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From Waterloo to the Rhine: The British Army 1815-1945

Examine one of the UK’s most storied institutions, and how 130 years of social, cultural and military change have shaped it.

6,287 enrolled on this course

Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo

From Waterloo to the Rhine: The British Army 1815-1945

6,287 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 4 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

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  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours
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Explore the British Army’s part in the making of the modern world

With a legacy stretching back centuries, the British Army is proud of its hard-won reputation as one of the most formidable fighting forces in the world.

On this course, you’ll see for yourself how the British Army evolved as an institution between 1815 and 1945. You’ll reflect on its social composition, place in society, and military proficiency, analysing a range of primary sources and incorporating your findings into historical debate.

Ultimately, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of the British Army - its successes, failures and role in shaping the modern world.

What topics will you cover?

Week 1 – The British Army at Waterloo

  • The composition and organization of the army at the turn of the 19th century
  • The image of the Army in British society
  • Battlefield performance in a ‘limited war’ as part of an international coalition
  • The influence of the Duke of Wellington’s generalship

Week 2 – ‘The British Army and Empire’

  • Campaigning in Africa and India
  • The Indian Mutiny (1857)
  • The Anglo-Zulu War (1879)
  • The Second Boer War (1899-1902)

Week 3 – ‘The British Army and the First World War’

  • The expansion of the Army
  • Gallipoli, the Somme and the 100 days
  • The experience of the British soldier throughout the war
  • Commemorating the war

Week 4 – ‘The British Army and the Second World War’

  • The defeats of 1940 in France and 1942 in the Far East
  • Crucial engagements at El Alamein (1942), D-Day (1944) and Operation Market Garden (1944)
  • The impact of ‘total’ war and how this influenced the conduct of British military operations
  • The extent to which the British Army changed socially, culturally, and militarily between 1815 and 1945

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore how the British Army evolved as an institution between 1815 and 1945, reflecting on its social composition, place in society, and military proficiency
  • Debate the importance of command and leadership and how this developed alongside the changing nature of warfare
  • Compare the concepts of ‘limited’ and ‘total' war
  • Reflect upon the British Army’s changing role in its Empire, Europe and the world
  • Assess a range of primary source materials and incorporate their findings into historical debate

Who is the course for?

No prior experience or qualifications are needed for this course. It would suit anyone with an interest in the British military, or social history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It would also appeal to prospective students of history, or military history.

Who will you learn with?

Mario is Lecturer in Modern British and European History at the University of Kent. His research and teaching focuses on the relationships between armies and societies in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Who developed the course?

The University of Kent

The University of Kent, the UK’s European university, is one of the country’s most dynamic universities. Established in 1965, it now has 19,850 students studying at its various campuses.

National Army Museum

We examine the Army’s role from the British Civil Wars to the modern day. Through our collections we preserve and share stories of ordinary people with extraordinary responsibilities. We explore the role of the Army and its relevance today.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save

$244.99 for one whole year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 18 Jun 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Sale price available until 3 June 2024 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

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  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
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  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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