About the Laughton Unit

A global research home for the education and training of naval historians and theorists.


The Laughton Unit educates and researches in the field of naval history, military theory and maritime strategy to support and shape the evolution of naval history as a tool across a broad spectrum of disciplines and debates in the world around us.

By mastering the naval past, both in theory and practice, this provides the idea basis for furthering our knowledge of the past and comprehending the present and future.

To this end, our mission aims to:

  • The unit enshrines permeance for the field of naval history and maritime strategy in British academic and public life.
  • To understand the central role of naval history in understanding the past, and evolving thinking for present and future national and global challenges.
  • Supports the evolution of naval theory in military doctrine and defence policy while furthering debate on maritime strategy to enhance the knowledge of historians, decision makers and defence professionals within and beyond Britain.

It executes this by:

  • By recruiting the leading naval historians of the future by providing a rich and diverse approach to the subject that stretches beyond the disciplinary boundaries of history.
  • Explore avenues of research that enhance the subject in breadth, depth and context. These can include national culture, sea/naval power theory, technology, state building and historiography, among others.
  • Establish and maintain an international research network for naval history linking British, European, American and global institutions providing both academic and defence education. This synergy has helped to link two distinctive communities that use naval history, bridging an old gap.
  • Expanding the understanding of students as well as civilian and military professionals on the role of naval history in understanding the past, and evolving thinking for the present and future, melding naval and cultural perspectives on the sea as a strategic environment in world history.
  • Provide a central forum for intellectual exchange for all those who work in or around naval history, naval services, or the maritime environment.
  • Enable research to outreach to the widest possible audiences to engage in debates that the naval and maritime world influences.
  • Educate and enhance the scholarly and wider debates at both the individual and group levels through the dissemination of high quality research in the form of lectures, seminar, conference presentations, digital engagement, articles, literature and books.

Our Vision: To provide a global central forum for intellectual exchange on the past, present and future. A home for the education of naval historians and research platform for the development of naval theorists. 

Our Mission: Shaping and Supporting the evolution of Naval History & Maritime Strategy.


More about the Unit

Based in the Department of War Studies and School of Security Studies, King’s College London,

The unit is contained within the School of Security Studies

the Laughton Unit provides the ideal basis for original and challenging research on all aspects of naval history, sea power studies and strategy, preparing the next generation of thinkers from all around the world, ready and able, for a spectrum of career possibilities and destinations.


The unit is part of the Department of War Studies.

The Laughton unit was setup in under the direction of Professor Andrew Lambert. The unit is named after Professor Sir John Laughton (1830-1915) who as a Professor of the Royal Naval War College, gave King’s College London, the leading role in the development of academic naval history in Britain. He linked the professional educational interests of the Royal Navy with the academic standards set by the English historical profession, which he helped to create. After many years of neglect the subject was revived at Kings in the 1970s. Reflecting on the narrative of the development of naval history and maritime strategy, such as those of British historian and theorist, Sir Julian Corbett (1854-1922) and American Admiral Alfred Mahan (1840-1914), Professor Lambert reflected on the state of the subject and its future. From this reflection, the Laughton Unit was created to tackle these problems and engage with future opportunities.

Andrew Lambert launches his book ‘Nelson; Britannia’s God of War’.

Under the guidance of the first Laughton Professor of naval history, the unit has delivered researchers, thinkers and historians whose output has impacted a broad spectrum of debates, organisations, governments, industries and armed services around the world.  These researchers as civilians or armed services personnel have reached out across a range of topics and fields with the scholarly skills and knowledge they have developed in the unit from bachelor level through to Masters certification and doctorates. The Laughton chair of naval history is designed to continue permeance of naval history in British and global academia but also public life.

The unit continues to build an intellectual forum for the exchange of ideas across a global audience, with several former students working from defence education, historical centres and related activities.  The unit engages with other research groups within and outside higher education such as the United States Naval War College, Society of Nautical Research, Naval Records Society, National Museum of the Royal Navy and Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.

The ’21st Century series’ [USNI Press] was the vision of completed PhD researcher at the unit, BJ Armstrong. The series gives perspective and insight to great strategists of the past by placing their writings in the context of modern debates.
Our researchers can be found during and post qualification publicly engaging with a wide spectrum of debates, many can be regularly found across a selection of media such as television, podcasts, journals, public debates and literature. You can find our members and students, past and present researching and discussing classic naval history of Rome and Greece, leadership of Lord Nelson, tactics and technology of equipment, education and organisational development, to Maritime Strategy in the 21st century. This clearly demonstrates the vibrancy and dynamics of the field and its impact and influence on the world we live in.  Within Kings College London, the unit furthers research with other research units such as the Sir Michael Howard centre for the History of War, Centre for Grand Strategy, Security and Defence studies, Cyber Security and International Relations. This again highlights the Laughton Unit as home for Naval thinking.At the heart of these achievements of the past and future challenges, sits our vision and mission that puts the historical professional at the heart of intellectual thinking and scholarly debate.
Find out more on our Kings College London webpages here.
Also within the School is The Defence Studies Department (DSD) which provides academic support to military command and staff training.