie replied:

Please command me if any, any time I can be of the least use to you, in helping with your most grateful and national work. All that you are doing deserves the unbounded gratitude and sympathy of our people. I wish your books were placed in all schools and the pupils made to study them, so as to instruct and let our people see how we happened at all to become a nation, very few know. The very best of good luck attend your efforts.
PS. As I live at Ham, I will do myself the pleasure of running over to see you, some day on my bicycle.

The thought of the stout Captain pedalling his way from Ham to Wimbledon is perhaps more indicative of Laughton’s impact than his florid prose. Suitably inspired Beresford wrote a popular life of Nelson two years later.By 1900 Laughton was universally recognised as a leading academic historian, and the founding father of his own branch of the modern discipline. Fellow historians from Gardiner and Lord Acton to Charles Firth endorsed and published his work. However, Laughton was far more than a specialist. Considered the finest historian working in the University of London at the turn of the 20th century he was the first Chair of the University History Board. For Alfred Pollard the man and his subject justified the call for an advanced historical research centre. Nor did Pollard forget his old colleague when the Institute of Historical Research opened in 1921, naming a ‘Naval and Military Room’. While the room has closed the importance of naval history has been recognised by recent directors.

Laughton taught into his eighties in an attempt to establish a department of naval history at King’s. He wanted to provide the expanding Navy with educators.10 To provide a context for the department he pioneered Imperial History, and planned a textbook to re-examine British History from a naval perspective. Unfortunately the department did not materialise, and the textbook, The Interdependence of England’s Naval and Political History remained incomplete.

After his death in 1915 Laughton was largely neglected. Ignorance of the central figure in the intellectual life of the service may account for the widespread, and wholly erroneous belief that the Victorian Navy was a colonial gunboat force unable to comprehend strategy and the operational level of war. In a sixty year career linking the Crimean War and the First World War Laughton created and deployed naval history as a fundamental piece of intellectual equipment for two great navies, inspired other strategic writers, and came close to rounding off his career by establishing it at the heart of the historical profession. This legacy remains the single most powerful influence on naval historiography.

Laughton’s legacy lived on in the people he taught, the ideas he promoted and the continuing relevance of his work. He understood the subject was necessarily studied as part of the academic discourse, but the main beneficiaries were professional colleagues involved in naval education, war planning and doctrine development. While the academic search for better answers, or what remains far harder to achieve better questions, is endless armed forces require a more settled past from which to learn. For Laughton the answer to this problem was simple, get the history right, and use it to inform the judgement. Mahan, by contrast, hastened to develop his lessons, then back-filled his text with historical material deliberately chosen to support his case. He called this process ‘subordination’. Cynics among us might note the close connection with the methodology of other disciplines. While admiring Mahan’s ability to synthesise and formulate Laughton considered the American’s work ‘premature’, undermined by inaccurate evidence, and generously laboured to make him a better historian.

Although Laughton’s students and friends continued to lead the subject after 1918, the place of naval history in the academic mainstream faltered. The bloody experience of total war left a deep scar on the national psyche, while the apparently indecisive war at sea produced only petty squabbles. Consequently this college took little interest. Some of Laughton’s books were purchased, their neatly inscribed marginalia providing a rare glimpse of his caustic humour, and alarmingly definite opinions. Their arrival was marked by a memorial lecture, given by Sir Julian Corbett, and chaired by another old friend, Admiral of the Fleet Prince Louis of Battenberg. Corbett revived the issue of a naval history department when he delivered his University of London Creighton Lecture at King’s on October 11th 1922. Four years later Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond also spoke in the Great Hall on ‘Sea Warfare’ for the University Military Education Committee in February and March 1926. But the College allowed Laughton’s legacy to slip away. In the centenary history one time colleague and successor F J Hearnshaw barely acknowledged the work of the man who had hired him, and then kept him out of a chair for over a decade. Such petty spite only reminds us that historians are human. A University Defence chair set up in 1927 and attached to King’s did not last long, despite being held by General Maurice, the grandson of a controversial figure from the college’s past. Nor were things much better elsewhere, while Cambridge took in Admiral Richmond after his sea career to be the second Vere-Harmsworth Professor of Naval History, he was also the last.Richmond helped to sustain the legacy of his old mentor, indirectly bringing it back to King’s.

In 1929 he provided Captain Basil Liddell Hart, defence correspondent and sometime writer on tactics with a rapid education in the fundamentals of national strategy, drawn from Corbett’s 1911 Naval War Course text Some Principles of Maritime Strategy. In return Liddell Hart supported Richmond’s contemporary agenda in the columns of the Daily Telegraph, and marvelled at his method:

That thorough investigation and collation of historical data which I feel more and more to be the only sure way of approach to the truth. Doctrinaires of war have been too content to base themselves on pure theory, spiced with a few examples which serve to illustrate it, and ignoring the possibility that more thorough research might reveal many which contradict it. It seems to me a significant coincidence that the more one pursues real research the closer does one come to a coincidence of views with those who likewise are never tired of continuing to probe and to test their conclusions by history.

Laughton had said the same in 1874, but such sentiments formed a stark contrast with the intellectual underpinnings on display in Liddell Hart’s The British Way of Warfare. Liddell-Hart had neither the time nor the resources to master the arguments Richmond had supplied. Instead the text is marked, as Professor Bond has observed by, ‘the extreme and rather one sided statement of the maritime case.’ Both the case and the extremism, were Richmond’s. Richmond died in 1946, but Liddell Hart remained active into the 1960s, standing as godfather to a new department at King’s. In the interval Gerald Graham, Rhodes Professor of Imperial History used his 1950 inaugural to pay homage to Laughton. How could he avoid the subject? With his portrait hung in the department Sir John was a feature of daily life. Graham placed the study of naval history in an Imperial context, and served the Navy Records Society. However, the mood of the age was still antithetical to the study of war, few history departments had room for the subject, and fewer yet for the study of navies.

The decisive step in the development of modern naval history at King’s came when Sir Michael Howard established the War Studies Department in the 1960s. This offered a new context for the naval past, one in which the study of war was central. As a department defined by the problem it studied, rather than the method it adopted, War Studies brought naval history into contact with a broad range of disciplines and approaches, it also began to reconnect the two halves of Laughton’s legacy. Under this rubric the history of war, could co-exist with the development of strategic and doctrinal understanding and service education.

While War Studies provided a context, the subject needed to recover its heritage. Here the key figures would be naval historians engaged in service education. In 1967 Canadian Don Schurman provided the first modern appreciation of Laughton in The Education of a Navy: The Development of British Naval Thought 1867-1914. Don had taken Gerald Graham’s Imperial history seminar in 1953.’ Three years later Michael Howard invited Bryan Ranft, Professor of History at the Royal Naval College Greenwich to teach naval history and strategy on the War Studies course. Well aware of Laughton’s precedent Bryan brought naval history back into the academic mainstream after forty years of neglect. The result was a steady output of naval historians grounded in War Studies. Many of Bryan’s students are here tonight, and as one of their number I trust that I speak for them all when I say that no man did more to revive the subject. That he did so while bridging the service – academic divide only emphasised the continuity of the issues.

After Professor Ranft retired, Geoffrey Till, a student and later colleague, continued the connection with the Naval College as it merged into the Joint Services College. Despite the quality of the provision in these years the postgraduate War Studies department was not large enough to warrant a full time post in naval history/strategy.

With the establishment of the BA programme in 1991 I was fortunate to return to the Department. My study of Laughton would now have a more positive focus. Since then the Department has grown, under the leadership of Professor Freedman, to provide higher education for a large student body here on the Strand, and the officers of all three armed forces at the new Joint Services Command and Staff College. This last resulted in the largest single increase in naval history provision in British academic history. Laughton’s educational legacy is complete, his subject is taught to University and sometimes Staff College students under a common rubric, forming the basis for academic and applied reflections.

Laughton’s double heritage in service and academic education means that naval historians are more likely to be asked about the relevance of their work than those in most other branches of history, and as they are also more likely to be employed by navies than universities they need an answer. Navies need relevant and responsive history of the highest quality as the basis for professional development. This can be most effectively and economically secured by working in partnership with professional academics. The opportunities for naval history in service education are wide. They reflect the fact that the officers of today and tomorrow face an uncertain future, one in which they may have to deal with the implications of a ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’, the absence of any serious ‘naval’ challenge, a complete breakdown in security systems and an unpredictable range of political upheavals stretching around the globe. The old certainties of the Cold War have been replaced by a more active, dynamic and dangerous world. It is the responsibility of the service to prepare its future leaders to meet these, and any other unforeseen future developments by providing the most effective career long education. The military profession has a fundamental requirement for an educational system based on a sophisticated understanding of past experience, both as the ‘reality’ that underpins the art of war, and the raw material for education and doctrine. These advantages are only secured by navies that accept the fundamental distinction between training and education, and accord both the same absolute professional standards that are required in seamanship, warfare and navigation. The relative success of Andrew Gordon’s The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command demonstrates how academic scholarship can raise the quality of debate within armed forces.

Reflections on the origins of that process informed my 1998 study of Laughton, which addressed his place in the development of naval thought. In 1999 the College and the University awarded a personal chair in naval history, the first full time teaching appointment in naval history at this level in a British University for sixty years. The inaugural lecture for that chair was delayed, making it possible to reflect on the next step in the development of naval history at King’s, the foundation of the Laughton Naval History Unit, and to place before you an edition of Sir John’s Correspondence, published by the Navy Records Society.

The Laughton Naval History Unit [Laughton Unit] has been made possible by the generous support of the Tubney Charitable Trust, a Charity established by Miles and Briony Blackwell, two people who shared a passion for the subject and an appreciation of the contribution that could be made by an enhanced provision of teaching, research and public access. Tragically they did not live to see the Unit come into being, but their friends and trustees, who I am delighted to say are represented here tonight, have carried their work to a conclusion.  The choice of the title ‘Unit’ was deliberate. I believe that naval history can only prosper as part of a larger whole. Students and teachers need a context for their subject and naval history is not large enough to fill that role. While it belongs within the study of history and the study of war I am convinced the latter offers the greater benefits, and has proved a better supporter. On a more practical note this initiative has been built on the success of naval history within War Studies, and I believe it must remain firmly anchored in that department. In effect the provision of naval history teaching has doubled, to meet an existing need, while opportunities for research have been increased. The task for the future is to build on Laughton’s legacy, taking naval history to the widest audience, in academe, the armed forces and the wider public.

This lecture has been incorporated in the British Commission for Maritime History programme. This series has run at King’s for more than a decade, attracting a substantial, broadly based audience for work that has occasionally stretched the concept of maritime history in new and fascinating directions, while providing a forum for the best conventional work. The Commission also sponsors conferences for new researchers, which demonstrate the remarkable spread and quality of the current research in the field. I would not wish to give the impression that other Universities have ignored the history of the sea, allowing us to rest on our laurels. Maritime and naval history have been developed rapidly and effectively at Greenwich and Hull, while Exeter has a long tradition in the field. All three Universities employ historians of eminence and authority, and report good student recruitment. The place of the sea in history has never been better served. We are going with the tide. Last year the Institute of Historical Research Anglo-American Historians Conference was simply entitled, The Sea. It brought together a rich haul of outstanding scholars, opened with an address from Paul Kennedy, and attracted a record audience. Many of those attending were not full time academics, and this is a development to be welcomed. At present the popular appetite for history has reached unprecedented levels. It is our business to support that interest, and we should glory in the fact that this branch of the historical tree has a well informed and discerning non-academic audience. While all historians have a public role, few can exercise it with such ease. That said we do occasionally suffer for our art, those who sailed with the BBC on their Captain Cook project The Ship will vouch for the demands of ‘Extreme History’ a new genre, the basic premise of which is that we learn by suffering. Along the way we should profit from the opportunity to bring new and more stimulating arguments and approaches to this well-developed audience, to take them with us on our constant attempt to improve understanding. There are major opportunities to work with museums. They are the public face of naval history, integrating scholarship with a wealth of preserved artefacts, while their archives and libraries support the research process, and open access to non-university students. A wise balance between preserving, interpreting and exhibiting, with one eye always on the need to raise funds, should keep museums fresh, and ensure that they address the concerns of the present. From now to 2005 the pressing need will be to explain the magic of Trafalgar to a new century, ensuring that the memory remains ‘immortal’ for the right reasons. While I have every confidence that the National Maritime and Royal Naval Museums, a long with HMS Victory, will rise to the task we must hope that the Navy will reflect on the meaning of that example on the other 364 days of the year.Over the past decade Museums have adopted a new role. Where once they were repositories of wisdom and advice for scholars, they now provide public access courses, the Naval Academy at Portsmouth, and the Open Museum at Greenwich making the latest research available to a wider audience. This initiative should be developed, creating partnerships between museums and universities to increase public access. History belongs to everyone.

Standing here today I am conscious of living in a golden age for naval history, but I am equally well aware that we have been here before. One hundred years ago the situation was equally positive, but changes in academic fashion, the loss of leading figures, the indifference of the Royal Navy and public apathy undermined many of the achievements of our predecessors. To avoid that fate we must ensure naval history addresses questions that are relevant to our own generation. We must avoid the danger of becoming narrow, exclusive or introverted. We are not here to revive Sir John Knox Laughton, or to hold up his works as timeless pearls of wisdom, but to see those works in context, and learn how to read them with profit. As Sir Herbert Butterfield wrote nearly sixty years ago:

It is not at all my object, now, to insist that we should make an attempt to bring our useless predecessors back to life; I wish rather to see whether some advantage cannot be achieved by a disrespectful treatment of their remains. Their books are to be handled rather in the way that the economic historian might handle the stale records of a defunct business house: so that we may learn whether there is not a history to be wrung out of them totally unlike anything that the writers of them ever had in mind

Only when naval history has examined its own entrails, re-read the past masters, and acknowledged their agendas, can we move on. That other branches of history have already passed this stage suggests there is a need for immediate action.

Naval History requires some definition, and for this purpose I am happy to follow Professor Nicholas Rodger who, in the first volume of his great project to write a naval history of the British Isles, The Safeguard of the Seas cited the remarks of John Ehrman. These are so apt, and so well expressed as to require no alteration:

Naval History is a microcosm of national history; it is not a subject with its own particular technique, but an application of different subjects, each with their own technique, to a particular field. It has its own economic and constitutional history, its own legal problems and its own relations with diplomacy and politics. If national history may be compared to a cake, the different layers of which are different aspects of national life, then naval history is not layer but a slice of that cake.

As this tasty morsel makes clear successful navies reflect the ideas, values and aspirations of the societies that fund and employ them. Usually crewed by nationals from that country, their regulations reflect those of society ashore, suitably modified for service at sea. Naval history has a similar relation to the main body of historical scholarship: it can only be understood in a broader context, and shares ideas and values, but requires specific knowledge and insight, a sea-sense.

History is how we understand our past, it is not, despite what Ranke claimed, merely telling like it like it was. Such an approach leads only to Lord Acton’s absolute history, a timeless record of misguided endeavour. As Nietzsche stressed; ‘You can explain the past only by what is most powerful in the present’.

We must join the contemporary debates, and ensure that they are historically informed, if our work is to have real purpose. We must be aware of our own role in the creation of historical understanding if we are to avoid Acton’s fate. This is more honest and useful than the futile and demeaning attempt to kill the reputations of long dead scholars in our own field that passes for intellectual machismo in some circles. We need to know more about our predecessors, and develop from their work, not demolish something that we cannot replace. Our predecessors did not write for our edification, but if we know who they were writing for we can build on their work, for history is at heart a constructive process, a constant dialogue between the present and the way in which it perceives it’s past. Each generation needs its own history, to understand how it arrived at this place, and in these circumstances. This process is essential if we are to be ready for the future. Historical understanding changes with every generation, for the ‘relevant’ past shifts under the pressure of current events, constantly redefining the way in which we view the past, and the past we wish to view.

One example will have to suffice. Back in the early 1970s Britain was neither happy nor glorious, and the national sense of self worth was low. The prevailing images were of mass industrial unrest, economic decline and the final acceptance that in the post-colonial world Britain was second rate European power. These wider factors, combined with the entry in the European Economic Union and the dominance of the NATO Central Front in British conventional defence prompted historical enquiry along certain lines. In the naval/strategic area three key texts defined the decade. Correlli Barnett’s The Collapse of British Power of 1972, a broad cultural, industrial, economic and strategic survey and offered an historical explanation for the present disorders. Michael Howard’s Ford Lectures also appeared in 1972 as The Continental Commitment, arguing, with enviable clarity, that Britain had always been a Continental power, while the stationing a large British Army on the Rhine was no more than a belated recognition of the fact.These texts, along with Gerald Graham’s 1965 study The Politics of Naval Supremacy exercised a major influence over the most important naval book published in Britain in the 1970s, Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery of 1976. Here the message was that the power of the navy was closely linked to economic success, defined in industrial output rather than commercial activity, and that sea power had been of declining moment in the twentieth century, when compared to the land based strength of those industrialised continents, the Soviet Union and the United States. Paul also argued that the steady decline of Britain in the twentieth century was inevitable, and long presaged. The son of a Newcastle boiler-maker Paul had seen the decline of ship construction at first hand, while Howard’s version of current defence thinking dominated his conclusions.

These were the key texts of the 1970s, they offered explanations of the problems of the era, but they are not relevant today. There is no longer a British Army on the Rhine, the economy has been transformed, and Britain’s role in the world is radically different from anything envisaged in 1972.Defence policy has changed, the ‘Continentalist’ orthodoxy of the 1970s has been exploded, and shown up as an aberration.

Current thinking, as outlined in the Strategic Defence Review of 1998, reflects Julian Corbett’s ideas. While the new strategic thinking is defined as ‘expeditionary’ the inclusion of the first large aircraft carriers to be ordered since 1945 suggests that Corbett’s phrase ‘maritime strategy’ would be more accurate. The sea should be back at the heart of British strategy. This did not happen overnight, the process began with the Falklands War, and the United States ‘New Maritime Strategy’ of 1986. As western strategic concerns shifted, so did the questions nations and navies asked of their history. The point should be obvious, every generation needs to understand the processes that brought it to the present situation. That requires fresh thinking, not old histories. I would be the last to criticize work that inspired me to become a historian, but arguments advanced in the 1970s are no longer relevant. Fortunately history is not fixed, otherwise most of us would be out of a job!

What is the future for naval history ?

Naval history is in better shape today than it has been for a century, and it is the task of this generation to take it back into the mainstream of academic and popular understanding. This is an island trading nation. Our prosperity, culture and place in the world remain, as they have been for centuries, dominated by the sea. The future for naval history lies in extended co-operation with scholars in other branches of history, in disciplines that examine conflict and organisations like the Royal Navy than can enhance our sea sense. We must address our own past, and understand the aims of our predecessors. But above all we must ask new questions. In place of old questions that emphasise naval knowledge, questions that erect barriers against non-specialists, we must ask inclusive questions that engage with wider fields of knowledge. We must join the big historical debates, using our expertise and distinctive understanding to examine issues of wider concern. Ultimately we must ensure that the historical profession, the armed forces and the wider public do not remain ignorant of the sea.

Naval historians should avoid the type of unedifying, futile and destructive squabbles that occupied the attention of two leading scholars in the 1960s and 1970s. Marder and Roskill would have served the subject better by engaging other audiences, and promoting naval history, rather than contesting authority and primacy in their own goldfish bowl. It was this quality of reaching out to wider audiences that made Paul Kennedy’s Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery a landmark.

Current work in the Laughton Unit reflects these ideals.Interesting as the studies myself and my colleagues are working on may be. I take more satisfaction from the work of our students. The best guarantee I can offer you for the future of the subject is the ambition and quality of work being produced by students at all levels in this College, and elsewhere in Britain. It was the demand for, and quality of work in naval history here at King’s that finally convinced me the subject had a future. Recent doctoral degrees have been awarded for pioneering work in the field of History of Technology, Anglo-American naval policy and strategic planning, administrative, international and journalism history. There are more good things to come: comparative studies, regional studies, technology, the theory and practice of logistics, the politics of supply, new aspects of naval aviation, amphibious warfare and theatre strategy. These students have developed their own questions, created their own research agendas, and presented their work in seminars here and across the historical community.  In addition we have first class students of naval history on the undergraduate and postgraduate courses. On past form their career destinations are so numerous as to defy categorisation, but wherever they go they will not be blind to the central place of the sea in British history. Those students are Laughton’s legacy. It is the business of this college, and of those who support its work, to take that legacy forward.