Enemy Action: The Ministry of Defence, Academia and the Historical Record

The MoD's policy on declassification and academic engagement needs a rethink.

The publication of Uncivil War, Huw Bennett’s history of the early years of the Northern Ireland conflict, has highlighted an increasingly obstructive and uncooperative approach by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) towards academic researchers. Geraint Hughes argues that the impediments the MoD is placing by restricting access to archival evidence on recent military conflicts is not only undemocratic, but also distorts public awareness of the complexities of these wars, and hampers the British armed forces’ own efforts to develop as ‘learning institutions’ that can use military history to support their own professional understanding of the challenges posed by contemporary warfare. He calls for a dialogue between the MoD and the academic community that addresses the balance between operational security and accountability, and contributes to a mutually beneficial relationship where scholarship can contribute to the armed forces’ own process of self and institutional education.

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Geraint Hughes

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