Book Launch: The Future of War: A History

Author Sir Lawrence Freedman discusses his new publication, The Future of War: A History (Allen Lane, 2017). The talk will be moderated by Professor Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government.

In 1912 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a short story about a war fought from underwater submersibles that included the sinking of passenger ships. It was dismissed by the British admirals of the day, not on the basis of technical feasibility, but because sinking civilian ships was not something that any civilised nation would do. Three years later, a German U-boat torpedoed the ocean liner RMS Lusitania, killing 1,198 civilians.

The reality of war almost always contradicts expectations, less because of some technical or engineering dimension, but more because of some human, political, or moral threshold that we had never imagined would be crossed. As Lawrence Freedman shows, ideas about the causes and conduct of war have rich and varied histories which shape anxieties about the future. The Future of War takes us from preparations for the world wars, through the nuclear age, up to current civil wars with foreign interventions and into present preoccupations with hybrid and cyber warfare. Filled with fascinating insights from one of the Britain’s foremost military and strategic thinkers, it shows us how past misconceptions of the future of war should make us wary of current thinking about future conflicts.

Sir Lawrence Freedman is Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King’s College London. He was a member of ‘the Chilcot Inquiry’ into Britain and the 2003 Iraq War, and was the official historian of the Falklands Campaign. He has written extensively on nuclear strategy and the Cold War, and comments regularly on contemporary security issues. His most recent book, Strategy, was a Financial Times and Economist book of the year; A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East won the 2009 Lionel Gelber Prize and Duke of Westminster Medal for Military Literature.