Gary Sheffield (historian)

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Gary D. Sheffield (born 21 June 1961) is an English academic and military historian. [1] He has published widely, specializing on the conduct of British Army operations in World War I, and frequently contributes to print and broadcast media on the subject. [2]

English people Nation and ethnic group native to England

The English people are a nation and an ethnic group native to England who speak the English language. The English identity is of early medieval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Angelcynn. Their ethnonym is derived from the Angles, one of the Germanic peoples who migrated to Great Britain around the 5th century AD. England is one of the countries of the United Kingdom, and the majority of people living there are British citizens.

Military history is a humanities discipline within the scope of general historical recording of armed conflict in the history of humanity, and its impact on the societies, cultures and economies thereof, as well as the resulting changes to local and international relationships.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as, "the war to end all wars," it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.


Early life

Sheffield was educated at Raynes Park High School in South-West London, before studying history at the University of Leeds (BA 1982, MA by research 1985) under Edward Spiers and Hugh Cecil. [3]

Raynes Park High School is a co-educational comprehensive school which educates students aged 11 to 19. It is located in Raynes Park, England, coming under the London Borough of Merton

University of Leeds university in England

The University of Leeds is a public research university in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It was established in 1874 as the Yorkshire College of Science. In 1884 it merged with the Leeds School of Medicine and was renamed Yorkshire College. It became part of the federal Victoria University in 1887, joining Owens College and University College Liverpool. In 1903 a royal charter was granted to the University of Leeds by King Edward VII.


Following his MA, Sheffield became a lecturer in war studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1985, and studied at King's College, London under Brian Bond for a part-time PhD awarded in 1994. [3] In 1999 he became a senior lecturer in the Defence Studies Department of King's College, London, and Land Warfare Historian on the Higher Command and Staff Course at the United Kingdom's Joint Services Command and Staff College. [3]

War studies, sometimes called polemology, is the multi-disciplinary study of war. The word derives from Ancient Greek πόλεμος + -logy".

Royal Military Academy Sandhurst British Army officer initial training centre

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, commonly known simply as Sandhurst, is one of several military academies of the United Kingdom and is the British Army's initial officer training centre. It is located in the town of Sandhurst, Berkshire, though its ceremonial entrance is in Camberley, southwest of London. The Academy's stated aim is to be "the national centre of excellence for leadership". All British Army officers, including late-entry officers who were previously Warrant Officers, as well as other men and women from overseas, are trained at The Academy. Sandhurst is the British Army equivalent of the Britannia Royal Naval College and the Royal Air Force College Cranwell.

Brian James Bond is a British military historian and professor emeritus of military history at King's College London.

Sheffield is one of the leading proponents in his scholastic generation of the "Revisionist School" of thought with regard to the British Army High Command's conduct of military operations on the Western Front during World War 1. [4] He posits that, far from the 20th Century's British post-war popular cultural image of the Generals who commanded the campaigns being inadequate to the task, and this inadequacy being the cause of an excessive scale of casualties to the troops under their orders, the British General Staff's direction of operations was fundamentally sound, and the high casualty numbers sustained by the British Army were unavoidable given the scale and nature of operations, and the circumstances that they were required to be conducted under. [5]

Western Front (World War I) main theatre of war during the First World War

The Western Front was the main theatre of war during the First World War. Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, the German Army opened the Western Front by invading Luxembourg and Belgium, then gaining military control of important industrial regions in France. The tide of the advance was dramatically turned with the Battle of the Marne. Following the Race to the Sea, both sides dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches, stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier with France, which changed little except during early 1917 and in 1918.

In 2001 he published a World War 1 revisionist book entitled Forgotten Victory: The First World War, Myths & Realities, drawing approval from the historian Niall Ferguson, who judged it to be "An iconoclastic tour-de-force", [6] but condemnation from the British literary academic Frank McLynn, who, in a book review in The Independent , accused Sheffield with its text of being a 'single-minded Right-wing ideologist', who had 'tied himself in illogical knots' in an attempt to 'rescue (Douglas) Haig from the justifiable charge of being an incompetent butcher', and 'launder' his reputation in an 'eccentric and cocksure work', that was 'an insult to the memory of the soldiers who had died in droves under his command on the Western Front.' [7]

Niall Ferguson British historian

Niall Campbell Ferguson is a Scottish historian and works as a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. Previously, he was a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, a visiting professor at the New College of the Humanities, and also taught at Harvard University and New York University.

Francis James McLynn FRHistS FRGS, known as Frank McLynn, is a British author, biographer, historian and journalist. He is noted for critically acclaimed biographies of Napoleon Bonaparte, Robert Louis Stevenson, Carl Jung, Richard Francis Burton and Henry Morton Stanley.

<i>The Independent</i> British online daily newspaper

The Independent is a British online newspaper. Established in 1986 as a politically independent national morning newspaper published in London. It was controlled by Tony O'Reilly's Independent News & Media from 1997 until it was sold to Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev in 2010. The last printed edition of The Independent was published on Saturday 26 March 2016, leaving only its digital editions.

In 2005 Sheffield was appointed Professor of Modern History at King's College, London, and the following year was appointed the first professor of War Studies at the University of Birmingham. [3] In 2013 he was appointed professor of War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. [1]

University of Birmingham university in Birmingham, England, United Kingdom

The University of Birmingham is a public research university located in Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom. It received its royal charter in 1900 as a successor to Queen's College, Birmingham and Mason Science College, making it the first English civic or 'red brick' university to receive its own royal charter. It is a founding member of both the Russell Group of British research universities and the international network of research universities, Universitas 21.

University of Wolverhampton

The University of Wolverhampton is a public university located on four campuses across the West Midlands, Shropshire and Staffordshire in England. The roots of the university lie in the Wolverhampton Tradesmen's and Mechanics' Institute founded in 1827 and the 19th-century growth of the Wolverhampton Free Library (1870), which developed technical, scientific, commercial and general classes. This merged in 1969 with the Municipal School of Art, originally founded in 1851, to form the Wolverhampton Polytechnic.

In 2011 he published his second book on Field Marshal the Earl Douglas Haig, entitled The Chief: Douglas Haig and the British Army (Aurum Press, 2011). Reviewing the book in the The Daily Telegraph the historian Nigel H. Jones commented on its 'solid scholarship and admirable advocacy', yet added that (with reference to Sheffield's thesis that the extremely high casualty rate sustained by the British Army in pursuance of Haig's orders can be partly explained by his understandable lack of experience in such matters in the years 1914 to 1917): 'the nagging thought remains: what a terrible shame it was that Haig’s progress along his learning curve had to be greased by such deep floods of blood.' [8]

Sheffield is a member of the Advisory Board of the Journal of the Royal United Services Institute, Visiting Professor at the Humanities Research Institute of the University of Buckingham, member of the academic Advisory Panel of the National Army Museum, and a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust. [1]

Personal life

Sheffield is President of the International Guild of Battlefield Guides. [1] In 2009 Sheffield became a Vice President of The Western Front Association, and in 2019 he became its President. He is variously credited as Gary Sheffield, G. Sheffield and G. D. Sheffield.


Sources and references

  1. 1 2 3 4 "University of Wolverhampton Staff Profile: Professor Gary Sheffield". University of Wolverhampton. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  2. Osprey Publishing - Profile Gary Sheffield
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Gary Sheffield – Military Historian" . Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  4. 'Re-writing History', 'Socialism Today', April-May 2003.
  5. 'Douglas Haig: The Accidental Victor of World War i', lecture by Prof. Sheffield, January 2003, published on Youtube 13 January 2013.
  6. Blurb of the cover of 'Forgotten Victory' (Pub. Sharpe Books, 2018).
  7. 'Disquiet on the Western Front', a review of 'Forgotten Victory' (2001) by G. Sheffield, 'The Independent', 29 June 2001.
  8. Nigel Jones. "The Chief: Douglas Haig and the British Army by Gary Sheffield: Review". The Daily Telegraph , 11 August 2011.

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